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A Party for Baby Jesus

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Here’s an interactive nativity story to use at a toddler Christmas party or celebration. It simply shows that Christmas is the birthday of Jesus, the baby who slept in a manger. Ask the adults to bring their children (or a soft toy) dressed as a nativity character. It doesn’t matter how many Marys, Josephs, shepherds etc. come along on the day. Helpers could dress up, too!

Toddler groups might like to invite their minister to make the brief point that since Christmas is a birthday party for Jesus, it would be a shame to leave him out of the celebrations.

Ready: Decorate your meeting room and/or kitchen counter with items that help us celebrate both birthdays and Christmas, e.g. a cake with candles, balloons, cards, decorations, presents.

For the story, you will need a box for the manger, some straw, a big star to hang over the stable area, and a baby doll wrapped in a shawl.

Teddy: Dress Teddy as a nativity character, e.g. as a king with a paper crown and a cape. He could be holding a small box wrapped in foil as a precious gift.

Go: You’re ready to explain what Christmas is all about.

Story-telling tips: This story aims to keep the children engaged by involving them in simple actions, songs, sound effects and questions throughout. You might like to ask the adults to listen out for their cue to make animal sounds in the stable! The story starts at Mary’s house and moves to the stable area.

Leader: Welcome to our Christmas party, everyone! You all look great in your costumes. Look! Even Teddy’s dressed up! We’ve got (as appropriate) balloons, a cake, presents, decorations and most important of all, friends to help us celebrate. It’s just like a birthday party, isn’t it? But whose birthday is it? I wonder! Well, listen to the Christmas story and you’ll find out!

Helper 1: Long ago, God wanted to send us a present to say, “I love you!” What do you think that present was? It was a baby boy – his own son, Jesus. Isn’t that amazing?

Helper 2: God needed someone kind to look after him. So he sent the Angel Gabriel to ask Mary to be the baby’s mummy. Is anyone here dressed up as Mary? Yes! What about as an angel? Good! Can you stand up?

Helper 3: Mary is very surprised when the angel comes to her house. “Don’t be afraid!” says the angel. “God loves you very much. You are going to have a baby soon and you must call him Jesus. He will be a great king. Will you look after him, please?” Wow! What do you think Mary says? She says, “YES!” What does she say? She says . . .

All: Yes!

Helper 3: Let’s all stand up and sing a song about that.

All: (To the tune Frere Jacques)

       God is sending,

       God is sending,

       A baby boy, a baby boy, (rock arms)

       You can be his mother,

       You can be his mother,

       Jump for joy, jump for joy! (jump and clap)

Helper 1: Let’s all sit down again! Well, Mary is so happy that she can’t wait to find Joseph. Is anyone dressed as Joseph here? That’s wonderful! Listen to Mary’s news! “Joseph, God is sending us a baby boy and he wants us to look after him. Isn’t that exciting?”

Helper 2: Now Mary and Joseph are very busy getting ready for the baby. Mary’s tummy grows big and round. But just when it’s time for the baby to be born, they have to go on a long journey to Bethlehem. Oh, no! Come on, let’s walk with them and help them on their way . . .

All: (To the tune Here we go round the mulberry bush)

Here we up to Bethlehem, (walk on spot or to stable area)

Bethlehem, Bethlehem,

Here we go up to Bethlehem,

On a cold and frosty morning. (repeat as required)

Where shall we stay in Bethlehem, (hand above eyes, searching)

Bethlehem, Bethlehem,

Where shall we stay in Bethlehem,

On a cold and frosty morning?

Helper 3: Phew, I’m tired! Let’s sit down for a rest . . . Mary and Joseph are tired, too. They need somewhere to stay for the night. But everywhere’s so crowded. It’s buzzing with people! Can you make a buzzing sound?

All: Buzz, buzz, buzz!

Helper 1: Yes, all the inns and hotels are full. Where can they stay? Joseph knocks on lots of doors, rat-a-tat-tat . . . Can you knock on a door?

All: Rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat!

Helper 1: Have you any room? But everywhere they go they hear the same thing. No room, no room. What do they hear?

All: No room, no room!

Helper 2: Until at last, one very kind innkeeper says, “Oh dear, you do look tired. You could stay in my stable, if you like. That’s if you don’t mind my animals!

Helper 3: Mary and Joseph don’t mind at all. Oh, thank you, thank you! What do they say?

All: Thank you, thank you!

Helper 3: Come on then, all you Marys and Josephs, come into the stable and sit near the manger, the animals’ feed box . . .

The straw feels all prickly and tickly, doesn’t it? If we keep very quiet and still, we might hear the animals saying “goodnight!” Listen!

Adults: Ee-aw, ee-aw! Neigh, neigh, baa-baa, etc!

Helper 3: Have we got any animals here? Come and settle down for the night near the manger!

Helper 1: (whisper, with awe) Tonight, the stars are glowing like birthday candles in the dark sky. Have we got any stars here? Come on then! And tonight, in this chilly stable, baby Jesus is born. (Bring out the doll and show it to the children) Mary gives him a cuddle. Then she wraps him up and places him gently in the manger. (Place the baby doll in the manger)

All: Away in a manger (sing the first verse together)

Helper 2: All the angels in heaven are very excited that baby Jesus has been born on earth. Come on, you angels, can you flap your wings and play “follow my leader” to come and stand behind the others? Don’t forget to have a peep in the manger on the way . . .

