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!
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?
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.