FAITH IN THE FAMILY March: His mother treasured all these things in her heart

Pause for thought: This year, Mothering Sunday falls on 26th March. Traditionally this was the day when Christians visited their mother church (the most important church or cathedral) halfway through Lent. In Victorian times, the entire family went to church and returned to a special meal. Working children were allowed the day off to visit their mothers. They took with them a gift such as flowers, gloves or a simnel cake. American soldiers who came to Britain during the Second World War revived the idea of a special day for mothers. Cards were designed to show how hard mothers worked in the home.

Being a parent is never easy. Take time to read the Bible story below. Here Mary has to deal with the first signs of independence shown by her son Jesus as he reaches maturity in cultural terms. Today, we still struggle with the challenge of finding the right balance between letting go of our children, allowing them the freedom to learn and explore, and keeping them safe.

When facing any difficult issues as a parent, it can sometimes be useful to think how our own parents treated us. We may want to follow their example in some areas and do things differently in others. Certainly God (whose love for us is sometimes referred to in motherly ways in the Bible) gives us the freedom to make mistakes. The gift of his friendship is always on offer as well as the chance to make a fresh start.

Being a good friend to our children is important and can be difficult to achieve if we did not have that sort of relationship with our own parents. It implies a ‘coming alongside’ for non-judgmental communication, rather than an inflexible imposition of rules from above. Praise is always encouraging to them and it can be very powerful to speak well to others of our children in their hearing!

A few weeks ago, the book Little Women was serialized on Radio 4. In one episode, Jo bemoans her inability to control her temper. Her mother, far from chastising her, reveals that her own temper was far worse as a teenager, and explains how she gradually came to deal with it. She expresses confidence that Jo will do the same. What a great example of good mothering!

 

Have you seen Jesus? (Based on Luke 2:41-52)

Mary was bent over a large basket, packing for the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The children were playing, so she could work in peace! A thought struck her. Of course! Jesus would walk with the men this year, now that he was twelve. She straightened up. Twelve years since . . . ! It didn’t seem possible! He’d grown from a helpless baby into this lively boy. She smiled. In some ways he was just like the other lads – always hungry, clothes dusty from play! But she knew he was no ordinary boy. How could she forget the visit of that angel with his heart-stopping message – those visitors to the stable with their unearthly story? She’d been over and over it all, trying to think what it would mean . . .

* * *

   Mary relaxed on the long walk to Jerusalem, chatting with relatives and friends, and watching Jesus with his cousins.

“Who’ll be the first to see Jerusalem?” they challenged each other.

“Who’ll be the first to see the Temple – God’s house?” asked Jesus.

* * *

   They spent the week celebrating the Passover and thanking God for bringing their ancestors safely out of Egypt. Mary treasured this time away from so many household chores, soaking up God’s presence. Too soon, it was time to walk come again.

She was at the front of the party with the women and babies, when Joseph caught her arm, his eyes anxious.

“Where’s Jesus?” he asked.

She stared at him. “I thought he was with you.”

“No! I thought he was with you!”

Her breath quickened as she turned to the other women.

“Have you seen Jesus? Oh please, have you seen him?” Heads shook. She could hear Joseph asking the same question, his voice urgent.

“No, no we haven’t seen him – not since we were in the city. You’d better go back there.”

Afterwards, the next few days seemed a bewildering blur. Disjointed memories of market places, narrow streets hemmed in by city walls . . . Often she thought she heard his voice, saw his back view, only to be dismayed as an unfamiliar face was turned to hers. By the third day, even Joseph could not reassure her that their precious son was alive.

Then they entered the temple. And there he was – sitting with the teachers, asking those profound questions of his. She could see they were impressed. If only they knew the way he’d treated his parents! The pent up emotion burst out of her.

“Son, we’ve been searching everywhere for you!”

He turned to look at her, those eyes bright and warm as if lit by an inner light. “I thought you would know I was in my Father’s House!”

She could not speak, her mind struggling with his words.

