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#1: When God says: "Surprise!"
#2: Angels We Have Heard
#3: 4th Advent Reading for Children

When God Says: "Surprise!"
A kids' talk based on the Gospel lesson
by Rev. F. Schaefer

Props: none

Greetings my little friends; today I want to talk about surprises.  Sometimes we surprise someone we love with a birthday party; do you know what I'm talking about?    When you invite a bunch of people and they all hide in the living room, behind the couch and behind chairs and everywhere.  And then the person whose birthday it is comes home and everything is dark and suddenly the lights come on and everybody yells: "Surpriiiiiiiiise!!"

Have you ever been part of such a surprise party?  Have you ever surprised somebody?  Or have you ever been surprised by someone?

Surprises come in all forms and sizes.  They can be good or bad. I'll give you an example of a bad surprise:  every Christmas, it seems, something broke during my childhood days; in one year it was the fridge that broke and we all ended up cooking all the food we had in the freezer so it wouldn't go bad.  And in another year the washer broke and there was water everywhere and we had to help pick it up with buckets and mobs.

A surprise is something that happens that you weren't expecting to happen.

This morning we find Mary and Joseph very much surprised.  They are surprised by God.  They had been living their lives, making plans to get married and then make a home for themselves, when suddenly God said: "Supriiiiise!"

And God gave them a baby before they were even married.  And of course, we all know that was baby Jesus.  But, the thing is, Joseph and Mary weren't ready for a baby yet.  They didn't have any money for it, they didn't even have their own home yet.

But the thing is, whenever God says "surprise" to someone, God also makes a way for that person.  God's surprise looked bad at first for Joseph and Mary, but God worked things out for them.

And that's a wonderful thing to know: that those like us who belong to God don't have to be afraid of anything that happens to us.  Even though life has its surprises, we can know that God will be with us, helping us through and making things better.

And so, every Christmas in my childhood home, God helped us through the surprises of broken fridges and washers, and by the time holy night came around we were all celebrating God's great surprise gift of baby Jesus.

Can we all say thank you for God's surprise gift of baby Jesus this morning?    Let us pray: "Dear God, we want to thank you for being with us and for helping us through any surprises in life. Help us to remember that especially in bad times.  And thank you for your that biggest surprise gift of all times--baby Jesus, who is the reason why we celebrate Christmas.  Amen."


Angels We Have Heard On High
by Rev. F. Schaefer

Props:  angel figure from a manger scene (be aware that many crèches don't even feature an angel anymore)

Today, I brought a(nother) piece of my nativity scene (introduce your angel figure by having it fly in from over your head).  No guesses needed here.   That's right, I got Mr. Herald Angel here.  Who of you has a manger scene at home?   Is yours under the Christmas tree?  You know, some manger scenes don't come with an angel any longer; do you remember if your manger scene--if you have one--has an angel?

Well, I'm glad that mine does, because I think that the angels are very important in the Christmas story.  Maybe you can help me remember some of the angels in the Christmas story?  OK, let's see, we have three shepherds, a sheep, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, three wisemen, a cow and a donkey. Who of them talked to an angel in the story? (Encourage their answers, if no answer, start prompting)...the sheep?  Did the sheep talk to an angel? (shake your head slightly to encourage the no answer) What about the shepherds?  Yes, that's how they knew about Jesus. 

The angel told them (hold up your angel).  What about Joseph?  Yes, an angel told Joseph that Mary was supposed to have baby Jesus.  He told him to take care of Mary and baby Jesus (and, of course, an angel told him in a dream to flee to Egypt later).  What about Mary?   Yes, you're right, Mary had a vision of an angel too.  The angel told her that she would have a baby.  He told her that she should name him Jesus, and that Jesus was a very special child--that he was going to be the Savior of the whole world, that he was going to show people a new way to God.

You see already, why I think that angels are important in the Christmas story.   They were very involved in it.  In fact, it looks like the angels were working overtime on that first Christmas.  Who of you would like to meet a real angel some day?  I wonder what that would be like.  Do you suppose that you'd be a little frightened when all of a sudden an angel pops up right in front of you--out of nowhere?  Well, Mary was a little frightened at first, but then the angel said: "Don't be afraid, Mary, I bring good news."  Angels are nice.  They are God's helpers.   What do you think, should we say thank you to God this morning for angels?   OK. let's bow our heads for prayer:

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for sending your helpers, the angels, to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds.  Without their help there may not be a Christmas to celebrate.   Thank you God for sending angels to watch over us, too.  Help us not to forget your angels this Christmas.  Amen.


Advent Reading for Children

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT: Mary Nobody had less occasion to step upon history's stage than a woman, too poor, so young, and still unmarried. No one had less hope against the shock of a man disappointed in his choice of s bride. No one had less claim upon the orders of Caesar Augustus. No one had less reason to be noticed by God. It was not wealth and position that gave her the title of the mother of a king, and it was not purity of thought or diligence of work or depth of understanding that acted as a magnet for the attention of the creator. Rather it was the intention of the creator that found a way unique and humble for this event to enter upon history's stage. And when the creator chose to be among the people, the creator chose a particular people, humble and poor, and a specific, very young woman, and a precise moment in the fullness of time, and the star shone, and the shepherds and wise men gathered, and the angels sang.