Helper 3: “It’s Jesus’ birthday today!” sing the angels. “Let’s give a party for him!” So they hang up a bright, shiny star over the stable as if to say, “The party is here! Everyone is invited!” (Hang up your star)

Helper 1: But who do you think will come? Who is awake in the middle of the night? Yes! The shepherds on the hillside, of course! They always stay awake to look after their sheep. Do we have any shepherds here? “Dear Shepherds,” sing the angels, “You are invited to a birthday party for baby Jesus. Do come! You’ll find the baby lying in a manger.”

Helper 2: “Yes, please! We’d love to come,” say the shepherds. They gather up some lambs and hurry into Bethlehem to look for the baby. Come on, shepherds, come and kneel in front of the manger . . .

Helper 3: Far away, some kings see the star hanging in the sky. Do we have any kings here? Can you point at the star? “Look! Someone’s having a party,” they say. “Let’s follow the star and see who it is! We can bring some precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Come on, kings, come and join the party!

Helper 1: What a wonderful time they had admiring the new baby king. And that’s why we’re having a party today – to remember Jesus’ birthday. So that’s whose birthday it is! Shall we sing Happy Birthday to him?

All: Happy birthday to you,

       Happy birthday to you,

       Happy birthday, dear Jesus,

       Happy Birthday to you!

Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for sending us such a wonderful Christmas present – baby Jesus! Thank you for Mary and Joseph who looked after him, for the innkeeper and his animals who shared their stable with him, for the angels who invited the shepherds, and for the stars that sparkled like birthday candles and led the Kings to Bethlehem. This Christmas, help us to remember to say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” Amen

Party bag: Why not suggest to the adults that they continue the birthday theme at home over the festive season by helping their toddlers to complete the Christmas Eye-Spy activity?

Christmas Eye-Spy

Have fun keeping your eyes open for the real meaning of Christmas!

Have a look out for some of these things.

Do they remind you of anything or anyone from the nativity story?

Wrapped Christmas presents 

Precious g – – – –       

Christmas cake with candles    

Jesus’ birth – – –

Party hats in crackers

The K – – – – from the East

The Angel on the top of a Christmas tree

The A – – – – Gabriel

A star decoration                    

The s – – – over the stable              

A newborn baby

B – – –   Jesus

 nativity

A Father’s Day story for the young

Vicki Howie's blog

 

Ready: Here’s a multi-sensory story to celebrate Father’s Day. It’s based on the Bible story of the Prodigal Son. The story ends with a party, so you might like to provide some party plates, cups, and straws for refreshments both to ‘play’ the story and to celebrate the occasion. Some chocolate coins would also link with the story.

When the children arrive, let them play with a toy farm that includes pigs, or toy shops/money tills.

Teddy: Use Teddy to introduce the idea that sometimes we need to say sorry for making others sad. Teddy could even play the part of the boy in the story!

Go: You’re ready to show that God is our loving Father, always ready to forgive us and to let us start all over again whenever we are truly sorry.

The story basket: Pack a basket with some multi-sensory props for the children to…

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May Faith in the Family: Pentecost- Peter’s Story

 

Parents’ pause for thought: Read the story of Pentecost in the Bible (Acts 2): Take time to think of any times when you have felt filled with the warmth and love of God (either quietly or dramatically). Perhaps you felt emboldened to speak out or take some action? Be prepared to share these stories with the children in your life. (Be encouraged by verse 39).

 The Day of Pentecost – Peter’s Story

‘When did the Church begin? I’d say it was the day God’s Holy Spirit was sent to us. That’s when we disciples came alive and burst into action. I shall never forget it . . .

‘After the resurrection, Jesus had explained why he’d had to die on the Cross. In our heads, we understood the reason for it. Yet we still half hoped that he would now be crowned as king. But no, Jesus was going back to his Father in heaven. We were to teach everyone to follow him, first in Jerusalem and then throughout the whole world! But first he asked us to wait in Jerusalem for his Holy Spirit to come to us.

‘As we waited, we met to chat and pray. I suppose we felt rather flat. We knew the task ahead, but mostly we were just ordinary men – how could we stand up in front of crowds and explain what we hardly understood ourselves? A fisherman, I felt like my boat when there was no wind in the sails, out on the lake going nowhere.

‘Everything changed on that Sunday morning. Outside in the city, the streets were filled with pilgrims from all over, come to celebrate the first ripe crops. We sat inside, quietly praying. I think we all heard it at once. Our eyes met, questioning. What was that rushing sound, like a great wind blowing straight down from heaven, filling the house? Startled, I saw tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each one of us.

‘And suddenly, each of us flickered into life. We felt the warmth of the truth within our hearts as well as knowing it in our minds. Oh, how the Spirit flowed out of us as we found bold words to declare the wonders of God in languages as diverse as the countries of those Pilgrims outside.

‘A crowd gathered, listening to our shouts and declarations, amazed that they each heard their native languages. “What does this mean?” I heard them ask. “It means they have had too much wine,” replied another.

‘I couldn’t let that pass. Looking at those people, I saw them for the first time as Jesus would have done – bewildered, like sheep in need of a shepherd. Standing up, I raised my voice. I started to explain who Jesus was and how he had died for each one of us for the forgiveness of our sins. I urged them to be baptized and to follow Jesus and I told them that they and their children would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit too. Yes, that was when it all began, for our numbers swelled to more than three thousand that amazing day.’

Peter’s story: Read the story together, perhaps around the kitchen table. Wonder about it as follows:

  • I wonder how the disciples felt at first about preaching to the whole world?
  • I wonder what they saw and heard on the day of Pentecost
  • I wonder how they felt afterwards
  • I wonder if God might ask you to do something special. How would you feel?

Happy Birthday! Pentecost is sometimes seen as the birthday of the church. Why not wear something red to church on 20th May to celebrate? Ask children to help you prepare a fruit salad for dessert (to represent the fact that Pentecost was a harvest festival and the first disciples were the harvest of Jesus’ work) and eat with a slice of ‘birthday’ cake!