“Come on!” said Joseph, kindly. “It’s time to go home.”

And as always, the lad obeyed.

 

Have you seen Jesus? Read the Bible story together as a family. Wonder about it as follows:

  • How do you think Mary felt at different moments in the story?
  • Do you think Jesus meant to worry his parents?
  • Do you think that people can seem angry when they are really just anxious?
  • Do you think this episode became a family story, often repeated? What family stories do you have?

 

Unbelievable chores! This could be played on a car journey or long walk. Parents think up chores they do that their children may not even know exist! For example, sorting recycling from the rubbish! Children ask questions to which the answer is “yes” or “no”. Can they guess each job in less than twenty “nos”?

 

How many times? Anyone for some Maths practise? Everyone works out how many times the person caring for him or her has:

  • Made their bed for them so far this week/year
  • Provided a taxi service for them so far this week/year
  • Cooked something for them so far this week/year
  • Been thanked by their children this week!

 

A thank you card: Place an A4 piece of paper in front of you, landscape (long edges top and bottom). Fold the paper in half from left to right and then again. Open the paper back up.

On the first panel on the left, draw yourself holding a huge bunch of flowers/wrapped present. The bouquet or present should spill over a lot into the second panel. Draw the person you are sending the card to in the third and fourth panels, sitting in an armchair with some tea on a table in front of them. Colour in your drawing. Cut out the part of the bouquet/present that spills into the second panel.

Fold the card in half again, but then fold back the first panel so that the flowers/present pops out! You could write “Just for you . . .” on the front, then     “ . . . to thank you for all you do!” where there is space on the third or fourth panel.

 

Where does it belong? Are you always searching for things at home? Who usually knows where they are? Why not challenge everyone to improve the way things are stored in their rooms, so that there is a special place for everything? You could decorate some shoeboxes, or label tins/sealable freezer bags/old mugs, or buy supermarket storage baskets for spare coins, crayons, hair bands etc.

Has anyone ever lost something precious/a person? Link with the Bible story. Why do you think Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple? I wonder what this family story told them about Jesus?

 

Building a nest: It’s nearly Spring when birds will be building nests. You could place some nesting materials such as moss, dry grass, wool, animal hair and scraps of material in a plastic fruit net and hang in a tree.

Go for a walk and collect some small dry twigs, leaves, bark and feathers to make a collage of a bird protecting chicks under its wings. You could supplement with a bag of craft feathers. Write a caption, “He will cover you with his feathers . . .” from Psalm 91: verse 4.

 

Gingerbread Family: Make some gingerbread dough. Everyone cuts out a gingerbread man, woman or child to represent themselves! Before baking, press currants into the shapes for eyes or buttons. When they have cooled, add other features and clothes with writing icing. As you do so, discuss whether you think it is easy to be a Mum/Dad/child today. Was it easy for Mary to be the mother of Jesus? Do you think the story is pointing ahead to something that happened at the end of Jesus’ life?

Vicki Howie

 

 

 

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February: Faith in the Family Activities

February: Love story

Ruth and Boaz – a love story (Book of Ruth)

Obed wasn’t ready to sleep yet.

“Can I have a bedtime story?” he asked his mother Ruth.

“Of course,” she replied, sitting on his bed. “Which one?”

Obed thought quickly. “Tell me the one about how you met Dad.”

Ruth laughed. “A long one! Well, as you know, I used to live in Moab, where there was plenty of food. One day, I met a lovely lady called Naomi . . .”

“You mean Grammie Nammie!”

“Yes! God brought her to Moab to find food for her family. Sadly her husband died. But my sister and I married her two sons.”

“So you were married before you met Dad?”

“That’s right. But my husband died soon and so did his brother.”

“Poor Grammie Nammie,” said Obed, frowning. “No husband and no sons.”

“I know,” said Ruth. “It was a terrible time, but my sister and I took good care of her. Then one day, she felt God wanted her to come back here.”

“To Bethlehem?”

“Yes. She heard that the fields were bursting with crops again.”

