Prayer Spaces in Schools

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Our Prayer Spaces in Schools training day is happening in March. Here, guest blogger Liz Ogborne tells us more…

“Prayer Spaces are happening in schools all over the UK and beyond. We know that over a million children and young people have used a Prayer Space in their school, probably many more.

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So what is a Prayer Space?

For a week, or a few days, a classroom, hall or library is transformed into a place where children or young people can explore faith and spirituality from a broadly Christian perspective in a safe, creative and interactive way. Simple, easily-accessed resources are used to create a range of prayer activities which are multi-sensory and interactive. Each activity helps the children or young people to pray about, or reflect on, a spiritual theme such as giving thanks, forgiveness, creation, relationships, identity or justice.

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Prayer Spaces are an opportunity for children and young people to encounter God during their school day. They inspire a sense of awe and wonder and give participants space to draw their own conclusions. They open up the experience of prayer to children and young people in a fresh, creative way.

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Prayer Spaces work in every type of school: primary, secondary, middle, state, church, independent, 6th form college. They build relationship between church and school and provide a simple, un-intrusive way to grow the spiritual lives of students.

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What do teachers say?

“The prayer space was way more than just a quiet room. Often you see that those spaces are empty and just not in use. But this time it was really alive”

“A prayer space gives students time for reflection in our busy curriculum…(it) fills a genuine need for students to reflect on some of the big issues affecting their lives”

What do pupils say?

“It felt like the truth in here”

“That was so much fun – when are you coming to do another one?”

“I’m sorry about the children in Syria, I’m glad I get to pray for them”

“Although I am an atheist it was nice to see what could be on offer”

“Thank you so much for letting me think about everything that’s happened and relieving stress”

 Inspired to find out more?!

Then come along to St Mary’s in Swansea on Saturday 10th March from 10am-4pm.

You can expect to:

  • learn about what prayer spaces are and how they work
  • hear stories and examples from local people who have already run prayer spaces
  • explore a range of prayer space activities suitable for schools
  • receive training on the practical steps required to set up and run an engaging safe and appropriate prayer space in a school setting.

I hope to see you there!

LIZ OGBORNE

PRAYER SPACES IN SCHOOLS

liz@prayerspacesinschools.com

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PRAYER SPACES IN SCHOOLS is part of 24-7 Prayer

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Help! I’m not ready for a new term!

This week marks time for ‘back to school’ for most of our children and young people across the country.

We too are probably thinking about planning and preparation for our groups starting back this week or very soon.

Here is some planning for children and youth groups which might help you get started. We update the blog on a termly basis with differentiated planning by age group.

We would consider children’s groups to be anything which caters for school age children up to 10 or 11 years old. This might be an after school club, Sunday School, some of the planning can be adapted to fit a Messy Church context. The planning for children sometimes follows the Church in Wales lectionary and sometimes, like this set, follows a theme for a number of weeks. The planning is always Bible based and includes a story, a game and a craft.

Find the planning for children’s groups here. Children’s group Planning January 2018

Youth starts really at age 10, it’s important to catch children in their last year of primary school before they transition to secondary school. Youth groups can cater for up to age 25 but our planning is aimed at those around the ages of 10-16. This can be used in or out of school, on a Sunday or as part of a mid-week group. Some of the reflection planning may even be suitable for a ‘God slot’ in a more secular youth group. The planning follows a theme for a term and normally involves an opening activity or ice-breaker, a Bible passage the session is based on, games or other activities including cooking, drama and craft and then a short reflection to finish.

Find the planning for youth groups here. Youth Group Planning January 2018

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We hope you enjoy – please let us know how you got on or send us photos of your groups using some of these ideas.

 

A year in God’s hands

In 2018 we have identified some key areas of priority which group together many of our events and activities taking place over the next 12 months.

These are;

Training

We identified training as a priority to continue to equip and enable both clergy and lay people, volunteers and those paid to work with children and young people for the task. Most of this is practical training in children and youth work although we are offering some training which will help with other necessary things such as safeguarding and food hygiene.