Spreading the word: What can we tell other people about Jesus? Write this as a heading on a large sheet of paper. Leave some felt tip pens for the family to add their ideas (eg. He loves us, He is always with us, He keeps his promises, etc).

In the car/on a walk: How many things can you think of that need the power of wind or fire to get them going? What do you think human beings need?

Young children: Play the story of Pentecost, retelling it in your own words. Get everyone to tear up strips of red, yellow and orange tissue paper and float these down onto their heads! Make sound effects of the wind!

You could read a picture book about a windy day. Chat about the disciples being blown out onto the streets to tell people about Jesus at Pentecost.

Prayer: Thank God for the gift of his Spirit to each one of us. In a series of prayers, pray for home and family, for neighbours, for a street, for village or town, for big cities, for a country, gradually widening out your prayers to include the whole world! Use a globe as a visual aid.

 

 

 

 

The Easter Swallows – assembly and toddler ideas!

By Vicki Howie

Two swallows were chattering in a quiet garden.

“It’s springtime!” sang Long-tail to his wife. “Shall we build a nest beside this empty cave?”

“Oh, yes!” said Short-tail. “We could have a nest full of baby swallows.”

Long-tail nodded his black head.

And they will have a wonderful view of the great city of Jerusalem! Come along, then! Let’s find some mud to build the nest.”

The two swallows soared up over the olive trees and down into a muddy field where two donkeys were tethered. Backwards and forwards they flew, carrying great globs of mud in their beaks.

As they worked, two men came to fetch the baby donkey.

“Where are you going, little donkey?” asked the swallows.

“To carry a great king into Jerusalem,” he brayed. “I’ve never given anyone a ride before.”

“Who is this king,” the swallows twittered. “Shall we go and see?”

The swallows flew to the city gate and joined a crowd of noisy sparrows in a leafy tree.

“Here comes Jesus, our gentle king!” shouted the people down below. “Look! He’s riding on a little donkey!”

“Hurry! Lets cover the dusty road with our cloaks!” called a man.

“But who is Jesus?” Short-tail asked the sparrows.

” Jesus is the Son of God!” they chirped. “He’s the one who takes care of all his creatures, even small birds like us!”

“Jesus made my sister well again,” said a boy.

“He told us a lovely story,” added some children who were waving palm branches.

The two swallows watched with bright eyes as Jesus rode towards them. And Short-tail was sure that Jesus smiled up at her.

The happy swallows returned to the quiet garden and set to work once more. As the days went by and the muddy nest grew bigger, the swallows listened eagerly to the other birds in the garden chattering about Jesus.

“He saved my life once,” sang a lark. “A fierce wind blew me over the stormy lake.But Jesus told the wind and the waves to calm down, and I found my way home again.”

“I saw him feed five thousand people with just two little loaves and five fish,” chirped a sparrow, “And there were plenty of crumbs left over for us birds.”

“All that work has made me hungry,” said Short-tail at last. “Let’s fly over the city walls to find some food.”

The hungry pair soon spotted some breadcrumbs on a window sill.

“Eat up!” said Long-tail to his wife. “You must keep up your strength!”

But Short-tail was peering through the window into the upstairs room.

“Look! It’s our friend Jesus! ” she cried happily. “He’s having some supper with his friends!”

Suddenly, one of the men with Jesus left the room and ran down the stone steps.

“That’s Judas,” said Long-tail. “Look at him frowning! I wonder what he’s going to do.”

It was getting late now, but the two swallows were worried about their friend Jesus. So they followed him into a garden called Gethsemane that was full of olive trees.

“Please stay awake and keep me company while I pray,” Jesus begged his friends, the disciples. But they were much too tired and they soon fell asleep.

“We’ll stay awake with Jesus, ” agreed the two birds. He seems lonely and afraid.

In the night, Judas brought some Roman soldiers stamping into the garden.

“Where’s Jesus?” they shouted. “The one who calls himself a king.”

“Here I am,” said Jesus. “But please don’t hurt my friends.”

The soldiers took hold of Jesus and marched him away.

Long-tail was angry.

“So that’s what Judas was doing,” he said. “I thought he was supposed to be Jesus’ friend.”

Early the next morning, the swallows found Jesus at the palace. A crowd of angry people were shouting, “Kill him! Take him away and put him on a cross!”

“Why do they want to kill Jesus?” asked Short-tail. “He hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“They don’t believe he is the Son of God,” explained Long-tail.

Then the soldiers made a crown out of thorny branches and put it on his head. At this, the swallows flew down to try to lift it off.

But a soldier waved his sword at them and frightened them away.

Long-tail took Short-tail back to the quiet garden.

“You were very brave!” he said proudly. “But now you must be braver still.”

Short-tail looked down the path.

The soldiers were making Jesus carry a heavy cross up the hill. He often slipped and fell.

“What are they going to do to Jesus?” she whispered.

“I’m afraid they are going to kill him,” said Long-tail.

That dreadful Friday, the soldiers put Jesus on a cross between two other crosses. They left him there to die. Then the afternoon sky turned black as night and the ground shook. The two swallows hid their heads under their wings.

“Please forgive them, Father,” Jesus prayed.

And then he died.

“Did you hear that?” asked Short-tail sorrowfully. Now they will know that Jesus was a good man.”

In the evening, one of Jesus’ friends came to put his body in the garden cave. Then he rolled a big stone in front of the cave to close it.

“Goodnight Mary Magdalen,” he called softly to a lady who was crying in the garden.

The two swallows sat beside the big stone feeling very gloomy.

