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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Faith in the Family for December

Story: Jump for Joy!

Jesus and his cousin John were hunting for twigs to make a campfire.

“How old are you, John?” asked Jesus. “I’m eight.”

“Nine,” replied John. “I’m always ahead of you, remember!”

Jesus laughed. “And we both belong to the same family, don’t we?”

“That’s right. Our mothers are related to one another.”

“But your mum – Auntie Elizabeth – she seems much older than mine,” said Jesus.

“I know. My parents had me when they quite old. They’d almost given up all hope of having a baby.”

“Well, an angel told my mother she was going to have me,” said Jesus.

“Snap!” exclaimed John. “Except an angel told my father that I was going to be born.”

“I know!” said Jesus. “Let’s ask our Mums to tell us the family stories around the campfire tonight!”

* * *

Auntie Elizabeth began first. “Well, the angel came to Uncle Zechariah when he was all alone inside the holy temple in Jerusalem. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ said the angel. ‘God knows that you and your wife are longing for a baby. Well, Elizabeth is going to have a baby boy at last! You must name him John.’”

“What else did the angel say?” asked John.

“He said that you would have a very important job to do when you grew up. You would get everybody ready to welcome a new king. Oh, how we all longed for a good and wise king.”

“But Dad didn’t believe the angel, did he?” said John.

“Not at first,” answered Auntie Elizabeth. “The angel was indignant and told him that he wouldn’t be able to speak until after you were born. But sure enough, I soon found out that I was going to have a baby!”

Next, Jesus wanted his mother Mary to tell her story.

“It happened about three months before your cousin John was born,” she said. “ I looked up and saw an angel. I must have looked very worried, because he told me not to be alarmed.”

“Just as he did to Zechariah!” added Elizabeth.

“And then he gave me the most earth-shattering news!” exclaimed Mary. “He told me I was going to have a baby boy who would be a great king. ‘How can this happen – I’m not even married to Joseph yet,’ I asked.’”

“You were forgetting that nothing is impossible for God!” said Jesus with a smile.

“That’s right! The angel explained that the baby would be God’s own son and he told me that Elizabeth was going to have a baby too!”

“Is that why you went to visit her?” asked John.

“Exactly. I wanted to share my news with someone who would understand . . .”

“ . . . and as soon as she arrived, the baby inside me jumped for joy!” said Elizabeth.

“That was me!” said John, grinning. “Make way, everyone, make way for Jesus the King!”

(c) Vicki Howie

FAITH IN THE FAMILY

December: Get ready for Jesus!

 Pause for thought: Take time to read the Bible story above which imagines a conversation between the boy Jesus and his relative, John – later known as John the Baptist. Perhaps the two boys loved to hear the story of the angels announcing their forthcoming births and often asked their parents for a storytelling session!

On the recent Parentalk course, we learned the importance of creating a sense of belonging with our children through shared memories, laughter and traditions. Family traditions and routines give a sense of security and build strong family identity. Christmas is a great time to introduce treasured traditions from your own childhood or to create new ones, especially if they point towards the birth of Jesus. Examples might include lighting an advent candle at supper every night in December, or reading a nativity storybook together each Christmas Eve. Memories of such traditions may last a lifetime!

John the Baptist was given the job of going ahead of Jesus, helping people to recognize who he was and enabling them to open their hearts and minds to him. Perhaps, as parents, we can help our children to do the same.

 

Jump for joy! Read the Bible story above together and think about the similarities and differences between the announcements of the two special births.

Why do you think Zechariah did not believe the angel?

How do you think he told his wife Elizabeth about the baby when he

could not speak?

What do you think an angel looks like?

Do you think God can do things that seem impossible to us?

Why do you think God wanted someone to go ahead of Jesus?

 

The story of my birth: A week after John was born, Elizabeth and Zechariah asked some family and friends round to help name the baby. Their guests wanted to call him Zechariah, after his father, but Elizabeth remembered the angel’s words and said his name should be John. Someone brought Zechariah a writing tablet, and much to everyone’s surprise, he wrote down, “His name should be John.” Suddenly he was able to speak again, and he burst into a wonderful song, explaining that John would go ahead of Jesus, preparing the way for him.

