Gospel Centered Family

Family Friday Links 12.2.16

Pat AldridgeComment

Here, at the beginning of the Christmas season are some online resources we've found helpful:

Tim Challies put together a post of books teens should read. He says, "... each of them is suited to twenty-first century teenaged readers and together they will provide a foundation for the Christian life that will prove both deep and wide." Parents lead the way in giving your teens great resources. Use them as conversation starters or even for family devotions. You will learn right alongside them.

The Desiring God site had a post by Kristin Tabb on kids in worship. She describes it this way, "What you want is refreshment and inspiration; what you get is low-level tension, discomfort, and distraction as you brace yourself for what might happen next." She goes on to explain both the weariness and the wonder of it all. Parent's of little one, read this and be encouraged.

Our friend, Timothy Paul Jones, wrote a post entitled, "Advent: The Difficult Discipline of Celebrating the Waiting". In it he writes, "... Advent reminds me that time is far too precious to be killed, even when that time is spent looking ahead. Advent is a proclamation of the sufficiency of Christ through the discipline of waiting." He goes on to explain the meaning of waiting and its importance.

What have you been reading or writing online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section and we will check it out.

The Light Has Come: An Advent Bible Lesson for Children

Jared KennedyComment

Back in 2008, a group of leaders from Sojourn Community Church put together the following Bible lesson and art project to teach the children in our church about Advent. Collaborators included Mike Cosper, now director of Harbor Media, Matt Douthitt, Katherine Valentine (now Groce), Chandi Plummer, and myself.

Bible Lesson written by Mike Cosper
Key Passages: John 1:5; Isaiah 9:2, 6; Luke 2

The Big Idea (An Introduction for the Teacher and Worship Leader): For a long time, Christians have celebrated the weeks before Christmas with a season known as advent. Advent simply means “coming” or “waiting.” For many, many years, God’s people were eager to meet Jesus. He was a king and a warrior that was coming to set them free from their sins. The Bible tells us that ever since sin came into the world the whole world has been waiting for Jesus to come and bring redemption both to his people and the fallen world (Romans 8:18-25).  The prophet Isaiah describes the fallen world as a place of darkness into which the light of Jesus would come to shine.  The good news of advent season is that the one whom the world has been waiting for has come and is coming again. Today, we will introduce our children to the Light who has come to shine in the darkness, and we will challenge them to look for and wait for him in worship. Here are our keys learning objectives for this lesson.  When the lesson is through, each child will know:

  • Advent means coming.
  • Before Jesus came, God’s people waited eagerly to meet him.
  • Jesus came as a king and warrior to set his people free from sin.
  • The world now waits eagerly for Jesus to come again.

Welcome (5 minutes) During the Welcome portion of each lesson, greet the children warmly as they come into the classroom and encourage them to gather at the activity area.  Ask the children to help you set up supplies and prepare for the art project.  Use the following introductory paragraph or a variation of it to introduce each child to the lesson:

Does anyone know what time of year it is? (Pause and wait for a response).  That’s right, it is Christmas time.  For a long time, Christians have celebrated the weeks before Christmas with a season known as Advent.  Advent means “coming” or “waiting.”  When we’re really excited about something that’s coming, we say, “I can’t wait.”  What are some things we say “I can’t wait" about? (Birthdays, Guests, Vacations, Presents, Christmas, etc.)  Celebrating advent is a way of saying “I can’t wait” for Jesus to come.

Read the Scripture (2-3 minutes): Don’t just read it.  Know it and bring it to life!

Celebrating advent is a way of saying, “I can’t wait” for Jesus to come.  One way that we celebrate advent is to light candles, lamps, and lights in honor of Jesus.  The apostle John tells us that when Jesus came into the world:

What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out (John 1:5, The Message).

Isaiah says it like this:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:2, 6 NIV).

The whole world was living in a kind of spiritual darkness. They were lost without Jesus, but when Jesus came, it was like someone switched on the lights. Suddenly, in Jesus, we had light, we had truth, we had hope.  Part of what makes Christmas so special is remembering advent – remembering the time of darkness before the light came into the world.