“Don’t be sad!” said Long-tail, putting his head on one side.

“But my heart is broken!” said Short-tail. “Jesus is dead! Who will look after the birds now?”

As soon as the stars began to fade on Sunday morning, the swallows woke up and saw that the cave was open. The heavy stone was rolled to one side!

They fluttered inside the cave, but they were surprised to see that it was empty.

“Don’t worry!” said an angel with white feathery wings. “Jesus isn’t dead anymore. He’s alive!”

The puzzled swallows flew back into the garden. Suddenly it was full off sunshine. Flowers opened their petals and birds began to sing.

Mary Magdalen was there but she wasn’t crying anymore. She was smiling at someone.

“Look! It’s Jesus!” exclaimed Long-tail. “He’s alive! He’s alive!”

“Oh, Jesus, friend of all the birds, everybody’s friend and king, you are alive!” sang Short-tail. “No-one but the Son of God could come back to life again!”

And not long after that, Long-tail and Short-tail were the proud parents of four baby swallows, all opening their beaks for more food in their beautiful Easter nest!

THE END

(C) Vicki Howie

 

Assembly ideas

Eggs are given to friends and family at Easter to celebrate new life. When Jesus died on the cross for us, he gave us new life because he brought us back into a close friendship with God. He came back to show us that death is no longer the end since he opened the gates of heaven for us.

A pair of children could be building a nest during the story by weaving twigs, ivy and leaves together.

Before the story, talk about everything coming alive again in the garden at the moment. What have children seen? Have they heard birdsong? You could ask someone to play a whistle or flute.  The birds are busy now gathering materials for their nests. Has anyone seen them flying backwards and forwards with leaves and twigs? Does anyone know what a swallow looks like? They build their nests from mud (collected from lakes and rivers) – often under the eaves of buildings.  Here’s a story about two swallows who are building a nest in a rocky garden close to the city of Jerusalem . . .

For toddlers

You may need to shorten the story

Pick out some sensory objects to experience: listen to a toy flute birdsong, wave some spiky palm leaves, make clip-clop noises with empty yoghurts pots attached with string and knock the hollow ends together, feel some grey fur, taste some breadcrumbs, look at a wooden cross, feel a big smooth pebble, smell flowers, admire a toy butterfly, admire catkins or pussy willow, make cheeping noises for baby birds and open and shut hands as if they are beaks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March/April: Faith in the Family Activities

Meals with a meaning

Parents’ pause for thought: Take time to read the Bible story below, and in the Bible. When Jesus ate his last supper with his disciples, he changed the old Jewish Passover into a meal with special significance that Christians still celebrate today.

Soon after eating this meal, Jesus was betrayed into the hands of his enemies by Judas, a disciple who was supposed to be a good friend. He was brought before the High Priests, who were disturbed by his popularity, interrogated by Pilate and condemned to a humiliating death on the cross by the same people who had cheered his arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, just a few days earlier. At the Last Supper, Jesus asked his disciples to eat bread and to drink wine, and to continue this ritual in order to remember his body broken for us and his blood poured out for us on Good Friday; to remember that he died for each one of us so that, despite our failings, we can enjoy a close relationship with God and live life in the hope of heaven.

Think about taking communion at church and the way in which you feel this brings you closer to Jesus. Be prepared to share this with the children in your life so that, the next time they attend a communion service, it will have more meaning for them. Encourage them to listen to the words being spoken by the Celebrant (telling the story of the Last Supper) and to look for the bread (wafers) and the cup of wine.

The disciples ate and drank as Jesus asked them to do. But there were many things they did not yet understand. It was only after they had seen the risen Christ that they began to realise that Jesus had given his life willingly on the cross and that this was all part of God’s plan to bring forgiveness and new life to all people who trust in him.

 

The story: The last supper (Based on Luke 22:7-22)

For an interactive story, you will need: some herbs; a tablecloth; a breadbasket with flatbreads; a jug of red juice; cups.

“I can’t wait for our special supper tonight!” said Dan, dancing about with excitement.

“Not long now!” replied Mum as she chopped sweet-smelling herbs. (Smell the herbs.)

Today was the Passover Celebration. Later, Dan would share a special meal of roast lamb and flatbreads with his family. But the best part would be when Dad told them the Passover story again. It was all about the time when God rescued their ancestors from Egypt and took them to a land of their own. What’s your favourite celebration meal?

Now two men were at the door. It was Peter and John, Jesus’ friends! Dan had met them the other day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a little donkey.

“Hello!” they greeted Dad. “Jesus wants to know, where is the guest room that you are going to lend him and his disciples for the Passover meal, please?” Where do you think it was?

“I’ll show you!” cried Dan. “Follow me!”

He led them up some stone steps on the outside of the house that went up to the flat roof. But now he stopped at a door on the first level.

“Here you are! The room’s all ready for you!”

The two men looked in at the large room with its long table and nodded approvingly.

“Thank you, Dan. We’d better get ready for the meal. Can you lend us a hand? ” (Set the table with the items.)

After supper with his family, Dan went up to peep around the door of the guest room. Jesus was sitting between his disciples at the table.

“My friends, I’ve been looking forward so much to eating this last supper with you,” he said. Dan was puzzled. Was Jesus going away again so soon?

Jesus took the wine, thanked God for it, and shared it among his friends. (Pour juice into everyone’s cup.)

Then he took some bread, thanked God for it, broke it and gave it to them, saying: “This bread is like my body which will be broken for you. Please do this to remember me.” (Break some bread and give everyone a piece to eat.)

Next, Jesus took the wine and said: “This wine is like my blood, which will be poured out for you. Please do this to remember me.” (Ask everyone to drink their ‘wine’.)

