Anna's Hosannas!
Free Worship Resources for Use with the Lectionary
 
Third Sunday in Advent
 
Scripture Reference: Matthew 11: 2-11
 
First Thoughts -- Joy is the theme for the third Sunday of Advent and, yet again, we have a scripture which doesn’t seem to immediately apply to our theme.  We are surprised by this dialogue between John the Baptist and Jesus, carried through on through John’s disciples while John is in prison.  After all, John was the first one to identify Jesus, and to acknowledge him to the crowd.  Why is he now asking whether Jesus is the Messiah?  Then again, many of us can probably relate to this sudden loss of confidence.  How many of us have at times wondered if our faith has any real merit, particularly when we face loss and difficulty?  Jesus responds to John’s question not by answering directly, but by pointing to Jesus’ works of healing and compassion, and expounding on the role John has played in making Jesus‘ ministry possible.  It is here, in Jesus’ response, that we see the paradox of joy at work. John suffers, and will continue to suffer; but even as his suffering increases, the fruits of his faith are blessing the world. The strength of joy is not in the absence of grief, but as a companion to grief.  The surprise and delight of joy is that it springs up in us at exactly these moments of hardship.  Living in this dual reality - recognizing struggle and pain while also acknowledging blessing and promise - is the strength of a Christian life.  Reflect for a moment on your own life.  Do you remember a time when, in the midst of darkness, you had an experience of joy?   Either with your partner or alone, carry this experience into a time of prayer.
 
Setting the Scene -- This week the only prop you need will be a pacifier to add to your manger worship centerpiece.
 
Teaching as a Team
(As kids gather Leader A snickers off and on - as obviously as possible.)
Leader B: Wow, (name) - you must be in a good mood today.
Leader A: (big negative response) Me?  Oh, no. Everything has gone wrong this morning! 
First, I woke up late which meant I had to rush around to get ready on time.  Then my corn flakes got soggy in the milk - which I hate.  When I tried to brush  my teeth, the toothpaste wouldn’t come out so I squeezed it really hard and - well, you probably know what happened then.
Leader B: Yeah…
Leader A:  And then, when I got in the car I slammed my finger in the door.
Leader B: Ouch!  That must have hurt!
Leader A: Yeah, it really… (begins snickering again)…it really did.  (Laughing outright)
Leader B: OK, I’m a little confused.  You say you’ve had such a bad morning, so why do you keep laughing?
Leader A: I keep thinking of a joke my friend told me.  Knock knock.
Leader B: (get kids to join you in response)  Who’s there?
Leader A: Delores.
Leader B: (with kids) Delores who?
Leader A: Delores my shepherd… Get it? Delores my shepherd - the Lord is my shepherd…(While Leader A laughs uproariously, everyone else groans)  Isn’t that hilarious?
Leader B: It’s okay.  But you know what’s really great?  Your joy!
Leader A: My joy?
Leader B: Yeah, joy!  You know, here you are having a bad day, and yet you can still smile and laugh.  That’s what joy does - it surprises us.  It reminds us that, even when times are hard, we can always find a reason to be happy.  No matter how many things are going wrong, there are always a few things still going right.
Leader A: Yeah, I guess that’s true.
Leader B: Like with John the Baptist.  He was one of Jesus’ friends, who was put in jail -which made him very sad.
Leader A: That’s even worse than soggy corn flakes!
Leader B: Yep.  Anyway, Jesus sent him a message telling him all the good things that God was doing - Jesus was healing people and teaching them that God loved them.  And John was part of that good work!  So, even though John was sad about being in prison, he could also be glad that God was still moving in the world.  Which brings me to this (holds up pacifier)
Leader A: A pacifier?  What does that have to do with joy?
Leader B: (to kids) When do you give a baby a pacifier?  When they’re happy?  No! When they’re crying.  The pacifier reminds a baby that she’s cared for.  Even when she has a wet diaper, or is scared by a loud noise, or has a tummy ache, still there‘s always someone around who‘s going to look after her.  Seeing light in the middle of darkness, knowing we’re loved even when we’re sad - that’s joy.  And that’s another way our heart gets ready for Jesus.  Who wants to add the pacifier to the manger?  (Allow volunteer to put pacifier in manger)
 
Teaching on Your Own --  How many of you have ever had a really bad day?  What made the day a bad one?  (give some examples to help kids think it through) Feeling sleepy, being sick?  Losing your homework on the way to school?  Having a fight with your brother or sister?  OK, so let’s think of the worst day possible.  You wake up late for school, your nose is running, you can’t find your shoes, the car is freezing when you get in.  You finally get to school, grumpy and mopey (demonstrate your best grumpy/mopey face and walk).  Your friend walks up to you and he tells you the funniest joke ever.  And you laugh, laugh, laugh! Or let’s say your friend walks up to you and gives you a big hug, saying how happy she is to see you.  And you smile from ear to ear.   What happened?  You were having such a bad day, and suddenly you’re laughing and smiling.   I’ll tell you what happened - joy!  When we’re feeling down in the dumps, and we think everything is rotten, joy surprises us by popping up, reminding us that no matter how many things are going wrong, there are always a few things still going right.  Today’s story is about John the Baptist.  He was one of Jesus’ friends who was put in jail.  How would you feel if you were in jail?  Now THAT would be a pretty bad day, right?  So Jesus sent him a message telling him all the good things that God was doing - how Jesus was healing people and teaching people how much God loved them.  And John was part of that good work!  So, even though John was sad about being in prison, he could also be glad that God was still moving in the world.  So, we have something to add to the manger this morning.  (pulling out pacifier) Ta dah!  Why do you suppose I have a pacifier?  When do you give a baby a pacifier?  When they’re happy?  No!  When they’re crying.  The pacifier reminds a baby that she’s cared for.  Even when she has a wet diaper, or is scared by a loud noise, or has a tummy ache, still there‘s always someone around who‘s going to look after her.  Seeing light in the middle of darkness, knowing we’re loved even when we’re sad - that’s joy.  And that’s another way our heart gets ready for Jesus.  Who wants to add the pacifier to the manger?  (Allow volunteer to put pacifier in manger)
 
Prayer --  Loving God, who gives us joy even in the hard times in our life, help us to see the blessings you give us.  Help us, on this third Sunday of Advent, to celebrate the promise of your love, even when things aren’t going our way.  And help us to share your joy with those around us.  In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
 
Follow-Up Lesson --  Have the kids make a craft which visually represents the experience of being surprised by joy.  You will need small juice glasses (one for each child), colored tissue paper, glue, tape, tea candles, and pieces of black construction paper cut the right size and shape to cover glass.  (You could also purchase glass tea candle holders, but juice glasses can be found at thrift stores at minimal cost.)  Start by allowing the kids to paint each glass with glue and then covering the entire glass with bits of tissue paper. Paint another layer of glue to fully secure the tissue paper.   Next, have them cut shapes and designs out of their black construction paper, wrapping that around the glass and taping it together at the seam.  As the projects are drying, show the kids a previously completed craft, with a candle glowing inside.  Observe together how, even though we see the darkness, the light is still peeping through - just like joy does in our lives!