Who was doing the seeking?

In our current Advent Rotation, we are learning about the wise men, who upon discovering an unusual new star, traversed from afar, looking for the new king. (In those days an unfamiliar star = a royal event; all great kings had a star associated with their birth.)

Arriving in Jerusalem these magi created quite a commotion with their inquiry…

A photo of the Milky Way Galaxy with the words from Matthew 2:2

These wise men were on a determined hunt for this new king. We don’t know how far they had traveled, or what sort of difficulties they came up against; they persevered.

But who was seeking whom?

Who got these magi started on their quest?
Who put the star up in the sky?
Who re-hung the star after their stop in Jerusalem? (Matthew 2:9)
Who guided them to find Jesus?

This seeking seems to be going both ways! Seeking Jesus is a beneficial practice, but what about considering that Christ also seeks us?

How would it benefit us to notice signs of God leading us to Jesus?

A friend offers assistance at the right moment.

A child asks a pointed question.

A word heard, sparks thoughts.

If we’re not looking, will we notice?

Talk with your family about God seeking us. Here are some questions to guide your discussion. Perhaps ask a few questions during a car ride. For an easy to print out version, click here.

Star clipartRead: Matthew 2:1-2.
Ask: What questions do you suppose the wise men asked before they started their journey? (How far will we have to travel? Will the star continue to guide us?)
Why do you suppose the magi left everything to go looking for Jesus?
I wonder how the star had that much pull in their lives?
Can you imagine God in his wonderous power, hanging a bright star as a sign to the wise men?
What was God hoping these wise men would do?
What has been your “star” leading you to Jesus?

Star clipartRead: Matthew 2:1-8
Ask: When Herod heard about the magi asking about “one born king of the Jews,” he called together the chief priests and religious teachers. What did he ask them?
What was their response?
How do you suppose Herod really felt about this “new king?”
How come these religious leaders didn’t act interested in Jesus?

Star clipartRead: Matthew 2:1-12
Ask: When the wise men saw Jesus, what did they do?
Do we worship Jesus like the magi did?
What is different?
We could say that the wise men were “wise” because they went looking for Jesus. How would we describe a not-so-wise person? (Too busy to look? Not willing to try hard enough?)
How could you help someone become “wise?”
Contemplate how the magi packed for their trip. How does a wise person “pack” for Christmas? (Plenty of patience?)

God loves you. He seeks your love in return!

Photo credits:
Our Milky Way Galaxy original photo by C. Malin of ESO, made available for use under a Creative Commons 3.0 License. Altered image to add Bible passage, by Carol Hulbert at Flickr.
A slightly altered (coloration, size) clipart star, from the Public Domain via wpclipart.com.

How many wise men? And other misguided notions…

Happy Advent! This is the perfect season to bring faith conversations to your family, and this blog will help. To ensure you don’t miss a thing (usually only one post a week, on our current story) subscribe over on the right. Enter your e-mail address to have posts sent directly to your inbox.

For family Advent ideas see this post.

When kids experience Workshop Rotation Model Christian education, this means they are learning and having fun at the same time! Scroll down to learn more about the workshops we used for an Advent “Rotation” on the Wise Men.

Wise men on camels ponder a star in the sky

Because Christmas happens once a year, each Advent we focus on a different aspect of the Christmas story. In the past we have covered Jesus’ birth through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah, the birth from his mother’s perspective, from the point of view of the shepherds, and the overall details and sequence of the Christmas story. This December we target the key role of the wise men. Read about our story in Matthew 2:1-12. You may be surprised to discover inaccuracies in some of your long-held views about these travelers!

