Prepare: You really don’t need anything for the children’s sermon. For the worship station we are going to make a paper chain with the whole congregation. So you will need enough 1 inch by 4 inch (2.5 by 10 cm) pieces of paper for everyone to have one, and several rolls of tape. People will be writing on the paper, so pencils or pens would be good, too!
Gather the children and ask them if they have ever done anything scary. Invite a few responses if you have time.
Wow, those are some scary things! How about this, though, have you ever done something scary that turned out to be a great thing? Let me give you an example (Please insert your own story! I will write mine so you get the idea, but please use one of your own.) One time, when I was in college, I was given an assignment that I really didn’t take very seriously. Part of the assignment was to make a presentation in front of the whole class. Well, I think I am pretty good at talking in front of people, so I decided that I would be fine just going in a talking without really preparing myself, or making any notes. I was wrong! Not only did I get a terrible grade, but the teacher was also really mad at me for not taking the assignment seriously. I really had two choices, I could ignore it and take the bad grade, which would have been the easy thing to do. Or I could set up a meeting with the teacher, who was a really scary guy, and see if there was any way I could try again.
The first choice, to just ignore it, was easy, mostly because I didn’t have to admit that I did anything wrong. I could just say that the teacher was mean, which everyone agreed was true, and that he didn’t like me. I could just kind of lie about the whole thing. The second choice was scary because first I had to meet with the mean teacher, and second I had to admit that I had not really tried to do the assignment well.
Well, I met with the teacher, and he was upset about the assignment, but he was pleased that I had taken responsibility. He and I talked for a long time, and he decided to give me a second chance. He and I became friends, and he helped to guide me through the rest of my time at college, and even became one of the biggest influences in my choice to become a musician.
In our Gospel story today, we hear a classic angel phrase, “Don’t be afraid!” The angel is talking to Mary, who is going to be Jesus’ mother! Usually we think about the angel not wanting Mary to be afraid right then, I mean and angel of God appearing right in front of you has to be a little scary! I think the angel’s message is more than that, though. I think the angel is telling Mary to make the scary choice, to go tell Joseph what is happening, to stay with her family and to become Jesus’ mom. Mary could have tried to run away from the whole situation, like I could have just ignored my bad grade. But the angel tells her to not be afraid, that things will work out and be good! So she does it, and look at the amazing things that happened because she did.
Faithful God, we pray often that you keep us from evil, and we pray also that you keep us safe. Today we also pray for the courage to do things that are difficult, because we know that they are the right and good things to do. Amen.
Paper Chains! Have the congregation make pairs and talk briefly about a scary time in their lives that turned out well, or that ended up bringing good things.
After they have had a chance to talk, each person in the congregation is invited to write about a scary time that turned out well on a piece of paper. Then use the tape to make a chain with all the people in their row, then link to the rows in front and behind until the whole congregation is holding one long paper chain. Hang the chain in somewhere in the church, even on the Christmas tree, if you have one in the your church!
God gives you comfort and courage.
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