Dan thought Jesus looked very sad as he looked around at his friends. “One of you is going to hand me over to my enemies,” he said.

Dan shivered. Surely nobody would want to hurt Jesus, would they? He went back down to join his family, wondering what was going to happen next.

Vicki Howie

The Last Supper: Read the story together, perhaps using the props to help bring it alive. Chat about the story making sure that the youngest have a chance to contribute.

What’s your favourite part of this story?

I wonder why this story is called “The Last Supper?”

What do you think was going to happen to Jesus?

Do you think people still remember Jesus with bread and wine today?

Setting the table: Before family meals, ask children to take turns to set the table. Alternatively, ask them to do so in readiness for a visit by special guests such as visiting grandparents. Encourage them to take care over making the table look attractive, perhaps with a jug of flowers, candles, homemade name cards, place settings, etc. Fold napkins in different ways. Put mobile devices away for the meal to encourage conversation. Link all this with the story of Peter and John getting the meal ready for Jesus and the disciples.

Easter decorations: Break some eggs in half, saving the insides for cooking. Clean the shells. Decorate the insides and outsides of the shells with poster paints or felt-tip pens. Glue a small toy chick in the shells. You could make one for each guest!

Easter cards: Your family will really appreciate a homemade card. Fold some card in half. Starting near the top of the fold, draw a large oval egg shape, finishing near the bottom of the fold. Cut out the egg shape, through both layers of card, but don’t cut along the fold! Decorate the egg with crayons, felt-tips, paints or stickers. Write an Easter greeting inside!

Easter Grace: One, two, three four five, My friend Jesus is alive, Six seven, eight, nine, ten, Died for us and rose again/ Thanks for special meals, Amen

 

Meaningful Meals: Chat together about any special/celebration meals that you regularly eat together as a family, eg a birthday tea or a dinner on the last night of a holiday. What is everyone’s favourite and why? Are there any food items that always form part of the celebration, or perhaps a favourite restaurant/picnic place? Could you introduce some new celebration meals that might become a tradition in your family – eg Friday night is Pizza night? Traditions build happy memories and strong families!

Family Quiz: Many meals and food items have a special meaning. Can you say what the following food helps us to celebrate and/or remember?

   Hot cross buns

   Simnel cake (what are the decorations on the top and why are there

eleven of them?)

Easter egg (an egg makes us think of new life – why do we think

particularly of this at Easter?)

Communion bread and wine

 

Washing your feet! If you are supervising bath time, helping with shoelaces or footcare, remind children that before the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. They had all arrived in the upstairs room of the house in Jerusalem, no doubt hot and dusty. They probably wore open-toed sandals. But there was no servant to wash everyone’s feet and perhaps the disciples weren’t keen to volunteer! (This job was usually given to the least important member of the household.) Jesus loved his disciples, and though he was their Lord and Master, he wanted to show that he was willing to serve them in this lowly task. It was then that he gave them a new commandment. Can you try to memorise it?

 

Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35

 

A world famous painting: Can you find a painting called The Last Supper on the internet? Try the website: www.milan-museum.com

What do you think of it?

Where in the world can it be found?

How big is it?

If you research further, can you find a picture of The Last Supper made in salt? In which country can that be found?

Vicki Howie

Faith in the Family: Palm Sunday fun!

 

March: We have a king who rides a donkey!

Pause for thought: Take time to read the Bible story about Palm Sunday below. At the start of that dramatic Easter week, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem riding on the back of a little donkey. Here was a gentle, people’s king, who had come to serve his subjects and knew each one’s individual needs. Later that week, he would make the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life on the Cross.

Sometimes we can feel daunted at the role we have been given as parents, doubting our skills and feeling that we know too little of the Bible to be able to pass our faith on to our children. Yet on Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem in triumph on the back of a young donkey that had never been ridden before. He can do much with the humble gifts we offer him.

The charity Care for the Family has just launched its Kitchen Table Project, in which it will seek to inspire parents, the biggest influence in their children’s lives, to nurture the faith of those children. Parents don’t need to be theological experts – but simply to bring God into the everyday things that we are doing anyway with our families. Why not sign up to be part of the online community and receive regular inspiration? (www.kitchentable.org.uk/join ) Follow on social media via facebook: ktpcampaign and twitter: @ktcampaign

 

Story: Here comes Jesus, on Palm Sunday! (Based on Luke 19:28-38)

A little donkey lived at Olive Tree Farm. He often stood, tied to a shady tree, dreaming of the day when he would be big enough to give someone a ride on his back. Who would that be, he wondered. And where would he take them?

One day, he heard voices in the yard. Two men were coming through the gate into his paddock. They wore stripy cloaks and smiled broadly.

“Hello, little donkey!” they said. “We’re going to untie you. Jesus our Master needs you!”

Back went the donkey’s ears. What was happening? He didn’t belong to these men. So he opened his mouth, and gave a very loud HEE-HAW!

“Hey! Where are you taking my donkey?” called the farmer.

“Jesus, our Master, needs him,” explained the men. “But we’ll bring him back soon!”

The farmer nodded. “Go on, little donkey! You’ll be quite safe with Jesus!”

As he trotted along between the two men, his hooves clattered on the road. Clip-clop, clip-clop! He put his ears forward again. This was quite an adventure!

Soon they met a group of people talking and laughing at the roadside. The little donkey stopped, afraid to go forward. But a man with a kind face stepped out of the crowd and came to whisper in his ears.

“Don’t be afraid, little donkey. I’m your friend, Jesus. Will you help me? I want you to carry me all the way to Jerusalem.”