Have a storytelling session in which you tell children any stories about their births. Where were they born? Were they early or late? Who came to visit them? How did you choose their names?

 

Christmas Angels: Why not decorate your tree together as a family with some carols playing in the background. If you have an angel for the top of the tree, chat about the Angel Gabriel who announced the births of both John and Jesus.

You could make table angels to show everyone in your family where to sit for the Christmas meal. Make a cone out of a coloured circle of card and decorate the base, the hem of the angel’s dress. Fold white paper in half for the wings and cut out the head of a spoon shape. Unfold and edge with a gold marker. Glue to the join at the back of the cone. Draw a heart shape big enough to write the name of a relative on and glue to the front of the angel. Draw round a coin for the angel’s head on white card and add a long neck. Cut out and draw and colour a smiling face and some hair. Snip the top of the cone so that you can insert the neck and tape in place. Place on the table so that the angels smile at your guests!

 

Christmas party game: Divide into teams. Explain that each team is going to introduce a mystery guest but without saying who they are. Give each team one of the ideas below and allow them several minutes to work out what each member of the team is going to say about them. The other team must guess who they are speaking about. For example:

Person 1: Our mystery guest is someone who works very hard at this

time of year.

Person 2: He is famous for his kindness to children.

Person 3: He dresses in an unusual way.

Person 4: He lives in a very cold part of the world.

Other team: Is it Father Christmas?

 

Other mystery guests could be: Paddington Bear, A member of the Royal Family, Doctor Who, A well-known Disney character, Jesus.

If children help you to prepare this game for a Christmas party, chat about the way in which John introduced Jesus to the people.

 

Christmas Eve Crib Service: Why not make and freeze a fish pie for Christmas Eve so that you have time to come to a Crib Service? The service often consists of a story that will engage the children, during which the characters from the nativity are placed in the crib. Afterwards, go and and look at the completed scene! This is what Christmas is all about!

 

Get ready for Christmas! It’s a great idea to go through cupboards now and make room for all the extra food/packages etc that will need to be stored. (Link this with the idea of John urging people to get rid of ‘rubbish behaviour’ – greed, cheating, lies, – in order to be ready for Jesus!) Stock up now on some bulky essentials, (washing powder, dishwasher tablets, etc) that you won’t want to lug home with the Christmas shop!

 

Prayer

Chat about the things that we all do to get ready for Christmas. (For example, shopping, partying, making our Christmas lists.) Now talk about the things that would make God happy. Are they the same?

Dear God,

Thank you for the joy of Christmas. Please help us to get ready for Christmas in a way that would please you. We are sorry for the things we do that make you sad. Please help us to lead better lives and to be ready to welcome you into our hearts this Christmas.

Amen

 

 

 

A Crib Service

The Lonely Barn Owl

By Vicki Howie

 Welcome

 CAROL: 36 Once in Royal David’s City (omit vv 3 & 4)

Leader – Introduction to Barney the soft toy Barn Owl*

A narrator – introduction to the story and practice congregational responses

Narr 1: In a dreary old stable in Bethlehem town, there lived a lonely barn owl, his feathers white and brown.

Narr 1: His echoing shelter though ROOMY . . .

ALL: Roomy!

Narr 1: . . . was so GLOOMY . . .

ALL: Gloomy!

Narr 1: . . . that nobody ever set foot through the door – well, apart from the innkeeper bringing fresh straw.

Leader: Is anyone here looking after the innkeeper’s animals, the ox and ass? Yes! I think the innkeeper’s rather busy tonight, so could you lead them up the track to the stable here and put them in their stall?

(The ox and the ass – placed at the lectern and on the piano – are brought forward, shown to the congregation, and placed in the crib)

Narr 2: The lonely barn owl uttered a cry. “If only a light would shine in this stable of mine, perhaps someone would drop by.” But only the ox and the ass nodded heads at the manger.

Narr 2: One afternoon, all was hubbub and commotion in the little town of Bethlehem. Horses neighed . . .

ALL: Neigh, neigh!

Narr 2: Donkeys brayed . . .

ALL: Hee-haw, hee-haw!