  • In the Art Workshop students learned about the wise men, the magi, who followed a star to seek Jesus. They created a special star for their tree or their window at home. Also they heard about the church calendar and the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.
  • In the Cooking Workshop students used some of their senses to explore the gifts of the wise men. They made no-bake cookies with a special scent and discussed gifts (the kind you can’t buy) that they give to others.
  • In the Video Workshop… one year students watched the animated video, The Very First Noel. They needed to watch carefully. Does the movie stray from the Bible story of the wise men? Do the wise men show up at the correct time? In a different year our older kids watched a presentation on what modern-day astronomers think about the Star of Bethlehem.
  • In the Games Workshop… one year students played games like Concentration and Pictionary to test their knowledge of the details of the story, but then their games were interrupted! They became “refugees” when they were “kicked out” of their workshop room. A reminder that Jesus and his family were refugees (Matthew 2:13-15) and that we are on a journey to seek Jesus.) In a different year our game tested our story knowledge by playing Bible Bowling. Some story facts may surprise you!
  • One year we used a Storytelling Workshop where kids heard and interacted with the book Mary’s Treasure Box. They experience touching and smelling items mentioned from the story. Then they played the “left-right” game to focus on story details. And took home a small box with many of the same elements. They could retell the story!

Why are we doing different workshops for the different times we’ve taught this story? There are several reasons including:

  • We used the Rotation Model for a lot of years! Stories repeated every six years.
  • Our focus for a Rotation changed (we’ve gained new understanding!)
  • We know our kids. We know what will, and won’t work with them.
  • We’ve got a new idea! Usually something we gained from Rotation.org!

Explore more about Rotation Model goodness! Where many of the lessons described above can be found in the entirety.

Photo credits:
“A Star in the East” by W. L. Taylor, 1900. in the Public Domain.

Merry Christmas!

In the pews at a Christmas eve service with candles 
Every year, it never fails.

I always cry.


The church all in darkness . . .

except for candles in the pews.

Light that comes at Christmas, to each of us.

Open quote mark…a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born.
The Message, Luke 2:10

Celebrate this good news!

Merry Christmas!

–Love, Carol

Photo credits:
From my archives: My family together at worship last Christmas eve.

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When life seems scary…

Sometimes life is scary and confusing and what are we to do?

a painting of the angels announcement to the shepherds by Gaddi Taddeo [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

We know that the shepherds were afraid.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified . . .
Luke 2:9

What did the shepherds do to feel braver?

They acted on their faith.

Do the same among your family.

  • Look for God. (See here for help in tying this quest to Christmas.)
  • Tell the faith stories!

For help in how to talk to your children about the tragedy in Newtown, CT, Mr. Rogers says it best: Look for the helpers.

Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
The Angelic Announcement to the Shepherds a painting by Gaddi Taddeo, in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Perfect Audience

Our Rotation this month is about Jesus’ birth with a focus on the shepherds and angels portion of the story. The Message version of the Bible describes these shepherds as “camping in the neighborhood.”

A modern day shepherd boy

Hmmm… Camping… How about a family camping expedition in the living room? Pitch a “tent” (drape a blanket over some chairs), stuff the backpacks with snacks or maybe even hold a picnic! (Try something simple, like sandwiches.) Use this opportunity to talk about shepherds, ask some questions, and add some spiritual growth memories!

a speech bubbleIs it easy to stay clean when you are camping?

If you’ve ever been camping, you know how hard it is to be neat. You can image how hard it was for shepherds in the time of Jesus. They also probably smelled like sheep. And they had another stigma: in those days, shepherds were looked down upon. They were considered as lowly as a tax collector.

Yet these were the people who first heard the good news of Jesus’ birth!

A fake campfire

And heard the news in grand style!
Tell the story of the shepherds and angels (from Luke 2:8-18) around your pretend campfire. (What is camping without a campfire!)

a speech bubbleWhy are shepherds the perfect audience for angels announcing the birth of the Christ child?
Why do you suppose God didn’t chose “important” people to tell first?
Who would you expect God to tell?

There is a momentous message in God’s choice of society’s outcasts as the first visitors he invited to see his baby son!

a speech bubbleHave you ever felt not good enough to hear from God?

God’s gift of his son Jesus is for everyone, even you and me.

God sent his son Jesus as a way to bring people back into a relationship with God. Those who are young, old, broken, a mistake-making-mess, tired, forgotten, feeling unworthy… His message of love comes once again, perhaps as quietly as a sleeping baby or as unexpectedly as God’s glory blazing around!

Enjoy this video telling of our story from The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
A young Bedouin shepherd boy by Ed Brambley from Cambridge, UK, who licensed this photo via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons License, via Wikimedia Commons.
Campfire also licensed under Creative Commons, by Mike Davis.

