Posts Tagged ‘Advent’

Bethlehem Gate

Image by almasudi via Flickr

In earlier posts I’ve shared ideas for doing Vacation Bible School creatively and inexpensively.  Click here for a review of a curriculum that focuses on clean water and living water.  Click here for a post about ways our church has done VBS on a shoestring and a list of some more resources.

Here’s an idea for using summer VBS to look more deeply at the Christmas stories.  This past Advent, one of our adult Sunday School classes enjoyed Adam Hamilton’s book and five-session dvd study entitled The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem.  In the dvd Hamilton takes viewers to see Nazareth and Bethlehem and the likely route Mary and Joseph took on their journey.  A youth edition and a children’s edition of the study are also available.  You can see them all on the Cokesbury website.

While I haven’t reviewed the youth edition, I do have a copy of the children’s edition, written by Daphna Flegal, and it is full of great ideas and reproducible materials, readily adaptable to just about any situation.  Here are its contents:

  • Art Show (invitation)
  • Suggestions for an All-Church Event
  • Lesson 1: Mary
  • Lesson 2: Joseph
  • Lesson 3: Elizabeth
  • Lesson 4: The Journey to Bethlehem
  • Lesson 5: The Shepherds

With all these materials you could plan a VBS for ages four through adult.

Image: Bethlehem Gate


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Joseph is one of my favorite characters in the Christmas story.  Maybe it’s because we glimpse his humanity as he struggles with what God is asking of him.   Here is a sermon about this father in faith.

A New Dream

A Sermon on Matthew 1:18-25 and Isaiah 43:16-21

For Joseph, the Christmas story began in a place of pain.  At its beginning, he was hurting.  Joseph had looked forward to a life with Mary!  The wedding was near.  And then there would be children.  Joseph would support this family by the work of his hands, building and crafting with wood.  This family would be founded on the central commitment of Joseph’s heart: to live as people of God’s covenant, serving and honoring God by keeping the commandments.

But now Joseph’s hopes and dreams lay in pieces. “I am pregnant,” Mary said.   Unfaithfulness had to be the only explanation.  Word would soon spread all over town and he and Mary would both be shamed in the eyes of the neighbors.

This good man now had a dilemma.  How should a son of the covenant handle this?  These were the options that the law offered:  one option would be to charge Mary publicly, with the result that she could be stoned to death for immorality, which of course meant the child died, too.

Divorce was the other option, but it wasn’t much more palatable.  Mary still might be disowned by her family, condemning her and the child to a life of misery.

Divorce seemed to be the only way, but it had to be done as carefully and quietly as possible.  Joseph didn’t want to be punitive.  Joseph didn’t want Mary held up to public ridicule.  Perhaps he was hoping to work out a way for Mary to make a new start somewhere else.

With all of this going around and around in his head, Joseph fell asleep.  In his film Jesus of Nazareth, Franco Zeffirelli pictures Joseph tossing and turning.  In a horrible nightmare, Joseph sees the people of the town chasing Mary down and crushing her with stones. (more…)

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'Unwanted Grief' photo (c) 2007, neys fadzil - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/It’s been a difficult Advent for us at Morton this year as we struggle with sickness and death.  Our hearts yearn for God’s comfort.  Thanks be to God, divine comfort is on the way.  Here is an Advent sermon for people who need to be comforted. 

Love Is On the Way

A Sermon on Matthew 11:2-6 and Isaiah 40:1-11

“Are you the one we’ve been waiting for?”  No wonder John the Baptist sent that word to Jesus.  John was longing for the Messiah to set the world on fire, gather the wheat, burn the chaff, make things the way they ought to be, thy will be done, O God, on earth as it is in heaven.

But that hadn’t happened yet.  And now John was chained in King Herod Antipas’ dungeon.  Prison was a place of great suffering even for someone as tough as John, who dressed in camel’s hair and was used to eating insects.  It was dark and damp and teeth-chattering cold.  John’s disciples brought food to keep him alive; otherwise there was nothing to eat.  Prisons didn’t provide luxuries like food.  Prisoners depended on the mercy of people outside for food.  It looked like John was probably not going to live to see his dream fulfilled.  Who knew when Herod might issue the execution order?  If Jesus really was the Christ, the Messiah, why didn’t he get on with things?  What was Jesus waiting for?

I can’t blame John the Baptist at all for his urgent question: Are you the one, or must we wait for another?   People who know what desperation is know what John was getting at.  In a place of pain, the heart questions.  This happens even to people of the strongest faith, like John the Baptist; like Lucy Rose, the Presbyterian pastor I told you about many months ago.  You might have met Lucy when she did a student in ministry year in the early seventies at First Presbyterian Church in Rocky Mount .

Lucy Rose was much loved across the Presbyterian Church and at Columbia Seminary where she taught preaching.  In her forties she developed breast cancer, and at first it appeared that she had beaten it.  Three years later it showed up again all over her body and she struggled mightily with it and with stubborn pain for a year.  Lucy taught as long as she could.  She kept singing hymns with her friends and family even after she could no longer leave the bed.  Yet even tough, faith-filled Lucy humbly asked in those last hours, “Why doesn’t God take me home?”  (Lucy’s story is found in Songs in the Night, a book compiled and edited by her father, Ben Lacy Rose, ©1988 CTS Press, Decatur, Georgia.)

In a place of desperation, when all they can see ahead is more pain, people ask, “Why am I still here?  Why is God keeping me here?”   Loved ones witnessing the suffering ask, “Lord, why?  Can’t you see the pain?  What is with the timing?” (more…)

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