Bring the children forward and have a plain amazon box.
I’m sure you recognize this! It’s an Amazon box! We seemed to have many of these come to our door this week! And I’m sure you did too! Every time a box came to our home, it was a reminder that someone who lived far away in our family or from our friends was thinking of us and we are not alone! Now, the plain box itself is one thing, but then when we open it, the gifts inside are decorated with fun paper or bows, like this, on them. When we wrap gifts, we often think of how special that person is to us and we hope that the gift we send makes them happy. But it’s not really about the gifts. Maybe in the past you’ve received a toy that you really wanted, fun new pajamas, a new bike or gaming system and that made you happy. But toys break, we outgrow pajamas or bikes and technology will stop working. Does that mean that the person who gave you those things no longer loves you? NO! Those things made us happy, being loved never stops and that is what joy is all about. Joy is about being connected to love: people who love us: moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, friends, teachers, and that we love all of those people too.
In our Christmas story tonight we heard an angel tell the shepherds good news of great joy for ALL people. What was that good news? Jesus was born!!! God loves us so much that God came to us as baby Jesus, to connect us to God’s love and to each other and this is great joy! Everyone, you, me, everyone here, everyone in the world, is connected to God and God’s love and are filled with Great Joy! God wanted the shepherds, Mary, Joseph and us to know that we are loved, and are God’s Great Joy. We are part of God forever. And God’s Great Joy can’t be put in a box or under our tree, It’s so big that it covers the whole world! And so as people who are God’s Great Joy-our job is to tell everyone we see that they are God’s Great Joy too! Just like we put bows on presents to remind the person that they are special, I have a bow for each of you tonight to remind you that you are special, connected to God and God’s Great Joy forever!
Gather the children in the back of your worship space. Ask them what they know about what was celebrated on Easter and what they know about the morning that the women found the tomb empty. As you are talking, begin to walk to wherever your font is in your space. Be sure that the children are following you. Keep talking until you get to the font. At the font, say, “We come together every Sunday to tell each other about Jesus in our lives. When we baptize people (children, babies and adults), we tell them how much God loves them and is with them forever. We also talk about how we are going to keep learning about God’s love through the Bible, The Ten Commandments, The Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, worship, and Holy Communion.” Then ask them what they know about Jesus from the Bible and begin walking toward the table. When you get to the table, say, “We know a lot about Jesus from the Bible, but in bread and wine, Jesus is known to us in real and concrete way! Give them all bread to eat (if this is a concern as it might look like communion for children who do not yet receive just hold up the bread). Jesus is truly with us just like this bread is truly with us!”
In our Bible story today, some disciples were walking and talking about Jesus’ death and resurrection. A man joined them and began to tell them about what the Bible said about Jesus’ and God’s love. But they didn’t know it was Jesus until they were sitting at dinner with him and he blessed bread and gave it to them to eat! They had been talking to Jesus that whole day! Even though they didn’t know it and they were sad about Jesus dying, Jesus was with them, even as they walked to a different town! Jesus is with us no matter where we walk, drive, ride our bikes or run. Jesus promises to be with us. We can talk to each other about Jesus no matter where we are too!
Everywhere our feet go, Jesus is there! Have different colors of construction paper, pencils, markers and scissors available. Invite people to trace their feet, cut out the tracings, write or draw how they know Jesus is with them in their daily lives, or how they experience the presence of Jesus in their daily lives. Hang them on a wall, or a bulletin board for a week and then invite them to take them home as a reminder.
Dear Jesus, you walk with us no matter where we go. Open our eyes to see you in our midst. Open our ears to hear your words of promise and love. Open our hearts to share the story of the good news of your death and resurrection that is for all people in all times and in all places. Give us your Holy Spirit to renew us for the journey. Amen.
Invite the children to gather around the cross or if you have a prop of the empty tomb in your worship space. Ask them if they know what special day today is. Say, “yes! It’s the day that we celebrate that God raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus was alive! We say today, ‘Jesus is Risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!’
*You will need a basket of smooth pond rocks (available at a craft store) with a cross drawn on them with permanent marker.
Today we tell the story of the women going to Jesus’ tomb very early on Sunday morning and when they go there, there was an angel and an earthquake (ask the children to shake) and then the big huge giant heavy stone that was in front of the tomb like a door, was moved by the angel all by himself! What do you think the women saw in the tomb? NOTHING! No Jesus! God had done a very wonderful, powerful and unexpected thing! He brought Jesus back to life so that we would all know that God can do and does do powerful and great things and God will always use that power to give us life, love and hope. God’s power is stronger than everything else in the world, including death! Jesus being alive, or what we call resurrection, is a sign of this power and God will use this power for us to be resurrected too! God’s greatest power is God’s love for us always, no matter what. God makes sure that nothing is between God and you and me and everyone! God will move anything, there is nothing that is too heavy for God, to be with you. That is love!
To help us remember this, here is a stone with a cross on it. The stone helps you to remember that God is powerful, loves you and moves everything to be with you. The cross on the stone reminds you that with God, you have life forever!