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Activities for Advent

kids acting bizarre in front of the Christmas tree
To most adults Advent means:

Ready or not, here comes Christmas.

But to a child, Advent should be called:

Hurry up and wait!

What child doesn’t have difficulty waiting for Christmas! (Perhaps strange behavior will result?)

It probably won’t do any good to tell your vigilant kids about how people, two thousand plus years ago (when Jesus was born) had been waiting a long, long time. They had waited for the coming of Christ for hundreds of years! Can’t our kids wait a few more weeks?

Make use of your Advent waiting time.

Here are ideas and resources for waiting Advent:

  • Encourage various ways of telling the Christmas story; how about using a crèche? (Also known as a “manager scene.”) Is yours off-limits to the kids? Get everyone involved in making a version that children can play with. And tell the story over and over! Use air-drying clay or even toilet paper tubes dressed in fabric. Move Mary and Joseph around the room. Anyone for a trip to Bethlehem? Create a shepherds scene in another part of the house. Where should the wise men go?
  • Mary and Joseph built out of LEGO® bricks

  • Got a LEGO®-maniac in your house? Make the figures for a nativity scene from LEGO® bricks. Camels, Sheep, a Holy Family, and more! Visit this site for building instructions. A grazing sheep made out of Legos

  • Another way to “tell” the story: act it out. Get creative with props and costumes: a flash light becomes the star that guided wise men, a bath robe makes an on-the-spot shepherd.
  • Get into the RACK act! RACK is “Random Acts of Christmas Kindness.” How fun! Do one a day or a bunch all at once. Can you sense the surprise pleasure in finding a quarter stuck to a vending machine or a candy cane on the ATM?

    Rack'ed: Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

    To print out cards to stick wherever you “RACK” someone go here. Or to print out cards that you can write your own message on, go here.

  • Want your kids to be more grateful? It needs to be taught! Consider these ideas for ways to teach gratitude. (I like this idea: Pin up a long piece of paper and record gifts you already have!) Or, continue filling up your family blessing box!
  • Do you have lots of Christmas (or winter) story books? Have the kids wrap them and tag them with the date. As part of your bedtime routine, read the storybook-of-the-day. You can make this idea “Advent-y” by adding a Bible verse with each book. Talk about the verse and what it means to you. (Print out a set of possible verses here.)

Christmas will be here before you know it!


Photo credits…
Bizarre children by SMN, who had originally licensed this photo under a Creative Commons License.
Holy Family from LEGO® bricks, by Leo Dorst. Reproduced by permission. (Yes! I asked!)
RACK card from Tracie. Used with permission.

Cool Disciples Schedule – December 2012

Happy Advent! This is the perfect season to bring faith conversations to your family and this blog will help.
To ensure you don’t miss a thing (usually only one post a week) subscribe over on the right. Enter your e-mail address to have posts sent directly to your inbox. Or click on the orange RSS icon to subscribe in a reader.

On Saturday nights and on Sunday mornings at FUMC our kids, whom we call “Cool Disciples,” experience Rotation Model Christian education, as they learn about Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops. Scroll down to view our December schedule of workshops.

a quilted parament - shepherds

Since this is December, we are learning about Jesus’ birth! Because Christmas happens once a year, each Advent we focus on a different aspect of the Christmas story. In the past we have covered Jesus’ birth through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah, the story of the magi, the birth from his mother’s perspective, and the overall details and sequence of the Christmas story. This December we target the key role of angels and shepherds. Read about our story in Luke 2:1-20.