If you were to prioritise one key training event in 2018 we’d ask you to come and be part of our Prayer Spaces in Schools training day on 10th March, taking place in St Mary’s Swansea. This is  FREE event, more details available here. PSIS training event

Networking

This is vital for so many of us can be isolated or feel like we don’t have teams around us to bounce ideas around or ask for help. Our networking events provide opportunities to share good practice, ask questions, support one another, pray together and have a good time getting to know other people who are engaged in similar ministry.

If you were to prioritise one key networking event in 2018 we’d ask you to come to our Prayer Breakfast and Networking day on Saturday 16th June in St Mary’s hall, Cardigan. We’ve had lots of different ways of networking in the past 2 years but this event aims to bring together youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, Messy Church helpers, people who work in schools, absolutely anyone who is involved in ministry with children and young people. We will also be offering training and support on this day to run our Summer Salt programme in your LMA.

Events for children

Of course this is what it’s all about, running events to bring together children from across the Diocese to share in fellowship and faith together. We have done this successfully for Sports Days, Party at the Palace and other events. It is really lovely to see the whole family of God coming together and we hope you will support our many events for children in 2018.

If you were to prioritise one key event for children in 2018 we’d ask you to bring a group along to our Pentecost Party. This will take place on Sunday 20th May….save the date!

Events for young people

Again, this is really why we do what we do. We have really built up work with young people and offered meaningful opportunities for them to get to know one another and explore faith together – as well as having lots of fun along the way.

Building on the success of the 2017 youth residential, if you were to prioritise one key event for young people in 2018 we’d ask you to promote and support our youth residential to Cardiff 6th-9th April. More details available here. Youth Res

Schools events

Schools are right at the heart of each and every community that we work on. We have worked hard at building confidence and providing resources for work in schools including assembly training and highlighting ways to bring schools into church and working with them on the curriculum.

If you were to prioritise one key event for work with schools in 2018 we’d ask you to consider using the Experience Easter or Advent Experience programme. These are available in English and in Welsh and we offer training sessions to see the Experience set up, walk through and ask questions.

Starting something new

The perfect time, right at the beginning of the year, for thinking about new beginnings. There are so many opportunities to begin new work with children and young people and we are always here to support you in whatever you want to do, help build your team, provide financial assistance, offer resources and help with leadership.

In 2018 there are two main ways to do this if you are not sure where to start. 1 – our children’s work roadshow where we work with you to develop new work with children; this could be anything from a Sunday school to a choir, from a Messy Church to an after school club. 2 – our Eden Bus roadshow 20th-25th May. This amazing resource is a double decker bus which is available to book during that period. This could go with you to a local secondary school, be an exciting new base for your young people or help reach out to a new estate or area within your LMA. Book with us now.

We hope this has helped with your plans for 2018, let’s place them all in God’s hands.

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That’s a wrap

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Advent is all about getting ready. We spend days preparing the house, the presents, the food and getting everything that we need ready for Christmas.

We should of course also be preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus at Christmas and being ready to greet him at this most special time of year.

But when this preparation and getting ready is all done and the day has come and gone – how do we feel then? With all the anticipation and expectation we can be left feeling a little bit cold.

So now more than ever we should focus on the readiness of our hearts to receive Jesus, not just at Christmastime but each and every day. For those involved with churches and particularly in children and youth work the past month has more than likely been very hectic. Use the next week when days roll into one another, when family come and go and leftovers abound to take some time out.

It might feel like you’ve got it all ‘wrapped up’ you’ve planned and prepared for next year too and it feels like as soon as January arrives it’ll be straight back to it with plans and programmes, groups and activities all happening, one after another.

But take some time out to allow God to speak into your situation, to guide your plans and preparing and to fill your hearts once more with that feeling of expectation. Because the message of Christmas is not just that Jesus was born, but that he was born to save. He was born to bring peace and love and hope and joy. He was born to change our lives and to bring the message of God’s love to the world once again.