“And so you came with her.”

“Yes, I did. She said I didn’t have to – but by then I really loved her and I told her ‘wherever you go, I’ll go too!’ ”

“I bet Grammie was pleased,” said Obed. “But what about my Dad?”

“Well, I first saw Boaz when I went to work in his fields. People who were poor and hungry like us were allowed to follow the men gathering in the harvest and pick up any leftover stalks of grain.”

“Did he say anything to you?”

“Yes,” said Ruth. “He noticed me straight away and asked his workers who I was. Then he came over and told me that his servant girls would look after me. He even told me to have a drink from the water jars and to help myself to bread at meal times.” Ruth smiled. “I thought he was such a kind man.”

The story was interrupted by Boaz himself, coming in from the farm.

“Not asleep yet, young man?” he teased, waggling a finger at his young son.

Obed yawned. “Nearly! Just tell me – what did you think of Mum when you first met her?”

Boaz sat down on the bed, next to his wife. “Well, I’d heard all about her great kindness to Grammie. And I could see she was brave and hardworking. I felt that I wanted to protect her.”

“So you got married!” said Obed, grinning.

“Well, they needed a bit of help from this old lady!” boasted Grammie, looking round the door.

Obed felt his eyes closing. “Not just you, Grammie!” he said sleepily. “I think God had a lot to do with it too!”

 

Pause for thought: Take time to read the story of Ruth and Boaz above. You can read their full story in the Book of Ruth, which only consists of four short chapters. Theirs is a gentle love story, full of compassion and honourable conduct, set amongst hardworking country folk. It is a welcome relief from the violence and power struggles of the preceding book of Judges, and shows God at work in the everyday lives of ordinary people, despite the background of political intrigue.

In February, our thoughts turn to love as we see shop windows displaying hearts and roses, and inside, shelves packed with Valentine’s Day cards, perhaps for sending anonymously! All good fun!

However, as parents, we may recognize the serious need for our children to be brought up within the security of long-lasting relationships and for society to be founded on strong family life. Yet do we share our own experiences (whether good or bad) with the children in our lives in order to help them make good choices and achieve long and happy relationships themselves? In today’s world, where the “selfie” seems to be all-important, how can we demonstrate that our outward appearance is less important to others than the state of our hearts and the sort of people we are?

The following family activities might provide some conversation starters and fun activities as we approach St Valentine’s Day.

 

Ruth and Boaz: Read the Bible as a family together, perhaps using a heart shape as a visual aid. Wonder about the story as follows:

  • I wonder how many love stories there are in this Bible story
  • I wonder what you think attracted Ruth and Boaz to each other
  • I wonder whether God meant Ruth and Boaz to be together
  • I wonder what you think helps two people to live together happily

 

Make a Valentine’s Day card: Fold a large rectangular piece of paper in four and lay it in front of you as if it were a greetings card. Now draw a heart shape on some cardboard and cut it out to use as a template. It should be the right size to fit on the front of the card.

Open your card, place the template on the centre fold and draw around it. Now ask an adult to cut around the top half of the heart, so that it pops up when the card is opened.

Place the template on the front of your card and draw around that too. You could add some more drawings and colour them in. Add a message or poem to tell someone why you love them!

Smaller children could stick scrunched up red tissue paper to a big heart shape, which could then be used to make a card.

Send the card to someone you love. Will you sign it?

 

How did you meet? On a long car journey, or round the table, parents/partners could tell the story of how they met. What attracted you to each other? Was this to do with personal qualities, or appearance, or both? Did anyone else help to bring you together? Why did you decide to make a commitment to each other? What things do you always agree about? What things do you think differently about? How do you deal with this?

On a wintry February afternoon, bring out any wedding photos and have a look through them together. If it was a church wedding, why did you want to marry in church?

Today, many couples meet each other online. What does everyone think could be the advantages and pitfalls of this? Think about a couple you may know who make a great team. Why do you think it works so well?