For a worship station, have someone create a large stone on a piece of cardboard or butcher paper (you can hang that on a wall) Invite your congregation to write or draw where they have experienced God’s power in expected or unexpected ways in their lives. You can add this this in the season of Easter. Have a basket of the same rocks you gave the children available for the adults at this station as well.
Every time you hear “Jesus is Risen!” today, I want you to lift your stone up and say “God’s love is powerful!” Dear God, today we celebrate that “Jesus is Risen!” (“God’s love is Powerful!”)! We thank you for loving us so much that you want to be with us forever. Because “Jesus is Risen!” (“God’s love is Powerful!”) we know to look for your power, mercy and love in the world around us. Help us to tell the whole world “Jesus is Risen!” (God’s love is Powerful!”) Amen!
Invite the children (and adults!!) to come forward and immediately grab a hold of a rope tied to create a circle . Make sure everyone is holding on! Ask,” Could you hold this rope in the shape of a circle all by yourself? No, that would be very hard wouldn’t it! We need each other to do hard things and I’m so glad that all of you are here! This rope reminds us that we are all connected and when we need help all we have to do is look around to see that we are not alone. God’s love holds us together, much like this rope connects us.
In our story today, we hear that baby Jesus and his parents, Joseph and Mary had to go to Egypt in order to keep Jesus safe. It would have been scary for them! But God was with them and do you think that people would have helped them along the way and when they arrived in Egypt? Yes! God makes sure that we are never alone! All we have to do is look around to see those who are helping! Just as we hold on to the rope, we hold on to each other and God holds on to all of us! How can we hold someone with God’s love? What if there is a new kid in class? Or in our neighborhood? Or someone who is scared or alone? You are part of God’s work in the world to hold us all in love!
Have a simple, printed calendar of January 2017 with room under each day for writing (perhaps a calendar where each day is a square). People can take one home to write where they see God holding them or a neighbor each day. Also, have a paper map of the world hanging up and people can place a pin for the part of the world that they are praying for.
Have a crèche or the nativity scene where the children can gather around. If you already have the baby Jesus in the manger in your congregation, have the baby removed for this message. Ask the children “what’s missing from our scene?” Hopefully they will say Jesus! Say, “Jesus isn’t in the manger yet, as we celebrate his birthday next week. We have been waiting these last four weeks to finally see the baby Jesus, haven’t we? It’s hard to wait and it’s hard to know what we can’t see. We keep looking for baby Jesus, don’t we!”
Our story today is about Jesus being born and that finally, Mary and Joseph saw baby Jesus! Have seen a new baby? They are very tiny and everyone is very excited about them aren’t they? Moms, dads, brothers and sisters have waited to see what this new baby will look like and it can feel like someone is missing. And when the baby is born, it’s almost like the baby has always been with us because we immediately love them . When we love someone, it feels that we have always loved them. This is what God wants us to know and so had Jesus come as a baby. When Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and Wise men looked at Jesus, they were looking at God’s love! When we look at each other we are also looking at God’s love! God has always loved us and will always love us. God wants us to see this love and to know that this love is forever. In sending Jesus as a baby, God says that love is never missing from our lives, Jesus and his love is always with us. This love is with you, and you, and you and you and everyone here, and everyone not here. Jesus tells us that when we love other people with kind words and actions, that we are showing people Jesus’ love for everyone to see! Let’s put the baby Jesus in the manger to remind us of this love and sing “Jesus Loves Me.”
Have the phrase “See God’s Love With Us.” printed out with each letter of the phrase printed on a separate sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 paper. Hang the letters up so that it reads as the phrase and have pens, markers, etc. available. Invite people to write words of where they see God’s love and action in the world that begin with each letter of the phrase “See God’s Love With Us.” (You can also have more than one phrase/word.)
Dear Jesus, you came to the world as God’s own love to be with us. Your love never leaves us and is always with us. May we not be afraid to share this love so that evryone sees you and your love! Amen
Ask, “How many of you have grandmas, or grandpas? Do you see them all of the time? (Some will, some won’t.) If you don’t see them very often, (or at all) are you still their grandchild? (Yes!) I have grandmas and grandpas but my grandma (or grandpa or other relative) has died. That means that they no longer live here on earth, they are with God now and I don’t see them anymore but I know that I will someday! We know that God promises that we will all someday be together and with God. God created us to be together. We have families, friends, church community, all kinds of places where we are with people. When we’re together, we can teach each other about Jesus. What would you want to tell these people here about Jesus?” (Have the children turn and face the congregation and say what they think is important about Jesus.)
*Then invite up a parent and a baby, a teen, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety (if you have one present!) something up with the children. Say, “All of these people are part of our community. Even if we don’t see them every day know their name, can they still teach us something about Jesus? Can a baby teach us about Jesus? Yes! A teenager? A grandma or grandpa? YES! Can you teach them about God too? YES!”
* Invite each generation to say one sentence that they want the children to know about Jesus. Say, “We need each other to teach each other about God! This is what All Saints is all about! You are a saint when your words and actions teach someone about Jesus. God says that we are all saints to each other! Pretty neat! To remember this today, during the passing of the peace you can make the sign of the cross on each other and say, “Saint (name if you know it), God’s peace be with you!”