Light in the Darkness Game (2-3 minutes) Let’s play a game to celebrate advent. Advent celebrates the light that came to the darkness. So let’s pretend that we’re in the dark, (lights turned off), we’re scared, and we’re anxious for hope. Let’s all find a hiding place, and we need to be as quiet as we possibly can. Quick go hide!  Now when the lights come on, we need to celebrate that it’s GREAT news. So when the lights come on, you need to jump up, bounce up and down, and shout for joy. Are you ready?

Repeat the game three times. Each time, the leader should say, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great… LIGHT!" Then, turn the lights on and encourage the kids to show more excitement. At the end of the game transition the kids to singing. 

Tomorrow we will preview the Advent Music Liturgy that will immediately follow this lesson on Sunday.

Echo the Truth in Song (Worship liturgy by Chandi Plummer):

Leader 1: So what are we celebrating today? (Prompt children to say Advent)  

Leader 2: Advent is the month before Christmas, when we look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth. Does anyone know what city Jesus was born in? (Prompt children to say Bethlehem) And do you know what kind of building he was born in? (Prompt children to say Advent)  

Leader 1: That’s right! Jesus wasn’t treated like a king when he was born.  He was treated like a servant. But from his humble beginnings, he came to be the most important man in history – because he was God’s son. Let’s sing songs about him!

Song 1:  “He is Born (A Christmas Lullaby)” Words and Music by Jeremy Quillo © 2007

Leader 2: When Jesus was born, they wrapped him in cloths and laid him down in a manger. Does anyone know what a manger is?  It’s like a trough, a feeding box that animals would eat out of. Can you imagine laying a baby in a dog bowl? Or a pig sty? Yuck! But that was all he had. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus could have such a quiet, humble beginning? Let’s sing about that beginning together.

Song 2: “Away in a Manger,” Words by Anonymous, 1885, 1892; Music by James R. Murray, 1887.

Leader 1:  An angel appeared to some Shepherds who were out watching over their sheep. The shepherds were very surprised to be visited by the angels. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! We have good news for you and for everybody in the whole world! For today, in Bethlehem, the city of David, a Savior is born, Christ the LORD!” And then do you know what happened?  Suddenly the whole sky was full of angels praising GOD and singing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, goodwill to men!” We are going to be like the angels this morning, singing joyfully to God! We are going to sing: “Joy to the world!”

Song 3: "God Is With Us," Words by Jeremy Quillo. Music by Jeremy Quillo & Dustin Neeley. Sojourn Music © 2002 from the album Advent Songs

Leader 2: We are going to pray.  Fold your hands and be still and talk to God. Let's talk to God.  “Jesus, you are wonderful! You are worthy of praise! The angels praise you and sing to you! The shepherds worshiped you. We want to sing and worship you too!

Pray: Thank you God for this time called Advent, where we can remember how wonderful your arrival on earth was. Thank you Jesus for coming to save us from our sins! Amen.

Art Project for ages 3-5: Stained Glass Windows by Jared Kennedy and Matt Douthitt

Supplies: Blue construction paper cut into 4.25” x 5.5” fold-over frames with a hole punched in the top (1 per child); Wax paper cut into 4” x 5.25” fold-over squares (1 per child); multi-colored tissue paper cut into small shapes; pen; glue; stapler; yarn;  “caption” notes with Isaiah 9:2a—“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”

(1) During the welcome time, have the children choose pieces of tissue paper to create a design for their “stained glass” window.  Have the child arrange the tissue as a design between the folded wax paper.  As each child finishes his or her design, put the prepared windows aside.  Use a pen to write the child’s name or initials on one piece of tissue.

(2) During the music and liturgy, assigned volunteers will run each of the wax paper windows through a laminating machine to slightly melt the wax.

(3) When children return to the classroom, assist them with stapling the wax paper “windows” inside a fold-over frame, gluing the “caption” on the outside of the frame, and tying a piece of string so that the “stained glass” windows can be hung in a window at home. Use the art project time as a time to remind the children about the message of today’s lesson.