The little donkey wasn’t sure. He hadn’t given anyone a ride before! But he stood quietly to let Jesus climb onto his back. Then they all set off along the road. Clip clop, clip clop!

Many people stood at the roadside, looking out for them.

“Look who’s coming!” they shouted. “It’s Jesus, our gentle king, riding on a little donkey!” The little donkey twitched his ears. Was he really carrying a king on his back?

“Hello, Jesus!” called a boy. “Thank you for making my sister better!”

“Please bless our family!” asked a mum with her baby.

As they started to go down the steep hillside, Jesus’ friends began to sing for joy and people waved spiky palm leaves to welcome their king!

Now the road climbed up, up into the city of Jerusalem. But somehow the little donkey didn’t feel tired. He walked under a big archway and out into the warm sunshine. Someone laid a cloak on the road. How soft it felt under his hooves!

“Here comes Jesus!” shouted crowds of people. “Hosanna! Welcome to our gentle king!” What a din! But the little donkey didn’t feel scared any more – just pleased and proud to be bringing King Jesus.

Vicki Howie

 

Here comes Jesus! Read the Bible story together as a family, perhaps around the kitchen table! (With little children, you could all make a hee- haw sound every time the donkey is mentioned! You could also use your hands as ears and put them forwards and backwards during the story according to whether you think the donkey is feeling scared, curious, or happy.) Chat about the story:

Have you ever been in a big crowd waiting to see someone special? What was it like?

Why do you think Jesus chose to ride on a little donkey?

Jesus needed the little donkey’s help. Do you think Jesus needs our help sometimes? How does that make you feel?

I wonder why people waved branches of palm?

Do you think Jesus knows each one of us?

 

On a family walk: Count how many horses and donkeys you see. When you reach an open space, pretend to be a young donkey or horse. What do you look like? What is your name? Practise trotting and galloping around. Swish your tail to get rid of flies! Give a loud neigh or hee-haw!

Jump over puddles and branches! How do you think you would feel in a big noisy crowd? Who would you like to carry on your back?

 

A Palm Sunday Song: (To the tune, I hear thunder)

I hear, Jesus, I hear Jesus,

Here he comes, here he comes,

Clip-clop on his donkey, clip-clop on his donkey,

Wave your palms, wave your palms! (Repeat)

Then shout Hosanna! with arms raised!

 

Palm Sunday crafts: In biblical times, palm branches were waved to welcome royalty and other important people.

Palm branches: Roll a large rectangle of green or brown paper lengthwise into a tight ‘tube’ and tape one end. Cut down the tube to within about 15cm of the taped end, making thin strips. Gently pull up the inner strips until the branch is a good length and shake carefully.

Younger children might like to decorate big green leaf shapes with triangles cut from the edges. These could be stiffened by taping a cardboard tube or cane to the reverse, thus providing a handle.

Take them along to wave at any Palm Sunday procession at a local church!

I was in the crowd! On a large piece of paper, parents or older children draw the profile of a donkey’s head with long ears coming in from the right. Now fill the page with lots of circles. As a family, fill these in with your own faces and those of other family members and friends! As you do so, chat about all the noise, joy and excitement there would have been on that Palm Sunday!

 

Party game: Play Pin the tail on the donkey! Chat about working animals, such as police horses. How do you think they deal with noisy crowds and disturbances? The Queen used to take part in the Trooping the Colour ceremony on horseback. Look it up on the Internet!

 

Prayer:

At bedtime, make up a story together, pretending you are getting ready to go out to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. What do you wear? Do you take anything to wave? What is the weather like? What is it like on the streets? What sounds can you hear? Can you see properly over the crowds? Now Jesus is getting close. He is going to pass right by you. What do you think you would like to say to him? It could be a thank you for something, or maybe something you would like to ask. Have a think. Turn this into a prayer.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for . . . / please could you help me to . . . / I want to tell you about   . . .

Thank you that you listen to me and that you know my name, even though you are a king!

Amen

Vicki Howie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith in the family: February

February: Going in the right direction!

Pause for thought: Take time to read the Bible story about Jonah and the whale, below. This is a well-known story or parable, which is often depicted in picture books, but has deeper elements.

God asks the prophet Jonah to tell the cruel people of Nineveh to turn away from their brutal behaviour and to change their ways. Jonah doesn’t want to go and preach in this foreign nation! He suspects its people will obey and, knowing God’s capacity to forgive, he is afraid that his enemies will not receive the punishment they deserve!

Jonah sets off on a ship bound for a far off place, probably in Spain. He goes in the wrong direction! But can he really run away from God . . ?

As parents, we want our children to go in the right direction – for their own good. Since God wants the best for them, this means helping them to be aware of him and what he might be asking them to do. During February, lets seize the opportunity of the ordinary things we do as families to point out the extraordinary degree of God’s love for us all!

Jonah runs away (based on Jonah 1 – 3: 3)

Jonah was enjoying a snooze when God spoke.

“Wake up, Jonah! I have an important job for you. Please take a message to the people of Nineveh!”

“ Oh, no!” cried Jonah, “I’m not going to that city of baddies!”

“Tell them from me to change their wicked ways,” continued God, “or it will be curtains for Nineveh.”

“I bet it won’t!” muttered Jonah. “As soon as those Ninevites say they’re sorry, you’ll forgive them and then they won’t get the punishment they deserve.”

“Off you go, now,” sighed God, “there’s a good prophet!”

Jonah packed his bag and set off – in the wrong direction. When he reached Joppa-on-Sea, he boarded a cargo ship bound for Spain – far, far away (he thought) from God and his uncomfortable plans. Yippee! But what Jonah didn’t know as he went down below, was that God could see him – and he was not too pleased.

