Anna's Hosannas!
Free Worship Resources for Use with the Lectionary
Christmas Sunday
Scripture Reference: John 1:1-14
First Thoughts -- So here we are, finally having reached Christmas Sunday, when we might expect our scripture to include lovely manger scenes and revelatory wise men; and instead we get this dense statement of theology from John.  For our work with the children we will focus on one main concept: the Logos, or Word of God.  First, let’s think of our own experience with language.  In our media-rich culture we hear a LOT of words on a daily basis - on news, in songs, in advertising.  In fact, our experience of hearing/reading/speaking language all the time could easily result in our failure to discern the impact of language on our lives. Are we able to recognize when a Word comes from God, and when it does not?  Can we identify, for example, when language deflates our Spirit, causing us to become discontented, fearful, or unloving?  Perhaps an ad which tells us we need a new car, or a face lift, because somehow we‘re not good enough as we are?  Or a news story that encourages us to treat a particular politician, or population group, or nation as an enemy which deserves to be hated and destroyed?  On the other hand, can we also discern when language inspires us to faith, to compassion, and to risky vulnerability?  Perhaps an appeal from a homeless shelter for warm coats for children, or a piece of scripture which reminds us “when you walk through the waters I will be with you“?  Or the simple statement, “I love you” from a beloved? How do we increase our exposure to the true Word of God, and limit our exposure to all other words?  And, just as significantly, how do we become a source of God’s Word in the world - not adding to the confusion and violence of language, but offering words of peace and healing?  Reflect for a few minutes both on the sources and quality of words you receive on a daily basis, as well as the words you offer to the world.  Is there a need to make some changes to your life with words?  Carry this reflection into a time of prayer either alone, or with your partner.
Setting the Scene -- The final prop for Christmas Sunday will be a baby doll wrapped in swaddling clothes.  
Teaching as a Team
Leader B:  Hey, (name) - what’s wrong with you?  You seem a little down today.
Leader A: (trying to look cheery)  Oh, no.  I mean, it’s Christmas Sunday.  What could I possibly be sad about?
Leader B:  I don’t know, but you do seem sad.  Did you not get what you wanted for Christmas?
Leader A: Oh, no,  I got lots of neat gifts.
Leader B: Well, did you eat too much Christmas candy and now you have a tummy ache?
Leader A:  I did eat a lot of candy, but my stomach can handle that kind of sugar load.
Leader B:  Then what’s wrong?
Leader A: No, really.  It’s no big deal.
Leader B: It IS a big deal if it’s making you feel so bad.  Please tell me.
Leader A: OK, but it’s really not that important.  I had a little fight with my friend yesterday, and he called me a stupid-head.  It kinda hurt my feelings, that’s all.
Leader B: Oh.  Well, I can see why that would bother you.
Leader A:  But it shouldn’t.  You know what they say: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  I shouldn’t be that upset just because someone calls me a silly name.  It’s just WORDS.
Leader B: Oh, but words are really important!
Leader A:  They are?
Leader B:  Well, sure.  Words are powerful.  I mean, it was WORDS that God used to create the world.  And when God was getting ready to send Jesus into the world, the angel used WORDS to share the good news with Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds.  John even tells us that Christ is the Word of God - sent to bring healing and love and understanding to the world. So words can do really wonderful things, but they can also hurt us terribly.
Leader A: But I’m not really hurt.
Leader B: Not your body, but your heart is.  That’s the reason God sent the Word into the world, to heal our hearts and to help us love one another.  And that’s why we have one more addition to our manger today.  Can anyone guess what it is?  (pick up baby doll.)  A baby!  That’s how the Word of God came into our world, to show us the way of new life.
Leader A: Wow.  Can I hold the baby?  He’s so little.
Leader B: Because he’s at the beginning of life.  Beginnings are always small.  But they’re important.  Christmas is a new beginning for all of us.  Maybe you could start again with your friend.  You could speak God’s Word to him - by saying you’re sorry for the fight, and that you forgive him for calling you a name. You know, words that heal are even stronger than words that hurt.
Leader A:  That’s a great idea.  It’s just a small thing to do, but it’s a beginning!  I think I’ll just put this baby where he belongs (in manger.)  
Leader B: Let’s try to remember, though, that Jesus isn’t meant to be kept only in the manger, but also in our hearts and lives.
Teaching on your Own: So, did you guys have a great Christmas?  Tell me the best thing about it.  (Give kids a chance to share.) I had a great Christmas too, but you know what?  I’m still feeling a little sad. Do you know why?  Because I had a fight with one of my friends yesterday, and he called me a stupid-head.  Have you ever had anyone call you a name like that?  How did you feel about it?  Have you ever heard the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?”  I don’t think that’s true.  I think names really can hurt you.  The bible tells us words are powerful.  I mean, it was WORDS that God used to create the world.  And when God was getting ready to send Jesus into the world, the angel used WORDS to share the good news with Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds.  John even tells us that Christ is the Word of God - sent to bring healing and love and understanding to the world.   And we are to carry that Word into the world, to share the good news with everybody - that God loves us, and forgives us.  We need to add one more thing to the manger - can you guess what it is?  (Pick up baby doll.)  It’s a baby - to remind us of baby Jesus!  (Take baby and hold for children to see)  See how small he is?  That’s because this is just the beginning of his life, and beginnings are often small.  Small, but important.  Christmas is the beginning for all of us - a chance to us to start again, to heal from old mistakes and to recommit ourselves to being God’s Word in the world.   In fact I think I’m going to start a new beginning myself - with my friend.  I think I’m going to call him and apologize for the fight, and say that I forgive him for calling me the name.  And I’m going to put this baby where he belongs (in manger.)  But let’s remember, that the baby Jesus doesn’t just belong in the manger, but in our hearts and lives.
Prayer: Loving God, who has brought Christ into our lives, we thank you for the gift of your Word -  a Word that heals, and uplifts, and loves.  We pray for this new beginning in our lives, that we are able to carry your Word faithfully into the world, with our family, our friends, and our whole human community.  In the name of the Word Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Follow-Up Lesson--  Give the kids a chance to experiment with words, and to discern which words likely come from God and which don’t.  Provide them with old newspapers or magazines, inviting them to cut out words which catch their attention.  Divide a dry erase board in half, labeling one side “Words from God” and “Not Words from God.”  Collect all the words and then spend time having a conversation about each one, deciding where each one belongs on the board.  Allow disagreement if it comes up, giving the kids as chance to explain why they think a word belongs in one category or the other.  (It’s okay to allow a word to “straddle” the line, if it seems appropriate.)  In lieu of a large group discussion, you could also allow the kids to work individually, giving them each a piece of poster-board which they can divide into categories and work with on their own.   Give the kids a chance to think about how they use these words in their own lives, and how they will carry God’s Word into the world.