So pray that whether you are feeling relaxed that all the preparing has now finished, or are beginning to get ready once again, that you might recognise the season of preparation as an ongoing one, one which we should treasure. Ask for God’s help to include the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your preparations for the new year and thank God for all His help and goodness in the ‘making ready’ you have done in 2017.

Guardians of Ancora

From our guest blogger, Mike Adams (Scripture Union Cymru)

“Imagine if you will an award winning digital game, aimed at 7-11 year olds, that takes them through the stories of the New Testament in a fun and relevant way that is freely downloadable on to phones or tablets.

Imagine how this could be used in schools, church and children’s clubs. The stories of Jesus and quizzes and a whole lot more in a medium that children understand and enjoy, and it was available in English and in Welsh.

Guardians of Ancora is this game and on January 20th there is a training day been organized to help you make the most of this free tool. (In St Mary’s Church Hall, Cardigan, beginning with a prayer breakfast at 9.30am and continuing with training 10am until 1pm – please bring a packed lunch)

I have used this game in an after School club 10 children, they loved it, 15 minuets of introduction then 20 minutes game play on the school tablets then a small conclusion. I had shared the story of Faith in Jesus, what is faith and a whole lot more in a fun environment.

It can also be used in RE lessons. At the time of writing this blog we are trialing some of the lessons, in Schools.

What’s great is that it’s free download and as soon as you have downloaded it then you don’t need internet to play the game. This enables children to play at home and in the car or wherever they are.

This is all also available in welsh, as far as I know the only game of this sort in the welsh language. Ideal for welsh schools and clubs.

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Come and play Guardians of Ancora, a fun interactive game with a wonderful message! You will join the other Guardians in the city of Ancora, a place where light delivers goodness, peace and well-being. The light has been taken away from the city and your role is to bring it back, as you discover the truths that are held in the old stories of the Saga. The Saga stories are the stories of the Bible, delivered in an incredibly exciting and authentic 3D world and brought to life in a completely new way. You will be transported into the stories of the Saga where you will run, jump, slide down zip wires, solve challenges and much more to see the stories unfold. As you complete the stories you will light the magical Spire, bringing happiness to the world of Ancora. There are fun quizzes to take on each story, as well as space to draw, create pictures or write about what you have found. New stories will be released regularly, continually expanding both the gameplay and the fun for you!

I will be there to help train you in how to use this great resource, hope to see you there.”

Final Countdown

As we move into the last week in the countdown to Christmas, here are our top 5 ideas for how to share the most important story and the message behind it all this week

  1. Use your schools! – Get in there and do whatever you can to tell the story of Christmas. In the past few weeks we have told you about Advent Experience which helps you tell the story to groups of children, there is an assembly outline for Advent and Christmas, there are loads of ways you can get the message across but make sure you use the opportunity!
  2. Giveaways – what better way to share the message of Christmas than by generosity? There are loads of things which you might be able to use as giveaways this Christmas but look at the ‘Angels’ from the Meaningful Chocolate Company, cards from CPO, resources from Christmas Starts with Christ to go with any lovely edible goodies
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  3. Carol Services – whatever you do this Christmas you must have some sort of Carol Service. There is no better way to attract families to your church, captivate them with candlelight and then gently re-tell the story of Christmas in a way which can become real to them. Also consider giving out tracts or cards – also available from CPO see an example here https://www.cpo.org.uk/product.aspx?prod=Z3563BT&cat=5010
  4. Be present – see if you can have a present at any and every Christmas event happening in your village or town. Take along leaflets for your Christmas services and some of your giveaways. Don’t let anyone have an excuse not to know about what’s going on in your church at Christmas time. Use social media, local radio or anything else too!
  5. A warm welcome – ensure that at your Christmas services and events the heating is on, there is a friendly smile at the door and, ideally, there is good provision for children and young people. These are real opportunities for a ‘way in’ to church for people and so advertise what you have on in 2018 too.

Crib Service

For use in a crib service or similar event this Christmas

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The Crib

She gave birth to a son, her first-born She wrapped him in swaddling clothes And laid him in a manger Because there was no room for them at the Inn Luke 2:7

The crib is the name of the simple place where Mary laid her baby, Jesus. For a long time, Christians have put cribs in their homes to remind themselves of this. Cribs are made up of little figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and a crowd of others.

