Jesus’ birth had lots of drama

Traditional Sunday school class almost never included acting out skits. (I know. I taught for 10 years using that “old” way.) There just wasn’t enough time to squeeze in a play amongst everything else going on — the story, an art project, a game, and a snack! (Besides, a teacher just couldn’t accumulate enough bathrobes.)

Rotation.org logoThat’s what makes the Workshop Rotation Model of teaching Sunday school, unique: We devote an entire class to using various dramatic methods. The goal is not a polished production, but a fun way to learn a Bible story.

We’ve got a closet full of costumes. (We even have a cow costume!) We’ve got a stage with velvet curtains. We recruit gregarious workshop leaders (and Shepherds!) who like teaching through drama. (And who don’t mind dressing up in silly costumes and playing a few parts now and then.)

Does it work? You be the judge. Gather the family around and view the skits created in our Drama Workshop, taped during our recent Rotation on the story of the birth of Jesus.

The 2nd grade:

Can’t see the 2nd grade video? View it here on YouTube.

The 3rd grade:

Can’t see the 3rd grade video? View it here on YouTube.

The 4th grade:

Can’t see the 4th grade video? View it here on YouTube.

The 1st and the 5th graders:

Can’t see the 1st and 5th grade video? View it here on YouTube.

And our 6th graders performed for our younger kids (3 year olds through K’s)…

Can’t see this video? View it here on YouTube.

I’ll bet this prompts the kids to get out their bathrobes and a flashlight and some sunglasses!

Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Dramatic videos produced as a part of our current Rotation at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI.

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God’s purpose? To be with us.

You can do this:  Dig deeper into the Christmas story. Ask questions at your family dinner table.

Ask the question most frequently asked by young children: Why?

I remember telling my kids when they were very young, a simple explanation for why we celebrate Christmas:

It’s Jesus’ birthday.

Birthdays are easy for kids to understand. On your child’s birthday, do they enjoy hearing the story about the day they were born? (Or perhaps the day they were adopted?) It follows that on Jesus’ birthday we tell over and over, the account of his arrival.

crèche scene

We typically hear the story from Luke – a trek to Bethlehem, rooms at capacity, a babe born amongst beasts, topped off with sojourning, wonder-struck shepherds. It always amazes me: Jesus’ first bed was an animal feeding trough, and second-string sheep-tenders were Jesus’ inaugural guests. Everyone had been on the lookout for a majestic monarch, yet God slipped into our world as a defenseless little baby.

Why did the story happen this way?

What were God’s intentions? When we dig deeper, and read in Matthew, we reveal God’s purpose:

quotation marks  She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23)

Immanuel, means in Hebrew:  “with us is God.” Ah! A glimpse at God’s motive.

Jesus was sent to be God with us!

Ready for some family discussion surrounding Immanuel / God-with-us?


  Start off reading together Matthew 1:18-24.

A long time ago, God quietly came to earth via his son Jesus. Most people in those days didn’t recognize Jesus as their long-waited-for Savior. What about these days, do you suppose people recognize God-with-us today?

What are some ways that God makes his presence known to us?
a magnifying glass
  What can make it hard to “see” God?

How can we help others to notice God with us?

Back in Bible times it seemed that God was more overt in his communication with people. For instance, in our current Rotation on Jesus’ birth story, there are lots of “angels of the Lord.” One named Gabriel, visited Mary, whereas Joseph had two angelic visits in his dreams. And the shepherds… they got a sky-full!

Angels made by the younger kids at church

What evidence of God have you seen lately?

What about that bird perched just so, on the snow-covered branch…

Cardinal in snowy treeTo me nature-happenings are a sort of message from God. He says, “Slow down. Take notice. Isn’t what I’ve created intricate and amazing? I created you too. Oh, what a beautiful job I did! Do you see that little bird? The one perched outside your window? I care about him. I care about you!”

 

God is with us. In what ways will you look for his presence?


Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.

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Here comes Advent!

Updated for 2015.

Advent is coming! It starts this Sunday!

Are you ready? Have you planned activities to engage your family in the season of waiting for Christmas?

Why Advent? The word “Advent” comes from Latin; it means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent signals that Christmas is coming; the day when we celebrate that God arrived on earth as baby Jesus. Advent gives us time to prepare to celebrate Christ’s coming. We get to focus our hearts and minds and actions, on the amazing story of God with us!

What can we do during Advent? Try some of these activities:

Bring out the Advent wreath. Does yours need a spruce up?

Creating an Advent wreathThis Sunday, at 10:45 in the Social Hall (at FUMC downtown), there will be supplies and equipment for wreath-making.

Bring your wreath from last year. Or, if you don’t have one, there will be materials to make a new one! (A donation to cover costs will be appreciated.) There will also be an opportunity to make a special Christmas ornament or two!

Light those Advent candles. Starting on Sunday and why not everyday, light the appropriate number of candles during your family dinner. Can’t all be there for dinner? How about over breakfast or over an after-school or bedtime snack? Or just use it as an excuse to gather together for shared family time. (Even if it’s only for 5 minutes!)

Use your Advent wreath as a way to spark faith conversation.
Print a copy of an Advent Wreath discussion guide.