God of all faithfulness, you created us to be in community with each other. Help us to remember that we need each other: babies, children, teens, young adults, middle age adults and our mature adults. We remember today those saints who are not with us but still live in love in our hearts. Thank you for weaving us together in your love now and forever, amen.
*Have paper clouds cut out and on a table with pens and markers. Invite people to write names of saints living and dead on their “cloud of witnesses,” people who have passed the faith on them. They can either take them home, or place them on a cross.
*Have bowls of water available as people come for communion, in order to remember their baptism. You can also have a bowl of water with a candle lighting station if you do that. Connect baptism to communion, to our daily lives.
*In addition to commemorating those saints who have completed their baptismal journey from you congregation, celebrate those who were born/baptized this year as well. Light a candle for those past and ring a bell for the new lives!
As the children come forward, begin asking each one of them for a pencil (or any item will do! Maybe something you need for worship that day!). Keep asking them over and over and over. Ask them if they are annoyed by your questions yet…Hopefully, one of them will be, will find a pencil or pen in the pews/chairs and give it to you! Ask them how it felt when you were asking them over and over for the pencil. Accept all answers. Say, “Sometimes people do annoy us when they keep asking us for things or to do something. But when someone asks you for something, especially when you know that they really need it or it will really help them, you also want to do that thing for them or get the item that they need. As people, we really do like to help others when we can and are able!”
In today’s story from Luke, Jesus tells a story of a woman who is all alone, no family and she needs help. A judge in Jesus time was more than a person who worried about laws, but also could help people in all kinds of different ways. So the woman went to the judge for help. The judge thought that it would be easier to not help her, but she kept asking him! Just like I kept asking you for a pencil! Finally, he does help her! Jesus tells the people listening to this story that if people can listen to each other and help one another, then think about how much God listens to you! God wants us to talk to God all the time, about everything. Even if we think that it’s not important, or something your ashamed you did, or who your mad at, or the beautiful flower you saw. God wants us to know that it we’re not annoying when we talk to God. God says, “Tell me everything! Tell me about your bad day! Tell me about the new toy you saw! Tell me when you mess up! Tell me when you help someone! Tell me you love me! Tell me you are mad at me!” God can handle anything we say. Even if like the woman, we say it over and over and over.
What do you want to tell God today? (Write it down quickly and use it for the closing prayer. Depending on the ages, offer to have each child offer a prayer.) Yes! We can tell God anything!
Invite the children to pray what they named earlier. End with the Lord’s Prayer if that is appropriate for your context and congregation. Jesus told his disciples that this prayer encompasses everything we need.
For prayers of the people (or prayers of intercession) have a quarter sheet of paper in each bulletin or in a basket accessible for all with pens or pencils. Invite people to write what they would like to say to God today. Depending on the size of your congregation, read them all out loud, or have a large wooden cross where people can hang their prayers to God. You can also offer a time for people to pray the prayers on the cross.
Another option is to have a list of needs from the congregation and community: meals, help with house/yard work, donations, prayer, companionship, etc. Have a place where people can write a need and someone else can offer to fill it.
Gather the children to the front of the worship space. Ask them what they can see from there. Ask them who they see. Then move them to the back of the sanctuary. Ask them the same questions. If time, move them to either side of the sanctuary and ask the same questions. Hopefully they will see different items and people. Coach them a bit in this if necessary.
Say, “Our Bible story today is kind of hard! Jesus tells a story of a man Lazarus who is left all alone: no one really saw him or they ignored him because they had much more fun things to look at, such as yummy food, pretty clothes, exciting toys. There was a man who had lots of food, clothes and money and he should have seen Lazarus and helped him but didn’t. Jesus tells this story to remind us that sometimes we need to move around and not be in the usual places in our lives to see new people and maybe see what they might have to teach or give us or for us to teach and give them. Jesus wants us to see everyone, even people who look, act or think differently from us. Jesus always sits with all of us together! And Jesus invites us all to be together. Everyone is invited to be with Jesus!”
I want us to go back to those different places in the sanctuary and tell the people there that we see them, God loves them and so do we! (Go to the back of the sanctuary and say, “We see you, God loves you and so do we!” Repeat on the sides of the sanctuary and the front.)
On a table that is accessible for all, place quarter sheets of plain paper in a basket, along with paper crosses (cut out) pens, and glue sticks. Invite people to write on the quarter sheet a material item or an activity that they “cannot live without.” Have on the instruction sheet this message: “We have many items or activities in our lives that we hold closely and are an integral part of our lives. We might even go as far as to say that we “could not live without them.” Is that true? Are those items/activities pointing you to life with God or life with those items/activities? What might replace them if you gave them up? More time for prayer? For service? For your neighbor? Those items/activities are not “bad” in and of themselves, but might be distracting you from life with God. Jesus tells us that life with God is focused on God and other people, not ourselves. Glue a cross over the item/activity that you wrote as a reminder that Christ comes first in our lives.”
*You could also print this blessing on the crosses.