Each year we wrap them up carefully in tissue paper and put them away in their box. It’s as if they are sleeping. It makes us very happy when we take them out again – it’s time to wake them up – and set up a beautiful crib!

My heart needs to wake up too, I need to be ready when Jesus comes!

Let us pray

I am ready to welcome you too, Lord My parents, my brothers and sisters, my friends, my neighbours and I – we make up a joyful crowd coming to adore you. Keep us all united to each other. Amen

 

The donkey

Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David’s town called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s house and line Luke 2:4

The donkey that carried Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem was lying on the straw. It was happy to be resting. It had travelled a long way. It was hot and thirsty. It had carried a heavy load but had walked on bravely. Joseph’s kind voice and Mary’s gentle touch had helped it on its way…

Sometimes people say donkeys are stubborn or stupid. It’s true that this donkey didn’t understand much but it was gentle and brave and was happy to serve.

Sometimes I’m asked to do difficult things too, but I can try my best to help.

Let us pray

Lord, there’s a place in your church for everyone. Everyone can be a servant Everyone has talents they can bring. Everyone is important Teach me not to look down on anyone but to recognise each person’s qualities. Amen.

The ox

And here is a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger Luke 2:12

The ox was lying quietly when suddenly a tired couple and their donkey arrived. Then a baby started crying. Where had they come from? Next there was the gentle song of a mother cradling her newborn baby: “Alleluia! The Lord has done great things for me”

Then there were even more strangers; angels, shepherds, sheep! What a lot of people! How unexpected! The good ox was happy to welcome them. He was happy to share his humble home.

Now let me also try to welcome people who come, even when I might not feel like it.

Let us pray Leaning over you, Jesus The ox warmed you with his gentle breath. Like him, by the breath of the Holy Spirit Help me spread the warmth of your peace and love to the people who come to my home this Christmas. Amen

Mary

Mary gave birth to her first-born son Luke 2:7

Mary is the one who says ‘yes’. She was open to what God asked of her on the day when the Angel Gabriel came to see her. Here she is now, ready to welcome Jesus, her tiny baby.

In the crib, she is usually put in the place of honour on Jesus’ right. Kneeling before him, in silent wonder, she represents all the mothers of the world.

Do I know how to rest in silent wonder at the presence of Jesus within me? Help me to be still.

Let us pray Mary you are a really special woman. By your ‘yes’ Jesus came to live among us. Teach me to say ‘yes’ to all the things God asks of me in my life Amen.

 Joseph

When Joseph woke he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do Matthew 1:24

Standing near Mary, Joseph prays and keeps watch. He doesn’t speak much. Like all the fathers of the world who he represents, he watches over the child. Joseph leans on God and trustingly obeys him.

I don’t always like to obey, to do what I’m told. Obeying God is different though, it means letting yourself be loved and everything that happens after that is a response to that love. It means accepting his plan of love for you. We get close to God by obeying his word and his Church. That sort of obedience is wonderful!

Let us pray Lord I want to come to you in silence and offer you my life. I want to pray in silence, without speaking, letting myself be guided, letting myself be loved, so every day of my life I may do what you ask of me Amen.

The Angels

See, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today, in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord Luke 2:10-11

How noisy these angels are! With all their songs and trumpets, they’re going to end up waking the baby Jesus…No he’s still sleeping peacefully. The shepherds are astounded by these joyful messengers.

The angels give glory to God. They sing of his marvels and teach us to praise him. Singing is beautiful!

They say ‘singing is praying twice’ so help me to join my voice with the angels, singing and praising God.

Let us pray Blessed are you Lord, for the angels They sing of your glory without end. They sing your praise without end I want to sing with them. ‘Glory to God in the Highest’ Amen.