Picture Advent
Go on a photo hunt!
Join in on the fun of Picture Advent. On the first day of Advent photograph something that says “Hope.” On Monday look for “Promise,” and on Tuesday: “Beginning.” See the list of various photo ops.

Use an Advent Calendar. There are all sorts of these to be found, though they typically count the days in December (as opposed to the weeks of Advent). Use your Nativity set as an Advent Calendar – set up a path of numbered “stepping stones” (cut from paper?) Have Mary and Joseph slowly make their way to the stable scene.

An Advent paper chainOR, have your kids assemble a paper chain with 24 links. Print out this list of Bible verses and glue one verse to each link. Every day in December snip a link and read the Bible together.

OR, Use my favorite Bible storybook – The Jesus Storybook Bible. Read one story each day. (They all tie to Jesus.) Download a PDF of this reading plan. A sample of which is shown below. (There are multiple other, not-so-fancy versions out on the internet. Do a search.)

A page from the Advent Calendar based on The Jesus Storybook Bible

grass grows in a cupPlant Straw for the Manger.Fill a cup with potting soil. Place it on a sunward windowsill. Have a container of seeds close by – use grass seed or “cat grass” or wheat berries. Every time someone does something nice for someone, they get to plant a seed. Watch it grow (water regularly) and on December 24th mow it down to fill the manger in your crèche scene.

Use unexpected moments to focus on Advent themes. Find yourself stuck in traffic or in the slow lane at the store? Transform your marking-time-moment into an example of how the Israelites waited for the arrival of the Savior – for hundreds of years! What are other daily instances that remind you of peace, light, grace, joy, hope, love…?

You've been RACK'ed - Random Acts of Christmas Kindness
Check this list
of other Advent ideas…
including Random Acts of Christmas Kindness! A fun way to put the focus on being kind to others.

What Advent activities are being arranged in your household?


Photo credits:
Grass in a cup by Shardayyy under a Creative Commons license.
The page from The Jesus Storybook Bible Advent calendar created under fair usage. (I’m linking to their product at no benefit to myself. And you’ll for sure want one. Did I mention that it’s my favorite?)
Other photos from my archives.

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Our Advent Rotation (2014)

Our next Rotation is about… Christmas!

A crèche scene

Since Christmas comes every year this allows us the chance to, each year, focus on a different aspect of the story. We’ve done Advent Rotations from the point of view of:

This year we’ll take a look at the overall birth story of Jesus. Our target is to ensure that kids know the sequence and timing of story events surrounding Jesus’ birth. We’ll also be digging into the concept of “God with us.”

Our story is found by interweaving the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Read the story as the kids will hear it, in Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 2:1-18.


On Sundays, at the downtown location of FUMC, our schedule is:

Date Our workshops for 1st through 5th graders…
Art Cooking Drama Games
Room 212 Social Hall Room 215 Room 204
11/23 1st & 5th grade 2nd grade 4th grade 3rd grade
11/30 4th grade 3rd grade 2nd grade 1st & 5th grade
12/7 Enjoy worship and Communion with your family.
Read the scripture to be used in the service.
12/14 2nd grade 1st & 5th grade 3rd grade 4th grade
12/21 3rd grade 4th grade 1st & 5th grade 2nd grade
12/28 Enjoy worship with your family. (One service at 9:30.)
1/4 Enjoy worship and Communion with your family. (One service at 9:30.) We are celebrating Epiphany. Read the scripture ahead of time.

And here’s what the 6th graders will be doing this Rotation…
Lots of special projects! (They’ll almost always be in the Pine Room.)

11/23 11/30 12/7 12/14 12/21 12/28 & 1/4
Watch a short video called “The Coat: A Story of Charity.” Participate in a service project for the Humane Society. Do baking for Ronald McDonald House families. Worship with your family. Read the scripture to be used in the service. Spend the morning with our younger kids! Perform a drama, read storybooks and sing with them. A Christmas party! Worship with your family.

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

Date Workshop or Activity
11/22 Work on a service project. (Bring your favorite music to listen to while we work.)
11/29 Game night! Bring your favorite board or card game.
12/6 Art Workshop
12/13 Cooking Workshop
12/20 Drama Workshop
12/27 Worship with your family
1/3 Children will enjoy a special showing of Saint Nicholas – A Story of Joyful Giving.

What’s happening in each workshop?

  • In the Art Workshop students will help tell the story using various colors of felt, creating a “stained glass window.” They will create a stained “glass” scene made into a Christmas tree ornament that reminds them of the story of Jesus’ birth.
  • In the Cooking Workshop students will create a nativity snack bag with items to represent story elements. They will get to try out some of this snack at church but will bring home a bag of goodies. Share this snack bag as a family and have your child use it to retell the story!
  • In the Drama Workshop students will enact the story. What a great way to learn the story details by participating in the story!
  • In the Games Workshop students will play a quiz game to see how much they really know about the story.

On Saturday nights and on Sunday mornings at FUMC our Cool Disciples experience Rotation Model Christian education, as they learn about Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops. 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).
Crèche photo is from my archives.

Are you seeing ads? They are not from me! They are placed by WordPress, who otherwise offers a free platform from which to share lots of good-ness. If you see an inappropriate ad, please report it to support@wordpress.com. Include the URL, the date/time the ad appeared, and a screenshot of the ad.