I’m preparing for a very special worship service on Sunday with all sorts of elements included to celebrate the church year. It should be fantastically fun but my very favorite part of this worship service is that it’s for little kids. It’s designed so that older people and younger people can really hear these stories of our shared faith.
This particular worship experience begins with the repetition of a psalm. It’s something I picked up from the pastor at the second church I served in seminary. He did this awesome thing where he got us to really feel the words of the scripture. He would do this with big chunks of scripture which I didn’t think worked as well, but it’s perfect for the psalms. In that call and response style, without looking at the paper of our bulletins, we enter into these words to feel whatever we are feeling as we come before God. We chant these words together so we can hear it. Because you can’t always hear the words that are read. Sometimes you have to enter into them. Sometimes you have to wiggle around in them so that you can understand what in the world they mean. I didn’t learn this from any pastor. I learned this from children. Children in every church I have ever served want the words to come alive. They want words to jump off the page. They want to feel like they are a part of the story.
Children challenge me to be silly. They remind me that to really hear these words, I have to stop worrying about who it will offend but to let myself feel the words. They need a response. They need an action. It can’t just be a story that happened a long, long time ago. It has to feel real to us here and now. That’s how we’ll know what God is doing.
That’s how this worship service happened. It’s been re-written twice but it’s a favorite because every year some kid comes out of worship and says to me, “You did this so that I would like it, didn’t you?” That might make your squirm if you think worship isn’t about us but about God. I hear you. But, that response from that kid isn’t about how self-absorbed he might be. That’s the kid that is always bored in worship because worship isn’t doing anything to engage him where he is. That’s the kid that suddenly realizes that this story has something to do with him. So, every once in a while, I create a worship service for that kid. So he can feel that he has a part in this story too.
That’s what will happen this coming Sunday at our church. I don’t want to post this Sunday’s worship service because it will ruin the surprise for all of my church members who read my blog. But, because my worship planning this week has me thinking about this fun service and I just emailed it to some friends, I thought I’d share it with you here. It’s the same service I’ll use again this year.
WELCOME TO LIGHT OUR WAY
Have you ever been on a long trip? What do you do on a long trip? Do you sing? Do you play games? Do you tell stories? Tonight, on this very special night, we’re about to go on a long journey together… But I wonder. Did you notice how dark it is outside? Are you afraid of the dark? Tonight, we’re going to try to find all of the light we can. We’ll sing. We’ll tell stories and even be a little silly as we welcome the light of God into our dark world.
Invite congregation to stretch for the journey.
LIGHTING THE CHRIST CANDLE
THE STORY BEGINS (Luke 2:1-5)
Invite congregation to walk in place like Joseph going on a journey.
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
HYMN O Come, All Ye Faithful (first verse)
THE BABY IS BORN (Luke 2:6-7)
Invite congregation to rock the baby every time they hear the word “baby.”
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a baby, her firstborn. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid the baby in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.
HYMN Away in a Manger (first verse)
THE SHEPHERDS HEAR THE NEWS (Luke 2:8-14)
Invite children to baa like sheep.
There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep.
Invite children to say “glory” every time they hear the word angel.
And then, (baaing stops) suddenly, God’s angel stood among the shepherds and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” At once the angel was joined by a huge choir of angels choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all on earth who please God.
HYMN Hark the Herald Angels Sing (first verse)
LET US GO TO BETHLEHEM! (Luke 2:15-20)
Remind children to say glory when they hear the word “angel.”
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running,
Invite children to run like shepherds.
and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this baby. All who heard the shepherds were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.
Invite to hold their hearts like Mary.
The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
Invite children to cheer.
HYMN Go Tell It on the Mountain (first verse)
SHARING OUR LIGHT
We can cheer and celebrate because Jesus is born! The light of the world has come! And we celebrate because that light is in you. In all your journeys and places that you will go, you take this light to shine all people. So, now we’re going to dim the lights so you can shine your light for all people to see as we sing together.
HYMN Silent Night (first and second verses)
Go now to let your little light shine as Jesus is born tonight. And so, we wish each other: Merry Christmas!
If you decide to use this service, I would simply request that you give me credit in your bulletin. I would love to hear how it goes and what the grumpiest 5 year old says to you.