Art Project for grades 1-5: Cyanotype Window Art by Katherine Valentine

Here is a finished example of the cyanotype window art

Here is a finished example of the cyanotype window art

Supplies, Preparation, and Procedure: Have cyanotypes taped on the ground with markers for tracing.  Several kids can come at one time, as long as there is an adult to trace them.  Using different colored markers is fine, kids can overlap one another. Encourage them to use bold poses, with their arms and fingers outstretched. The outline should be from about the hip up. Today you've been learning about the season of advent.

Ask: What does the word Advent mean? Coming or Waiting

Ask: What are we waiting for during Advent? Jesus to come into the world/Jesus' birth

Today, you've heard how the Bible describes Jesus as a Great Light. You've played a game today where you celebrated how exciting and joyful it is to be in the Light after being in darkness. You've also sung songs about the Joy that came to the world when Jesus was born. You've learned how shepherds and angels all were waiting and celebrating the coming of the Light.

Ask: Why were they so excited? [Hear what kids have to say about this]

They were SO excited because before Jesus, the Light of the world, came it was like they were living in darkness. 

Do you remember how it feels when you are in the dark? Scary, alone, can't see.

When you are in the dark, it's hard to see - you don't know if it is safe, or if anything is there. It's even hard to see yourself!

What about when you are in the light? Safe, fun, you can see.

When you are in the light, it's not scary, because you can see the world around you, you don't have to fear. You can see and be seen. And sometimes, when we do something wrong, when we sin, we like to hide in the darkness, so that what we did can't be seen - because we are afraid of punishment. But, when Jesus died, his Light covered the whole world, so that everyone who believed wouldn't have to be in darkness anymore. In his Light our sins are seen and they are forgiven! That's why Jesus' birth is so exciting. It's the beginning of the Light of forgiveness coming into the world.  Let's make art about how we are excited and waiting and longing for the Light of Jesus.

The center of this fabric is bright white.  It's like the Light of Christ. What we're going to do is have each one of you lie down around the center and reach for the light.  You can lay any way you want and we'll trace you.  When we're finished, you'll be able to see an outline of yourself reaching in celebration towards the Light!

Family Friday Links 11.25.16

Pat AldridgeComment

Even though it Thanksgiving week, there's still been some helpful stuff online this week. Here's what we've found:

Todd Hill, via the Gospel Coalition, had a post about parenting athletes. He wrote, "There’s an idolatry problem in our community related to youth sports. I see this problem every weekend as families gather at the field rather than their church. It’s a problem in my heart, too." The thing about this post that's most helpful is seeing idolatry for what it is. While I see this in my town and in my church, I don't experience this type of idolatry in my house. The question I'm asking is what is the idolatry in my heart and my children's heart?

The All Pro Dad site had a post on things dad's take for granted. It reads, "Be intentional and proactive so you can have the most meaningful impact on your kids." Dad, you need to read this and think it through. This post has implications for all relationships.

Mark Merrill (who runs the All Pro Dad site) recently reposted something on things kids need to hear. He shares 6 short and simple sentences that parents should regularly be talking through with their kids.

What have you been reading online lately? Leave a link in the comment section for us to check out.

Give Thanks

Pat AldridgeComment

This week Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. My kids are looking forward to a few days off school. We will get together with family and friends over dinner and probably watch some football. My wife will force us to watch the Peanuts Thanksgiving special again. She calls it 'forced family fun.' (Isn't it amazing how how time in close quarters with family can become an opportunity for conflict.) 

By the end of the day, we think we are done. But the biblical perspective is different. The Scriptures tell us thanksgiving should never end. Here is what Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV; emphasis mine)

Most of us think that if we give thanks once (or even just once in a while), we are done. But Paul reminds us that giving thanks should be part of everyday life--more than one day each year. Having said that, I've found that Thanksgiving is a helpful reminder for me to practice giving thanks. It's a time for me to put off my disdain of Peanuts. It's a time for our family to practice saying what we're thankful for before our family dinner. It's a time to re-up my commitment to giving thanks during daily devotions.

You see, gratitude is the part of prayer that protects us against discontent. Whether we are prospering or in the midst of deep affliction, thanksgiving grounds us in the goodness of God. And the fruit of gratitude according to Paul is not conflict but peace. 

What are you thankful for? Leave a note below to let us know.