The shepherds

They hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger Luke 2:16

The poor shepherds were terrified. They rubbed their eyes. They couldn’t believe their ears. ‘Where have all these angels come from? What’s this great joy they’re talking about? A saviour? Born this evening? Unbelievable!’ Astonished and a bit worried, they hurried off to see Jesus. These poor, simple shepherds were the first to visit him…

When they left they were very happy and told everyone they met what they had heard and seen, great joy like this needs to be shared.

I haven’t seen Jesus but I know he is the Son of God and I can tell people about his love.

Let us pray Lord you see that I am only a child but you came down from heaven for little children. You came for me You came to save me Thank you for giving me peace and joy this Christmas. Amen.

The sheep

The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose Psalm 23:1-2

Almost all sheep are white – they are like people who are pure in heart. They came to Jesus with trust. The sheep came in with all that they had – just their wool for knitting into little socks to keep a baby’s feet warm.

I too am like a sheep. Jesus is my shepherd. He guides and leads me. He looks for me when I am lost. Help me to bring to the crib all that I am and all that I have. It’s nothing extraordinary but to God I am special because I am his child!

Let us pray Lord you are my shepherd Protect me from all evil and from sin Show me the way of joy and peace. Lead me to happiness, the happiness of living with you forever. Amen.

 The star

We saw his star as it rose and we have come to give him praise Matthew 2:2

The stars are so beautiful, so mysterious and far away. They shine at night to guide travellers and fill the sky with their light. The star which guided the Kings to Jesus shone so brightly that they couldn’t stop themselves from following it. They didn’t know where it was leading them but they put their trust in God.

Jesus is the light which shines for everyone and guides them to God. Could I be like a star showing others the path that lead to Jesus?

Let us pray Lord, be my star When I am in the dark when my heart is sad be the light shining before me Amen.

 The three kings

They saw the child with his mother, Mary and falling to their knees they offered him their gifts Matthew 2:11

Aren’t the kings majestic with their presents and their jewels, and aren’t their clothes colourful! They’ve come from so far away, they’ve taken so much trouble. They’ve left everything to see Jesus and give him praise. They are so great and he is so small…but there they are, kneeling in front of Jesus, they know that he is the King of Kings.

They invite me to set off on a journey too, to leave everything and go to meet Jesus. But where will I find gold, frankincense and myrrh? The best present I can bring is myself.

Let us pray Lord Jesus, the kings bow down before you even though you are just a little baby But you too are King! You are the King of the universe You are the King of my heart I come to kneel down before you and give you all that I am. Amen.

 Jesus

Here is your God…he is coming to save you Isaiah 35:4

Christmas reminds us of Jesus’ birth. It’s like a birthday – with more than 2000 candles! People had been waiting for Jesus for so long and then finally he arrived. He came to save us from sin and death. He came as the Saviour of the world. The name Jesus means ‘God saves’ he is also called ‘Emmanuel’ which means ‘God with us’. Jesus, Emmanuel, it’s the same thing, it’s God coming to you and me.

I put him in the centre of the crib, all the other figures are turned towards him. Let’s look at him, stay close to him, adore him. May we be filled with his presence. Just like those people long ago I’ve been waiting a long time too! Four whole weeks! That’s a long time. Today it’s wonderful to celebrate with Jesus and rejoice with all those I love.

Let us pray Lord God, thank you for giving us Jesus, your Son He is your Word He is your love He comes to give us his life to give us true life. Thank you Amen.

Assemblies/All Age Talks

Lectionary based assemblies, all-age talks for family services or useful materials for the season on Advent, Christmas and Epiphany

Advent

Mark 13: 32-37

“But no one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows. Keep watch! Stay awake! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away. He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge. Each one is given a task to do. He tells the one at the door to keep watch.

 “So keep watch! You do not know when the owner of the house will come back. It may be in the evening or at midnight. It may be when the rooster crows or at dawn.  He may come suddenly. So do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone. ‘Watch!’ ”

Begin by recounting this or a similar story. ‘I was on a train recently and it was a very long journey so I was trying to think of something to pass the time so I decided to count how many churches I could see from the train along the way. I started out well but very soon I got distracted as the trolley came by and I wanted to have a cup of coffee. Then somebody asked me the time so I got out my phone to look and I saw I had a message from a friend…etc….etc. I didn’t really concentrate and eventually I gave up as I realised I’d lost count’

Ask questions – Who is good at concentrating? Who is good at looking for things? Counting?