For Saturdays at the Green Wood location, here is the schedule…

Date What’s happening
12/1 Children will be singing and assisting with the service, so please arrive early (between 4:30-4:45) for rehearsal and instructions. There will be a short time spend downstairs watching part of the video Why Do We Call It Christmas? Don’t forget to stay after service for a chili supper, making ornaments, & decorating cookies!
Date Workshop Activity
12/8 Storytelling Workshop Hear the Christmas story via a “visitor” from Bible times – a shepherd!
12/15 Cooking Workshop Bake candy cane cookies to give away.
12/22 Art Workshop Choose from a variety of media to create a scene of shepherds and/or angels.
12/29 Worship with your family

For Sundays at the downtown location, here is the schedule of workshops…

Date What’s happening
12/2 Enjoy worship and Communion with your family
Games 1 Games 2 Storytelling Cooking Video Art
Room 211 Room 215 Room 204 Social Hall Pine Room Room 212
12/9 3rd grade 5th & 6th grade 2nd grade 4th grade {closed} 1st grade
12/16 1st grade 4th grade 3rd grade {closed} 5th & 6th grade 2nd grade
11/23 2nd grade {closed} 1st grade 5th & 6th grade 4th grade 3rd grade
12/30 Enjoy worship and Communion with your family

What’s happening in each workshop at the Downtown location?

  • In the Art Workshop students will create a shepherds & angels picture using mixed media.
  • In the Cooking Workshop students will become messengers of the good news by making candy-cane cookies to give away.
  • In the Games Workshop students will test their knowledge of the details of the Christmas story in a quiz game.
  • In the Storytelling Workshop students will hear from a shepherd, who describe his experience on the night of Jesus’ birth.
  • In the Video Workshop students will watch portions of that all-time favorite video A Charlie Brown’s Christmas.

If you are in the area please join us for the fun learning at First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, MI

Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Shepherds photo from my archives, sewn by the Paraments committee at church.

It’s still looking like Christmas

The Christmas decorations are being stored away for another year, but the story of Christmas is still being talked about! And rightly so; we can talk about Christmas every day! (After all, the whole story is about Jesus.) So for this reason, it shouldn’t seem strange that this coming weekend, the Cool Disciples will be reviewing the story of Jesus’ birth.

Continue to reinforce the learning happening at church, by talking about this story at home; how about around the dinner table?

Ready for some family discussion about our story?

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubble
Jesus described himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12). Name some ways that your family used light to celebrate this season?

In the Art workshop for this Rotation, kids were creating stained glass candle holders. I would have liked to have seen them all lit up with the light shining through the various colors!

telling the story in the art workshop 3rd graders paint stained glass candle holders
1st graders use colored pieces of felt representing various story elements to tell the story; creating stained glass! 3rd graders use stick-on lead lines and glass paint to create.

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubble
“The Light of the World” was just one name Jesus had. He had many other names with different meanings; the name we normally use, Jesus, means “God saves.” Jesus was also called “Immanuel.” What does Immanuel mean?

Drama Workshop - visitors to the new born King 1st graders enact the story - shepherds arrive
2nd grade enacts visitors to the newborn King. 1st grade enjoys their first visit to the Drama workshop!

Immanuel means “God is with us.” God sent Jesus to be with us! God meant for his son Jesus to live as a person like us, to show us how to live, and ultimately, to die for us so that our sins could be forgiven.

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubble
How have you experienced God with you?
Do you suppose our interactions with God will be a dramatic experience like a visit from an angel, or could it be in a quieter way?
What are some ways that God connects with us?

4th graders play a quiz game 2nd graders wait for the questions to be asked
4th graders use the game wheel to determine how many points a correct answer was worth. 2nd graders are eager to hear the next question. They’ll ring a bell if they know the answer!

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubble
The questions asked in the Games Workshops highlighted the difference between what the Bible tells us, and what people think the story says (in a fun way). Here are a few to try out. (Check a Bible if you’d like; the kids were allowed to do so!)

  • How did Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem?
  • Which animals does the Bible say were housed in the stable where Jesus was born?
  • How many wise men came to see Jesus?
  • 6th graders in the cooking workshop Playing with their food!
    6th graders assemble a bag of snacks to use to retell the story. Playing with their food! Exactly what I hoped they’d do!

    Did you find the answers to the previous questions? In all cases, the answer is: the Bible doesn’t say! Were you surprised?

    Finally, I just had to share this picture.
    Care to join us in our workshops? You may get drafted to play a role! (But not unless you want to do so.)

    Drama Workshop - 1st grade - everyone poses for a picture!
    1st graders in the Drama Workshop with their Shepherd and Workshop Leader. Fun!

    Photo credits:
    Photos by Carol Hulbert and Beth Pascoe. Used by permission.