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Isaiah 35.1-10; Psalm 146.5-10; Luke 1.46b-55 (Magnificat); James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11

Open the Word

Ways to help all ages engage with the readings

Adult & All Age

To help the listener

The reader could use these words to provide context to today's readings Isaiah 35.1-10; Matthew 11.2-11

In the Gospel reading, Isaiah’s prophetic words (from today’s Old Testament reading) are used to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah.

It was only after calamity that the people were ready to hear Isaiah’s good news. John the Baptist encourages people to hear the words afresh, for the Messiah is about to
come.

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Present the Old Testament

Isaiah 35.1-10

There is a lot of visual imagery in this reading. Project or display images to illustrate and accompany the words.

Introduce the reading by inviting people to listen for all the good things that are going to happen: What does God promise will happen to the land? And how does God encourage the people? And to draw out the contrast between the land and the people, divide the reading between two readers. One reads about the land (vv.1-2 and 6b-7) and the other reads about the people (vv.3-6a and 8-10). After the reading, you could sing the chorus ‘Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return’.

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Present the Gospel

Matthew 11.2-11

You will need two readers: a narrator and John the Baptist, and a third person with no speaking part. It will be more effective if ‘John’ can learn the monologue below, and speak from a place of semi-darkness, as if in a prison cell.

Narrator: John the Baptist has been imprisoned by King Herod, who was upset by what John had said to him. Be still for a moment to imagine what it might feel like in that prison and, in particular, how John might be feeling at this moment in his life.

John: I never thought it would come to this. To give so much of myself, and yet to finish up in here. I hate the darkness. How fruitful the desert compared to these few square feet of emptiness.

God, are you there? Do you still care? (pause) My mind plays tricks in here. One minute I believe, the next I don’t know what it’s all about. I was so sure, so assured. Now I pace and pace, wondering what it was all for.

And what of the Messiah? My cousin. My friend. (pause) But is he really the one? Where is his fire? Where is his passion? What have I prepared the way for? He doesn’t seem to be doing what I expected. God, if I could only know for certain. To be sure that it was worth all this. To hold fast to the truth that he really is the one who is to come…or should I tell my disciples to look elsewhere? To look for another...?

The narrator reads the Gospel passage. Then the ‘third person’ brings John a letter (a small scroll), which John opens and reads aloud.

John: ‘My dear cousin, my brother, my friend. Don’t be afraid. I am the one who is to come. Look no further. God loves you; you have served him well. There is room in the kingdom for all who will come to him.’ (pauses, then looks to heaven) Amen.

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Children

Present the reading & Talk together

Open the Bible at Matthew 11.2-11

John doubts who Jesus is, but Jesus sends a message sharing the good things he is doing.

Choose from these two ways telling the story, followed by ideas for discussion time

See I am sending

Ask the children to listen to the story carefully. Demonstrate creating circles with your fingers to represent glasses and explain that during the story when they hear the word ‘see’ they are to do this action.

Message for the messenger

Choose one child to stand at one end of the room as John and another child to stand at the opposite end of the room as Jesus. The other children are to be the messengers going between the two. Read the first section of the passage, and at the end of John’s first message, the children run to ‘Jesus’. After Jesus has given his reply they run back to ‘John’ once more. After this, the group of children can become the ‘crowd’ Jesus is speaking to.

Talk together  ( Connect faith with everyday life)

  • Why do you think John had doubts about who Jesus was?
  • When did you last doubt or feel sad about something?
  • How can you help others who are feeling sad or unsure?
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For very young children

For very young children

  Play and explore sharing good news and good things.

Play materials: large envelopes to open with the words ‘good news’ inside.

 

Gathering prayers

Young children love repetition. Using the same prayer to start your session each time you meet will create a sense of familiarity and expectation.

 

Suggestion 1: God loves me

From the top of my head
(Touch head)

to the tips of my toes;
(Touch toes)

from the lobes of my ears
(Touch ear lobes)

to the end of my nose;
(Touch nose)

from my back, to my front
(Turn round)

to my wiggly fingers,
(stretch out arms and wiggle fingers)

God loves me!
(jump up and down)

 

Suggestion 2: God loves...

Leader: God loves
Child 1: (say name)

Leader: and God loves
Child 2: (say name)

Go round the circle until all the children have been named (the leader or accompanying adult can say the name of pre-verbal or shy children)

All: Thanks be to God!

 

Storytelling

Invite the children to choose a puppet to help you tell the story – Jesus, John, disciples, people.

Jesus travelled around teaching the people.

John the Baptist sent his friends with a message for Jesus: ‘Are you the Messiah we have been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’

Jesus said, ‘Go back to John and tell him everything you have seen and heard – sick people are being healed and good news is being preached to the poor.’

Then Jesus turned to the people around him and said, ‘John the Baptist is the one the Scriptures talk about: “Look, I am sending a messenger ahead of you. He will prepare the way for you.”’

 

Play

Give the children baskets of jewels and sparkles, and small organza bags. Invite them to share out the ‘good things’ so they can all have some in their bag.

 

Create

Invite the children to make a ‘good news’ scroll. Decorate it by adding pieces of bandage, sticking plaster, Bible quotes and stickers, then roll it up and tie it with a ribbon.

 

Praise

Play ‘Pass the parcel’. Add a party blower in each layer and some tiny Bible storybooks to share out in the middle.

 

Pray

Give each child a candle with a paper circle drip-guard. Light a large candle, then invite them to share the light as you light their individual candles. Say together:

Christ is our light.
We are waiting in the darkness.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Amen.

 

Sing

Deep and wide (CJP 35)*
If you’re happy and you know It!

 

Colouring sheets

English version; Welsh version

 

A sending out prayer

Young children love repetition. Using the same prayer to end your session each time you meet will create a sense of familiarity and expectation.

God bless you,
(Point to others)

and God bless me.
(Point to self)

Amen. (Wave arms)

Leader: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Children and parents: In the name of Christ, Amen.

 

Additional activities

These activities are from this week's Explore & respond and can be adapted for Under 5s:

 

Question and answer   10mins E

Ask questions to God and know he is always ready to answer

You will need: question marks and speech bubbles cut from card.

  • Divide the children into two teams and split each team in half, one on either side of the room.
  • Remind them that John was worried and asked Jesus a question. Jesus sent an answer back straight away to reassure him.
  • Explain that you are going to have a relay race. The first runner leaves one side of the room carrying a question mark. They leave it at the opposite side of the room with the other half of their team. A new runner from that side takes the speech bubble to the opposite end. The next runner from that side of the room returns the speech bubble. The question mark returns to the original side with the next runner.
  • Continue until every team member has run and the two halves have swapped sides of the room. Keep passing the speech bubble and the question mark between the two sides of the room.

 

Questioning?                15 mins+ W E S A

Make biscuits reminding us that even John had questions and doubts

You will need: biscuit dough (recipe on ), rolling pins, several card question mark shapes for the children to use as a template to cut round, or a question mark cutter, icing and other edible decorations.

  • Give each child a small amount of dough and ask them to roll it out.
  • Remind the children that even a special person like John had questions about Jesus. Invite them to think of some questions they might have as they cut their dough into two question mark shapes.
  • Bake the dough, leave to cool and then decorate the biscuits as desired. Allow the children to each take one biscuit home and encourage them to give the other as a gift for someone.

Spiritual styles abbreviations
W Word E Emotion S Symbol A Action
Read our Spiritual Styles articles 

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