Then watch this video which will ask how many times the team in white pass the ball – ask them to really concentrate and you’ll be looking for who has the right answer. Pause the video to ask and then get the answer.

However, keep playing the video and it will then ask whether you saw the ‘moonwalking bear’ go behind the teams playing basketball. You will be amazed!

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So what did we learn from this?

What are we watching for? When we looked at the video we were concentrating on counting the passes the team in white made so we ended up not seeing something really amazing right in front of us.

This is really what our reading today is all about and what the message of Advent teaches us.

We might get distracted by watching for other things. What might we be thinking about during the time of Advent when we get ready for Christmas? Presents, Santa, parties, chocolate! – Whatever it is, it can take our concentration of what we are really waiting for – and what is that? – Jesus!

So how can we be ready?

Let’s think then about the word ‘watch’ which is what we are told to do in this reading and what the word really means.

First off it means; ‘Look’ – make sure we are looking for the right things, like in the video, we can easily miss something that is right in front of us, so keep your eyes fixed on Jesus among all the other things which can distract us during Advent.

Secondly it means ‘guard’ – as in, to keep guard/watch. This means that we need to guard our hearts against those distractions so we remember the most important thing about this season and the real reason behind our celebration.

Finally it can also mean to ‘pray’ – this is the most important way to get ourselves ready for the greatest gift which we receive at Christmas time by keeping watch in prayer.

So let us pray….

Father God, we ask you to help us to get ready during Advent for Jesus who comes at Christmas. Help us to look for the right things, guard our hearts from distractions and be with us as we pray. All this we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Our Father…

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Christmas

Luke 2:1-7

In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to their own town to be listed.

So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby. While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.

Begin by recounting this or a similar story. ‘A few days ago when I started to get some of the food ready for my Christmas dinner I did a few little jobs to prepare for the big day. But then I realised I’d forgotten the sprouts! Who likes sprouts? (likely that not many children will like them…) I couldn’t have Christmas day without them so I had to rush out to find some. But all I could find were these (show some chocolate sprouts – reveal by peeling the wrapper off to show it is chocolate). Now who thinks they would like one? (more likely lots will want to have one). Christmas just isn’t Christmas without sprouts, there was something missing…

What’s in a name?

Now I need your help when we read this story again and if you get it right you can have one of these sprouts. Let’s see who can count how many names are mentioned in the story. (you might get up to 12 – Caesar, Augustus, Roman, Quirinius, Syria, Joseph, Nazareth, Galilee, Judea, Bethlehem, David, Joseph, Mary) Give out sprouts as required.

Now who can tell me what name is missing from the story? (Jesus) Give out sprouts as required.

Talk about the origin of your name and maybe ask if anyone knows why they were given the name they have.

One really important part of the story of Christmas is missing from our reading today ‘they called the baby, Jesus’.

Anyone know what his name means? (lots of sprouts if anyone gets this right!) it means ‘God saves’

This is so important – even more important than sprouts. We can’t have the story of Christmas without that missing piece. Christmas dinner for me, isn’t Christmas dinner without sprouts. But Christmas isn’t Christmas without the name of Jesus.

Because Christmas isn’t about sprouts it’s not actually about the dinner at all…or presents it’s not even about angels or shepherds Christmas isn’t even about a baby being born.

It is only ever about Jesus, because Jesus was born, he came into the world at Christmas to save us. Jesus being born is a promise that God saves. So this Christmas we thank God for that most special present. Let’s make sure it’s not missing from our celebrations.

Epiphany/New Year

Matthew 2:2-12

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus’ birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose. Now we have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Messiah was going to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied. “This is what the prophet has written. He said,

“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,     are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah. A ruler will come out of you.     He will rule my people Israel like a shepherd.’ ” (Micah 5:2)

Then Herod secretly called for the Wise Men. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report it to me. Then I can go and worship him too.”