“I’ll show the rascal,” said God, and he created quite a storm!

“Listen to that wind!” yelled the sailors, “Look at those waves! Our boat will be dashed to pieces!”

“Quick! Let’s fetch cargo from below,” ordered the captain. “We’ll throw it overboard to make the ship easier to steer.”

Down in the hold, the captain was horrified to find Jonah snoring.

“Mister Jonah!” he said. “For heaven’s sake, shake a leg and start to pray!”

Meanwhile, the sailors obeyed their captain. Over the side went the heavy cargo. But still the boat was battered.

“Someone on board has made God angry,” they agreed. So they put all their names in a hat and pulled one out. It read – ‘Jonah!’

“It’s true!” said Jonah. “I disobeyed the God of earth and tide. You’d better throw me over the side.”

The kind-hearted crew tried to row the boat ashore. But it was no good, and . . . “one, two three” . . . they tossed him into the sea.

At once the storm abated. “Three cheers for Jonah’s God,” exclaimed the captain. “We are at your service!”

Poor Jonah sunk down, down to the seabed. There was water up his nose and seaweed round his toes, and scaly fish swam around his head. Who could help him now? Glug!

But God heard his call. And he sent a BIG fish to swallow Jonah – seaweed and all!

“Fancy God sending a whale to rescue me!” spluttered Jonah.

“And why not,” sung the great creature. “When God gives me an order, I obey! Think where you’d be if I’d swum the other way!”

Jonah did think about that, for three days and nights.

“What a wonderful God you are!” he prayed at last. “I’m sorry I tried to run away. From now on I’ll do as you say.”

So God asked the whale to swim to land where it spat Jonah out on the sand. Hic!

“Now then, Jonah,” said God, “Will you please . . .”

“Yes!” said Jonah, and he set off – in the right direction!

Vicki Howie

 

Jonah runs away! Read the Bible story together. Younger children might enjoy hearing it at bath time and making waves for a toy boat. (If you have any Paw Patrol toys, link them with the idea of God rescuing Jonah.) Chat about the story:

What’s your favourite part of this story?

Why do you think Jonah wanted to run away from God?

I wonder how God feels about the people we don’t like much?

What are the highest and lowest places you can think of? Do you think God is there?

 

I don’t want to! How are those New Year Resolutions going? All of us put off doing things we don’t enjoy! Sometimes the neglected task can become huge in our minds and we run away from it all the more.

Have a family chat about the things each person puts off doing and why. Try to think of ways to help each other, for example:

(Sorting the kitchen) How about tackling just one drawer or shelf every day?

(Doing homework) Make a start – it may not be as bad as you think!

(Making up after a quarrel) Try texting SORRY and see if you feel better?

(Doing boring jobs like hanging up my clothes) Try doing them quickly to get them done.

(Reading the Bible seems too overwhelming) Try reading just one Gospel.

 

Teatime treats!

Seabed supper: Serve fish-shaped fish fingers (available from the supermarket) on a bed of noodles or long strands of green pasta (sea-weed!) If you have a spiralizer, add long pieces of cucumber and other fresh vegetables to resemble sea-life!

Fishy finger food: Slice one end off a long roll (cut in half length-wise). Cut out two triangles near the straight end to make the tail. Spread tuna mayonnaise over the roll. Starting from the tail, layer thin slices of cucumber and radish on top, overlapping to look like scales. Make an eye from half an olive and a mouth from a slice of red pepper.

Pancakes: This year, Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is on 13 February. (2018). Traditionally, this was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats before the Lenten fast. The name Shrove Tuesday comes from the ritual of shriving – saying sorry for wrong things done and receiving forgiveness. (When Jonah eventually did what God wanted, the people of Nineveh said sorry for their past behaviour and God forgave them.)

 

Big Friendly Fish Craft:

  1. Fold a piece of A4 paper in half lengthwise and then again.
  2. Now place the top and bottom folds along the central line so that the paper appears to be only half the size.
  3. Draw a whale shape (a circle with a tail attached) with a mouth along the central fold. Add an eye.
  4. Open up the paper. Join up the mouth (adding long pointed teeth!) and the tail.
  5. Decorate your big fish and add Jonah, about to be swallowed up!

Young children might like to paint the back of a paper plate blue. Cut out a big triangle for the mouth and glue it under the opposite side as a tail. Add a big eye!

 

Hide and seek: As adults, we sometimes forget how good it is to laugh and play! Have a family game of hide and seek in the house or on a walk through the woods. Link this with the idea that Jonah tried to hide from God. Point out that wherever we go in the world, we are always within his sight, love and care.

If you are feeling creative, you could make a whale by draping a blue cloth or blanket over a low table or box. Stick on some paper teeth and eyes! This could be ‘home’ in other games, or simply an adult-free den!!

 

Prayer: Think about the sailors in the story throwing the heavy cargo into the sea. In this time of Lent, it’s good to think about behaviour that weighs us down and stops us growing closer to God. Imagine throwing this overboard as you say sorry to God.

Meditation: As you curl up in bed, imagine being safe and dry inside the whale. Whatever your worries, you are held safely in God’s hand.

 

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens you are there;

If I make my bed in the depths, you are there;

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

If I settle on the far side of the sea,

Even there your hand will guide me,

Your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139, vv.7-10

 

 

 

January 2018: Faith in the Family activities

January: First month, first miracle!

Pause for thought: Read the Bible story below about Jesus at a wedding in Cana. It was here that Jesus performed his first miracle, changing water into wine when supplies ran out.

