Preparation: Palms for the kids and/or whole congregation and a hymn or song with Hosanna
Scripture: John 12:12-16
Gather the children–you may want to do this at the beginning instead of at the tradition time but either way will work. Give each child a palm branch and show them how to wave it in the air.
“Today is Palm Sunday! Does anyone know what you are holding? Yes, a palm branch. We have palm branches today because in our scriptures today we are told about when Jesus came into Jerusalem. Does anyone know what he was riding on? Yes, a donkey. And the people who knew who he was were excited to see him and welcomed him into Jerusalem by waving palms, putting their coats on the ground as a sign of honor and by saying the word Hosanna! Do you know what this word means? It is a way of showing honor and calling Jesus God–saying Save us Jehovah or save us God. The people where saying they believed Jesus was the son of David and the son of God. So we can shout today also Hosanna! Every time you hear that word I want you to shout i back and wave your palms.” Lead the children on a parade through the church. If your choir has a song they are singing with Hosanna do this then or have the congregation sing a hymn with Hosanna and lead the children around the sanctuary waving palm branches. End at the altar and invite the children to lay their palms at the altar.
God, we thank you for sending Jesus to save us, to love us, to show us how to live in your world. Amen
May you know the love of God. Hosanna!
Note: The Jesus Storybook Bible is an excellent resource for this story. The author does a beautiful job of emphasizing how God’s love never fails. Consider reading this version as the Gospel that everyone hears (audible gasp! I know, but could be awesome!!)
Scripture: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Gather the children and welcome them. Start by asking how many of them have a brother or a sister. If you have kids that do not ask if they have a good friend. Do you ever feel like they get something that you don’t? Or have you ever said, “that is not fair!”? Hear there comments–but be prepared they may have more stories on this topic than normal!
“There is a story that Jesus told about a family.” Read the story of the prodigal son from a children’s bible or paraphrase the story in your own words. Highlight that Father loved both the children no matter what and that forgiveness happened before the younger son could even say he was sorry. Then ask, “Are you surprised by how the father greeted the son who returned? Have you ever forgiven someone or been forgiven? How does that feel?… In Lent we often talk about focusing on the cross. One thing the cross reminds us of is that Jesus died on the cross because we are loved and forgiven no matter what–even if we are mean to someone, even if we are jealous, even when it does not seem fair.”
“Now take your hands and whisper something into them that you would like to tell God–either an I’m sorry for something or thanking God for something.” Show them by cupping your hands and whispering. Say, “Hold this in your hand while we pray and then we will release them up to God on the Amen.”
Jesus, we are sorry for the things we have done that have hurt other people. We thank you for your love and forgiveness. Help us to remember your love is for us and for others. We release our prayers to you (open hands and lift them up to the sky). Amen
Go with this blessing: You are loved and forgiven always.
Preparation: Baptismal font down front or where you can gather children.
Faith+Gather: Gather the children around the baptismal font. Ask them if they know what this is? What happens here?
Faith+Connect: Yes, baptisms happen here. In our gospel today we hear that Jesus was baptized and we know that he said to go and baptize others. So baptism is what we call a sacrament. Does anyone know what it means? Take some answers. Explain that baptism is about God’s gift of love and grace being give to us totally free. Ask what water does, what is for? Take answers. Yes, water can also be for cleaning and washing so we use water to help show us that God washes all the sin away and promises to love us no matter what we do in our lives. It’s a way that we remember that we belong to God. When we baptize someone we say ‘You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever’ and we mark the sign of the cross on their forehead either with water or with oil. And this is one way we can remember our baptisms too–anytime and anywhere! Let’s do that now. Put your finger in the font and make the sign of the cross on your forehead while I say the words “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever” Now we are going to pray but then we are going to dip our fingers one more time and you can go back to your pew family and make the sign of the cross on them!
Faith+Prayer: Thank you Jesus for your love with us every day. Thank you for water and words that help us remember we belong to you. Amen.
Faith+Blessing: Today you are taking the blessing back to the people around you. Dip your finger in the water and head on back and say to them, “Jesus loves you always”
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Preparation: Stars cut out of paper and markers. Optional: tape or cut the stars out and add a piece of double sided tape or other way that they can ‘stick’ on to someone.