After the Wise Men had listened to the king, they went on their way. The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. It finally stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. But God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they returned to their country on a different road.

Begin by recounting this or a similar story ‘I recently went on a trip to London – hands up who’s been to London. Well it’s such a big city isn’t it? And when I go I find it quite hard to get around without getting lost, especially when I’m on the tube. So when I go I try to follow the tube map by looking out for the colours and that makes it much easier for me to find my way around.

Ask questions – Today’s story/Gospel is all about people who followed something to help them find the way. Who can tell me who those people might have been? The wise men/three kings.

What do know about the wise men? (look for these three answers and possibly have some props to demonstrate each one) – they might have been kings (crown) – they brought some gifts to Jesus (gold or another gift) – they went on a long journey and they followed a star (star)

The reading from the Bible today makes it seem very easy, they saw a star, got up and followed it all the way to where Jesus was. But this would have been a long and difficult journey, maybe dangerous and, at the end of the story it tells us they ended up getting into trouble with King Herod too.

Their journey, our journey

We are at the start of a new year and that can help us to think about how we make a journey through life.

What happened right at the end of the story for the wise men? God asked them to go on their journey back on a different road. He asked them to change direction.

At the start of the year we can often think about this too. Has anyone made any new year’s resolutions? We might need to change direction, make the right choices, ask for God’s help.

So let’s have a moment of quiet now to ask for God’s help in our journey of life.

PAUSE

Father God, we ask you to send your light to guide us, like you sent a star to guide the wise men. We ask that we might listen to you as you help us to start our journey in this new year in the right direction. We know that you always know the right way to go so please be with us on our journey into 2018. All this we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Our Father…

The Greatest Journey

Our friend Hannah Bunting has been very busy this year to create, with Dai Woolridge and the Bible Society this year’s pop up nativity.

A great alternative to tedious rehearsals and great to get all the congregation involved. Why not try it this year?

Today’s Nativity is all about the greatest journey ever. We’ll be retelling the Christmas story and we’ll be going on a Christmas journey together. But I will need help from all of you.

When I say each of these words, I need you to join in with an action:

Journey: Marching action and huffing and puffing

Big one: Stretch your arms out as far as you can

Uh-oh/Oh-no: Gasp and put your hand over your mouth

Can’t: Wag your finger and shake your head

Narrator: Now, before we do anything else, because we’re going on an adventure I need to put on my walking boots.

(Mime putting on boots)

Do you want to put your walking boots on too? Go on then.

(Wait for congregation to mime putting on their boots.)

In this story, there are four special journeys that happened over 2,000 years ago. Mary and Joseph, the wise men and even the shepherds all travelled a long way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Today, we’re going to follow in their footsteps and travel these journeys too.

Right let’s go…

There was a couple called Joseph and Mary.
They went on a journey,
All the way to Bethlehem!

Everyone: We’re going on a journey
It’s going to be a big one,

Narrator: All the way to Bethlehem
‘Cos Caesar wants to count us.
Uh-oh! Romans!
Tall, Scary Romans

Everyone: We can’t jump over them,
We can’t crawl under them

Narrator: Oh no! We’ll have to walk between them! Stepady-step, walkedy-walk, stepady step
They went together on their journey, Soon they were going to marry. And they were going to be a family, Because Mary was having a baby!

Narrator: The time came to have the baby,
But where could Joseph and Mary stay?

Everyone: We’re going on a journey
It’s going to be a big one,

Narrator: Got to find a place to stay
‘Cos Mary’s having a baby.
Uh-oh! no bed!
No big, bouncy bed!

Everyone: We can’t stay in the hotel
We can’t stay in a spare room

Narrator: Oh no! We’ll have to sleep with animals!
Ee-aw woof, ee-aw baah! ee-aw neigh

(invite the congregation to make lots of animal noises)

There was no room for them in the inn.
So Mary wrapped the baby in strips of cloth. And found a manger to lay him in.

Narrator: An angel appeared to some shepherds.
It happened in a field nearby.
The angel told them about the baby.
So they went to see with their own eyes.