 

Recipe for love! Invest in some heart-shaped cookie cutters in different sizes. Invite some friends or grandparents to tea and make them some scrambled egg with heart-shaped pieces of toast on top. You could make heart-shaped biscuits or a sponge cake or no-bake biscuit cake made in a large heart-shaped tin. Perhaps you can find a good recipe on the Internet. While you are busy, see if you can make up a recipe for a happy marriage! For example, you will need:

  • 1 cup of kindness
  • 1 cup of forgiveness
  • a good pinch of patience
  • a dollop of going out when you feel like staying in, etc

 

METHOD

Take two people with similar interests and . . . Mix in a cup of . . . etc!

 

Welcome to our nest! This is a good time of year to make or buy a nesting box to encourage birds to visit your garden. A box with a small entrance hole may attract a Blue Tit, whereas a House Sparrow will prefer a larger one. The box should be fixed to a wall that is covered with a climbing plant and the entrance should face north or east as direct sunlight may kill baby birds. It should be more than 2m from the ground, out of the reach of cats. Watch out for visiting birds and see if they bring nesting material and then food for their young.

 

Bedtime story: Borrow a picture book about love from the library, such as Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney or Bear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater. Talk about how much God loves us and say a prayer to thank him for all the ways he shows his love for us, for instance by making our wonderful world, providing us with food, sending us Jesus to be our friend, etc.

 

 

 

 

January: Faith in the Family Activities

January: Speaking and listening

God speaks to Samuel (1 Samuel 3: 1-10)

Samuel heard it as he lay on his bed in the room with the golden chest – the one that held the laws God gave to Moses. It had been busy in the Temple all day, but now he listened to the silence and watched the light from the oil lamp flicker on the bare walls.

“Samuel!”

That must be Eli, his guardian, wanting him to fetch something. He’d go and see what he wanted. The old man could hardly see now.

“Here I am!” he said, running in to Eli. “Here I am, you called me.”

But Eli said, “No, I didn’t call. Go back to bed.”

Samuel obeyed. That was strange. He was sure he’d heard his name called. He tried to sleep, but couldn’t. He thought about his mother and wished she wasn’t so far away. If only she could tell him a bedtime story – like the one about her praying and praying for a baby before he was born. He smiled. She’d chosen the name Samuel for him because it meant “asked of God”.

“Samuel!” There it was again. That must be Eli. He ran in.

“Here I am! You called me.”

“My son, I didn’t call!” said Eli, puzzled. “Go back and lie down.”

Samuel was wide awake now. Was the old priest getting forgetful? This had never happened before, not since his mother had brought him here when he was very small. How homesick he’d felt at first. But his mother had made God a promise. Her son would serve God all his life, as a thank you. He’d soon got used to helping Eli in the temple, learning how everything was done. And now it felt like home. Except, he did look forward to his mother’s next visit . . .

“Samuel!” There! He wasn’t imagining it. What was going on?

“Here I am, Eli! What do you want?”

The old priest sat up, paused for a moment, wondering.

“My son, I think the Lord is calling you,” he said. “Go back and lie down. If he speaks to you again, say, ‘I’m listening, Lord. What do you want me to do?’”

Slowly, Samuel went back to bed. He lay down. Could it be true? The one who’d made the world, talking to him? He lay still as a statue, straining to listen above the beat of his heart, roaring in his ears. It would drown out every other sound!

But when it came, the voice was as clear as if the Lord were standing right next to him.

“Samuel!”

“I’m listening, Lord,” Samuel answered. “What do you want me to do?”

Pause for thought: As we gaze out of our windows at this time of year, we see the bare branches of trees silhouetted against pink sunsets. Ponds may be frozen, and gardens sometimes lie under a blanket of snow, muffling every sound. Silence! There is no doubt that we have arrived in the depths of winter.

At the time of the Bible story, God hardly ever spoke directly to people. Silence! But one night he did speak, not to Eli the experienced priest, but to his young helper, Samuel. The boy didn’t recognize God’s voice, and so it was up to Eli to explain whose voice he’d heard and how to respond.