Faith+Gather: Gather the children with you and ask them if they know the part of the story about the wisemen. See how much they can tell. Use a picture or prop from your creche if you have one. Say, “The wisemen followed a star, which give light. Today we begin the season of epiphany and in this season of the church year we read scripture stories and think about how God’s being in the world brings us light.”
Faith+Connect: Say, “I know that God sends us star-like people in our lives to help show us the ways of Jesus. These people care about us, tell us about how they see Jesus in their lives, they help us know how to love one another and other people, things like that. Can you think of people who are stars for you?” Share a person who is a star for you and why. Take answers from the kids. Also ask, “How do show you about Jesus?”
Give each child the star piece of paper and a marker. Ask them to write down a name or a letter or a picture to say who is a star for them. Then tell them that if the person is here they can stick this star to them. If they person is not here they can mail it or give it to them when they see them. If the person has died they can put this star in their room or you could create a board or space somewhere in the worship space or church where all the stars can be placed. You can do this during this time or send them back to their seats for this part, or if you have an interactive time in worship such as an open space time you could have this as a station and let them know when they can do this activity.
Say, “Stars in our lives help us to remember about Jesus and help us to be stars for other people. We always have the light of Christ with us in so many ways. These stars can help you remember one way and one person today and this week.”
Faith+Prayer: Jesus, you were born to show us the way of love. We thank you for the lights of the stars in the sky and for the light of the people who are stars for us. Amen
Faith+Blessing: Make the sign of the cross and teach the children: God in my head, God in my heart, God on my left, God on my right.
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Preparation: advertise that children are welcome to come in their pajamas and bring a gift they received. You can also ‘plant’ some children and encourage them to come with gifts or bring your own, A stocking or box or bag filled with small candles, a children’s Bible or this book is recommended: The Light of the World: The Life of Jesus for Children by Katherine Paterson
Faith+Gather: Gather the children up front or near the tree or creche–where it makes sense in your setting. What gifts did you bring with you? Let the children share what gifts they have with them and ask about who they received the gift from.
Faith+Share: As they are sharing who gave them the gift, comment on those relationships and how part of the gift is that the person giving it to us is sharing themselves and what they have with us. When the kids are done sharing their gifts show them that you have a gift bag/stocking/ as well. There is something pretty simple in my bag but also an important part of Christmas. Last night you heard the story of Mary and Joseph and how they went to Bethlehem… do a quick retell or have kids help you. And the gift that was born was Jesus. Today in our Gospel we are also going to hear a story about how Jesus came into the world told in a different way from the Gospel of John. John says that in the beginning–the very beginning at creation Jesus was there as the word and as the light and then he came into the world to bring God’s word and God’s light to people. And do you know why God did this? You have received gifts from people who love you and care about you and want to share themselves with you. God loves you and cares about you and wants to share hope and love and joy and peace with you.
**here read part of the gospel or read from a children’s Bible or book. “The light of the World” book mentioned in preparation is a good one to use in this section to help tie the stories of Christ as light together. Adjust for your time and setting.
We know Jesus came as a baby to be with us and that he is the word of God come to bring love to us and that Jesus is the light–that no matter what happens in our lives Jesus is with us and promises that one day the light of God is stronger than any darkness that we might see or feel or hear. So can you guess what is in my bag? (let them guess, leading them to think of things that make light)
Yes! A candle, a very simple white candle because candles can help us remember that Jesus is with us all the time, even if it’s a just a little bit of light from this candle. we know that Christ is here. (option: Light one of the candles or point to the candles that are lit) Give each child a small candle. (option: you can also give them a label sticker and markers or a cross sticker to put on the candle. Or if you have an interactive time in your worship you can invite them to take their candle to that station and decorate it. I will be using label stickers and letting them draw on them and then wrap them around their candle.)
Faith+Prayer: Ask children to hold their candles as you prayer together: Jesus, light of the world, come be a light in my heart and help me see you everyday. Amen.
Faith+Blessing: Children of God, you are lights for the world today and always. Amen.