Narr 2: Sheep baa-ed . . .

ALL: Baa, baa!

Narr: Goats maa-ed.

ALL: Maa, maa!

Narr 2: And from the street came the pitter-patter of travellers’ feet and the chitter-chatter of voices at the inn.

Joseph: Have you a room for the night?

Mary:    Any shelter will do!

Narr 1: “What’s going on?” asked the barn owl. The ox and ass in their stall did their best to explain it all. “Haven’t you heard? They say a great and heavenly light is coming to shine on the earth tonight.”

Narr 2: “A light! Tonight?” screeched the barn owl. “Then I must hunt for it!” And calling goodbye . . .

ALL: GOODBYE . . .

Narr 2: . . . he was off and up into the twilit sky. Twit Twoo . . .

ALL: TWIT TWOO! (Barney flies to the communion table.)

Leader: That was a shame, because the barn owl just missed Mary and Joseph. The innkeeper said they could stay the night in his stable because there was no room for them at the busy inn. Is anyone looking after those two travellers who’ve been on such a long journey? Yes?

The figures of Mary and Joseph are shown to the congregation and placed in the Crib.

CAROL: 6 Away in a manger

In the last verse, Barney is brought back from the communion table to the front.

Narr 1: Now the barn owl saw the golden sun setting over the hilltops of Bethlehem. (A big sun appears from the pulpit) “Oh great and heavenly light, will you come down and shine in my home tonight?” he begged. “Not me!” replied the proud sun, looking down his nose at him. “I am King of the day and must go to shine on countries far away.” And with just a flicker of a smile, he disappeared behind the hills. (The sun disappears)

Narr 2: Now the wispy white moon rose above the hills. (A moon appears from the pulpit) “Oh great and heavenly light, will you come down and shine in my home tonight?” begged the barn owl. “Certainly not!” replied the haughty moon. “I am Queen of the night and must look down from a great height.” And she rose higher still above the hill. (The moon rises before disappearing again.)

Narr 1: As the barn owl swooped low over campfires aglow, he was startled by heavenly things – bright angels with glittering wings. “Don’t be afraid!” they sang. “Guess who’s in the manger!”

CAROL: 51 While shepherds watched

In the last verse, the barn owl is placed close to the crib

Narr 2: Puzzled, the barn owl returned to the town. But as he dived down to the stable he saw, streaming from his own front door, a GLORIOUS beam of light!

Turn on the light for the stable

Light the Christmas candle

Narr 1: Into that golden light he flew, into a mellow, yellow stable he hardly knew. And, there in the manger in the animal’s stall, he found that brightest light of all. A baby boy whose shining face lit the darkest corner of that dreary place! Whoo, whoo?

ALL: Whoo, whoo?

Narr 1: Then on foot (and on hoof and paw), many visitors flocked through the stable door. First came the shepherds from the hillside with their sheep . . .

Richard: Where are the shepherds and their sheep? There! Please could you help them to find their way to the baby in the manger?

(The shepherds and sheep are brought forward from the Lady Chapel, shown to the congregation, and placed in the Crib)

CAROL: 21 Infant holy, infant lowly

Narr 2: And after the shepherds came the wise men with precious gifts, riding on their exotic camels . . .

Vicar: Where are the wise men? Ah, could you be a star and guide them to the Crib?

(The wise men and their camels are brought forward from the altar frontal box, shown to the congregation, and placed in the Crib)

Narr 1: And they all adored the little child . . . Jesus. That’s who!

CAROL: 41 Shepherds left their flocks astraying

Narr 2: “Oh, thank you, tiny heavenly light! You came to shine in my home tonight!” called the barn owl, dancing. Whoo, hoo!

ALL: Whoo, hoo!

Narr 2: So, in a shining bright stable in Bethlehem town, there lived a joyful barn owl, his feathers white and brown!

© Vicki Howie

Blessing of the Crib

 

Bible reading            John 1:1-14

Talk

CAROL: 42 Silent night

Prayers & the Lord’s Prayer

CAROL: 18 Hark! the herald angels sing (“light and life to all he brings”)

 

* Available from the Barn Owl Trust – www.barnowltrust.org.uk