There are many instances in the Bible when God speaks to someone unexpected. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when the children we know show amazing spiritual insight. Then, like Eli, we need to listen to what they say and take it seriously. However, it may be up to us to interpret what they are experiencing and to advise on how they should move forward.

 

God speaks to Samuel: Read the Bible story together. Wonder about it, as follows:

  • I wonder why God chose to speak to Samuel
  • I wonder how God speaks to people today
  • I wonder if prayer is about two-way communication
  • I wonder if you have ever felt God speaking to you (perhaps through a Bible story, through the words of a Christian friend, or a quiet voice in your head)

 

The listening game: How good are we at listening to each other? This game could be played on a long car journey. One person tells a story about something funny/embarrassing that happened to them. Then someone else has to repeat their story, eg “One day when Mum was six, she was riding a donkey along the beach when . . . “ Take turns at telling and relaying the stories. How much detail can everyone include?

However old our children may be, they always need us to listen to them, whether it is that important time straight after school or on the odd weekend when they come home from working away. Sometimes having someone to listen is enough. At other times, we may be able to interpret a situation for them, saying, for example, “Well, perhaps your friend was just having a bad day,” or, “Hmm, if you keep feeling like that, do you think God might be telling you something?”

 

The name game: You could play this while sitting at the table before or after a meal. Put a baby name book on the table. Does everyone know what their name means? Have a guess and then look them up. Chat about why those names were chosen. Look up the names of other relatives. You might like to draw a family tree together on a big piece of paper, with the names in circles. Add the bare branches of a wintry tree and its trunk in the background. Can anyone remember what Samuel means?

 

I hear with my little ear! Go on a wintry walk. Stop still for a few minutes in different places to find out what you can hear, for instance

  • In your street
  • On the bench in a churchyard
  • On a footpath
  • In your garden
  • In the woods

Have you noticed these sounds before? Next, when each person wakes up in the morning, try guessing what time it is by what you can hear, before checking a clock. How did everyone do? Can you get more accurate as the days go by?

Link this with the idea that prayer is all about listening to God as well as speaking to him. As a family, agree that each person will try to pause for a short while between their prayers in order to listen to God, perhaps saying, “I’m listening, Lord.” This could be a New Year’s Resolution!

 

Feed the birds! We don’t hear the birds singing so much in the early morning at this time of year. But they may be hungry. You might like to get or make a bird table as a family project. To make a simple one, use a piece of plywood for the base and thin strips of wood for the edges. To hang it from a branch, fix a screw-eye at each corner and make two loops with thick string. Put food on the table (seeds, dried fruit, cooked potato, bacon, hips and haws, acorns) and keep a record of the food different birds eat.

You can make a bird pudding by mixing kitchen scraps and uncooked porridge oats with melted fat. Pour the mixture into an empty yoghurt pot with a hole in the bottom and string threaded through for hanging upside down.

 

Big ears! Make bunny/alien ears from a paper plate! Turn it upside down and, starting from the inside of the crinkled rim, draw two bunny-shaped ears (ie, within the middle of the plate). Cut out the inner circle of the plate, going around the ears and being careful not to cut across the place where the ears join the rim. Colour the ears and then fold them up. Write, “I’m listening, Lord!” around the rim. Try it on!

 

Bedtime story: “Play” the Bible story with your toddler and a soft toy with big ears, such as a rabbit, a mouse or a dog. For example, “ This is Sam. Sam was just going to bed – night-night, Sam – when he heard a voice calling him. Samuel, Samuel! So he jumped out of bed and ran in to see (your toddler’s name) saying, ‘Here I am! Did you call me?’ Your toddler says “No, I didn’t call. Go back to bed, Sam!” So Sam goes back to his bed. He snuggles down and he is just going to sleep, when . . . etc.

End by saying, “Well, perhaps that was God speaking. Let’s say a prayer and listen to God together!”

. . .

 

A Party for Baby Jesus

This is the post excerpt.

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