Everyone: We’re going on a journey
It’s going to be a big one,

Narrator: An angel came to see us
Told us of a saviour,
So we’re going to welcome him
We’ll find him in a manger.
Uh-oh! Sheep poo! Smelly, stinky poo

Everyone: We can’t fly over it
We can’t tip toe round it

Narrator: Oh no! We’ll have to tread on it!
Tread-sqwelch, tread-sqwelch,
tread- sqwelch
They rushed off to find the baby.
And everyone was amazed!
It was just as the angel said.
And they gave God their praise.

Narrator: Some wise men had seen a star in the sky
And knew a king was to be born.
So they followed the star
They went to worship and adore.

Everyone: We’re going on a journey
It’s going to be a big one,

Narrator: Following the shiny star
To worship the baby King,
We’ve got loads of presents
Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense.
Uh-oh! King Herod!
Mean, nasty King Herod

Everyone: We can’t listen to Herod
We can’t say where Jesus is.

Narrator: Oh no! We’ll have to leave another way.
Humpety-hump, clopaty-clop, humpety-hump.

(Invite the congregation to join in with humpety- humping and clopaty-clopping!

They found him and were filled with joy
The wise men were so happy!
So they were careful not to tell King Herod
And they travelled home a different way.

Narrator: It’s been a long journey for Mary and Joseph,
it’s been a long journey for the shepherds,
it’s been a long journey for the wise men!

Everyone: We’ve gone on a journey

But we’re so glad we did,

Narrator: We met someone special
But who was it?
Big brown eyes
And big cheeks,
10 tiny toes
On 2 tiny feet

Everyone: Why it’s Jesus!

Narrator: Quick – tell everyone!
Going home another way
Humpety-hump, clopaty-clop, humpaty-hump.
Back through the sheep poo
Tread-sqwelch, tread-sqwelch, tread-sqwelch.
Saying ‘so long’ to the animals
Ee-aw woof, ee-aw baah! ee-aw neigh.
Mind the Romans
Stepady-step, walkedy-walk, stepady step
And finally we’re home!
You know,
Jesus went on a journey
It really was the BIGGEST one,
All the way from Heaven
‘Cos he came to save us,
He came to live on earth with us
‘Cos he loves us very much.

Image result for greatest journey bible society

ADVENTure

Advent ideas

Advent is drawing near and this is a really great time for encouraging families to explore the message of Advent and Christmas together in their own homes. Here are some great ideas and resources to help them to do that together

  1. The Real Advent Calendar. This great product from the Meaningful Chocolate company can be given out in a family service or through schools or just encourage families to buy their own. The calendar comes with the story of Christmas and there are more resources available through the website too https://meaningfulchocolate.co.uk/pages/real-advent-calendar
  2. ADVENTure from our friend Ali Campbell at The Resource. An amazing free e-resource with family devotionals during Advent. Printed copies are also available from CPO – see more information here http://theresource.org.uk/product/adventure-family-devotions-2/
  3. Star at the Stable – Scripture Union Cymru have excelled yet again with this concept. They encourage you to use it at Christmas lights ‘switch on’ events or Christmas markets, somewhere outdoors where lots of people gather. All you need is a stable scene of some kind and some costumes for adults and children alike to dress up in. They also have a resource available to give out. People can take their own photos on their phones or you can take pictures on a camera and ask for email addresses to send them to. What an amazing piece of seasonal outreach https://scriptureunioncymru.com/2013/11/18/star-at-the-stable/ LET US KNOW IF YOU’D LIKE HELP/RESOURCES TO RUN THIS!
  4. Classic resources such as Jesse Tree and Las Posadas like we highlighted last year are always just as relevant and great for families to do at home or to do in church.
  5. Shepherd_ArticleShepherd on the Search. This resource is AMAZING and is a great alternative to ‘Elf on the shelf’. This is available to purchase but at quite a high price. If you would like a version of this for FREE with the storybook text to accompany, a handmade shepherd and the activity cards for the days of Advent please email clarewilliams@churchinwales.org.uk