In those days, wedding festivities often lasted a week, and it would have been a source of great shame for the bridegroom to have insufficient wine to serve his guests. Mary has great faith that her son will save the host (perhaps a family member or close friend) from embarrassment – although presumably she does not know how he will do so. At first sight, it may appear that Jesus is reluctant to be involved in “saving” the bridegroom from an awkward social situation. But perhaps he is trying to show his mother that his real mission, only just beginning, must now be to fulfill God’s purposes for him, rather than doing what she wishes at home. His journey will lead to the far more significant act of saving mankind by his eventual death on the Cross, when his blood will be poured out like red wine. But that time has not yet come.

As parents, we can encourage our children to put their faith in Jesus and to ask him for whatever they need, whether significant or small – for every aspect of our lives is important to him.

We want our children to grow up to be self-sufficient, but perhaps we also need to remind them that each of us is only human, and likely to run out of resources such as stamina, patience and joy at times. As Christians, however, we need not despair, for we can rely on Jesus to sustain us.

There’s no more wine! (John 2:1-12)

A mealtime story. You will need a jug of water, glasses for each person and a bottle of blackcurrant squash!

Soon after Jesus had chosen his disciples, they were all invited to a wedding in Cana, a small village just four miles from Nazareth. Jesus’ mother Mary was invited as well. It must have been a grand wedding, because there were servants to wait on the guests and a master of the banquet who was in charge of all the food and drink.

The guests all smiled and enjoyed themselves at the feast, but the servants wore anxious frowns. The wine had run out! No more wine! What would happen when people wanted their cups refilled?

Mary must have noticed the worried faces. What an embarrassing situation for the bridegroom! He and his family would be in disgrace and all the joy of the celebrations spoiled! She couldn’t put things right, but she was sure that Jesus would have the answer. Finding him, she touched his elbow and whispered in his ear, “ They have no more wine!”

“My dear mother, why do you tell me this?” replied Jesus. “ My time to act has not yet come!”

But Mary knew her son well. She went to the servants and told them quietly, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.”

Six stone water jars stood nearby. They were huge, each one able to hold twenty to thirty gallons of water. The Jews washed their hands over and over again before eating, because of their strict religious rules, and so now they stood empty.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. (Fill glasses with water.) Then he told a servant, “Pour some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

The servant began to draw the water, but his eyebrows shot up as he saw the cup he held fill with wine! (Add some blackcurrant squash!)

He watched carefully as the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, although the servant knew – for he had filled the huge jar with water only a moment ago.

The master’s face broke into a delighted smile as he called the bridegroom aside. “Most people serve the best wine first and leave the cheaper wine until everyone has had too much to drink; but you have saved the best until now!”

Jesus’ disciples watched this miracle in wonder, and were full of amazement at the power of their new leader. Surely he would bring kindness and joy in place of all the strict rules of the Jewish religion.

 

There’s no more wine! Read the Bible story together, perhaps just before a family meal. Place glasses for each person, a jug of water and a bottle of blackcurrant squash on the table so that the children can follow “turn water into wine!!” Chat about the story:

Who’s been to a wedding? What was it like at the reception?

How do you think the wedding family in the story felt when they realized there was no more wine to serve their guests?

Who do you think had great faith in this story?

What do you think Jesus meant when he said that his time had not yet come?

 

Half empty or half full? Sometimes it can seem a bit of a struggle to get through January – in the very depths of winter. If family members are feeling low, half fill a jam jar and explain that it could be described as half empty or half full! On car journeys, etc, practise looking at things from a positive angle. For example:

A/W sad face                                                       A/W happy face

It’s freezing outside . . . but that means we can toast crumpets on the fire!

Christmas is over . . . but

We’re back to school soon . . .

Chat about Jesus filling the huge water jars with the best red wine. Jesus was showing that he would bring God’s love and joy wherever he went.

 

A family film: If you know that the weather is going to be atrocious one January weekend, why not have a family film afternoon/evening. Get in some popcorn, close the curtains, snuggle up together on the sofa and watch a family film with a wedding at the heart of it! This is a treat that children will remember and could become a family tradition once in a while!

 

Wedding cake craft  

You will need: tissue paper in different colours, black and other coloured felt-tipped pens, white paper, glue

Have a look at any celebration baking cake tins you may have that fit one inside the other. Look at any photos of a couple cutting a wedding cake.

Cut out rectangles of tissue, each one smaller than the last, and glue on to white paper to make five layers of cake.

Draw around each layer with the black pen and then decorate with patterns such as hearts, circles and wavy lines. Colour in the shapes.

You could draw a wedding couple decoration on top of the cake. Now that you have practiced this, why not make a wedding or anniversary card for someone you know on some folded white paper, using a similar method?

 

Sensible drinking

It makes sense to talk to our children about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol – especially as they approach their teenage years.

The safe limits recommended by the Dept of Health are:

Men – No more than 14 units per week, no more than 4 units in any one

day. Have at least 2 alcohol free days a week.

Women- as above, but no more than 3 units in any one day.

Binge drinking can be harmful, even though the weekly total may not seem too high.

It might be helpful to ask children to measure out water in a wine glass to see what one unit looks like. A small glass (125 ml) of ordinary strength wine (12% alcohol) is equivalent to one and a half units! Can they work out how many units there are in a 750ml bottle of wine? Would you be under or over the sensible limit if you drank two bottles in a week?

There is more information about sensible drinking on the website www.patient.info

 

Prayer

God is interested in every part of our lives and we can ask for his help in big and small ways. Write lots of prayers on colourful sticky notes and stick to a bedroom table or desk. If God answers the prayer, put the note in an empty jam jar beside your bed.

“You treat me to a feast while my enemies watch. You honour me as your guest and you fill my cup until it overflows.” Psalm 23.

Vicki Howie