I had an idea for an Advent reflective resource on the theme ‘Watch this space’ and wrote it up originally for Advent Online, but it didn’t really fit the thematic structure for AO, so here it is now, in case it’s useful to those planning the rest of Advent and Christmas in church. As always, help yourself.
Now it’s almost advent, here are some Christmassy things (NB see also my other post on Advent things) that might be useful. Sorry it’s a bit of a jumble of things all together. Please do feel free to use any of the pictures in any way that’s helpful. I’ve marked whether the words can just be used freely or if they need to go on your CCLI return.
Some more clipart-y images:
A simple Christmas carol to the tune of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy:
Little baby, sweetly slumbering,
Cradled and cuddled in Mary’s loving arms.
In the sky are angels gathering,
but for now, here below, all is still and calm.
Little baby, our Emmanuel,
God with us, one of us, born to be our king.
Little baby, while you slumber,
Far above you angels sing.
We know you came to save us all…
But how can God become so small…?
For God so loved all he had made
He sent his Son the world to save……
An easy Christmas song for children to sing
The tune is ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’.
Sing of the time the angel came, the angel came, the angel came,
Sing of the time the angel came to bring the news to Mary.
Sing of the birth at Bethlehem, at Bethlehem, at Bethlehem,
Sing of the birth at Bethlehem, the baby in the stable.
Sing of shepherds from the hills, from the hills, from the hills,
Sing of the shepherds from the hills, who came to worship Jesus.
Sing of the brightly shining star, the shining star, the shining star,
Sing of the brightly shining star, that led the kings to Jesus.
Sing of the love of God on earth, God on earth, God on earth,
Sing of the love of God on earth, that brings us close to heaven.
Star of wonder (Tune: Sing Hosanna) – Christingle song for Epiphany
We give gold for a king, keep us serving,
We give gold for a king today,
As we give, it is Christ we are serving,
We’ll keep serving Jesus every day.
Star of wonder! Lead us onwards,
Show the way to find the world’s true light.
Star of wonder! Lead us onwards,
Shine around us through the night.
We bring incense today, keep us praying,
We bring incense to him today.
For the needs of the world, keep us praying.
Keep us praying to him every day.
Star of wonder…
We bring myrrh to remember his passion,
As he shared in his people’s pain,
In our lives we will show his compassion,
As we live for Jesus every day.
Star of wonder…
The easiest paper nativity scene ever – instructions and template
And a couple of links to things I’ve come up with for Christingle:
Looking slightly further ahead:
A Very Simple Epiphany Song (to the tune of Sing Hosanna)
A hymn about light (that might do for Epiphany if you really squint)
Here’s something I did last year and which worked pretty well. But NB it only works in a church that would recognise what a chasuble is and in which the service is Eucharistic, so apologies if your church isn’t that kind of church or you’re not doing a Eucharistic service (and please do search ‘Mothering Sunday’ on this site for alternatives – there are quite a few I’ve posted). Anyway, if your church does do chasubles please read on…
1. Ensure that you’ll be using the Exodus and John readings
2. Find an old (pale coloured) bedsheet, ideally one that’s not really manky – the perfect bedsheet for this is one with a coffee stain in the corner but which is otherwise still quite respectable. Fold it in half so the short edges meet and the long edges are halved. Cut out a poncho/chasuble shape complete with neck hole. You might need to hold it up against yourself to make sure it’s roughly the right size and shape. But it doesn’t have to be perfect.
3. Get hold of some sharpies or fabric pens, and make sure you have somewhere in church you can lay it down, unfolded. You might want to protect that surface with a plastic sheet or something in case the pens soak through.
4. Recruit someone to stand by the blank chasuble during the service, starting from when people come in – ideally this should be someone who knows your children and families and can get them involved. Tell your helper that when people arrive they can start writing and drawing on the chasuble words and pictures that they associate with mothering, on one half of the chasuble (ie either the front or the back of it). Give that person some hand gel that they can get everyone to use.
5. Recruit someone to do the intercessions that day who is able to respond pastorally and appropriately to anything difficult that emerges from the talk. Mothering Sunday is the worst day of the year for a lot of people…
In the service:
1. In the notices, encourage any families (or indeed anyone who likes doing stuff rather than listening to stuff) to go over to the chasuble area and the helper you have there will encouarge them to start decorating the chasuble once they’ve used the hand gel.
2. After the readings, encourage any families or others who like that sort of thing to go over to the chasuble and keep working on it while you all reflect together on what you’ve heard.
3. Ask the chasuble team what sorts of things are already on the chasuble – what have people written and drawn?
4. Look back at the readings, and see what you notice about mothering in the two stories, for example:
– mothering isn’t just about being a biological mother (there are four women who have a role in mothering the baby Moses; on the cross Jesus creates a new family) – this can be affirming for people who find mothering Sunday difficult because they feel that their own families are not ‘standard’.
– mothering often involves courage, cunning, sadness, ingenuity, improvisation, rebellion, solidarity, sorrow….
Ask your chasuble team to find ways to express these suggestions on the other half of the chasuble.
5. Draw attention to the wide range of gifts and feelings, and allow people if they wish to give voice to some of the really difficult aspects of mothering, and of being mothered. Is there room for these on the chasuble too? Reassure everyone that these are things that will be included in the prayers.
6. When the chasuble is decorated with all this, get the team to bring it forward, and either put it on yourself, or get someone else to put it on, so that everyone can see it – maybe even walk down the aisle and round the church. It will likely be both beautiful and chaotic. It will not be pefect. That’s OK. Thank the chasuble team – they can go and sit down now.
7. Some background for this next bit: my son when he was little always said ‘chasuble hugs are the best hugs because chasubles are like wings’. So at the end of each service I’d always wrap him in the biggest chasuble hug, and I’d tell him that it was like when Jesus described himself as a mother hen who wanted all her chicks tucked under her wings. When I did this talk last year, I had someone that I could hug to demonstrate this, but this year because of Coronavirus we’re not doing hugs, so here is my alternative:
Tell the congregation about Jesus being the mother hen – and you can tell them about what my son said, too, if you like. Suggest that the chasuble is a challenge for the church to see how the church can be a mother hen for people. At the moment hugging isn’t a thing we can do safely, in order to care for and protect one another. But there other ways that we can be a mother hen, and some of those ways are already written and drawn on the chasuble.
8. Get the congregation to suggest ways for us as a church community to be mother hens for one another and especially for the most vulnerable. Link to any initatives that the church is already taking. Let this take you into the creed (‘Let us stand and affirm in God, who made us and loves us and cares for us, in Jesus Christ, our mother hen, and in the Holy Spirit who wraps us in God’s love every day of our lives’ or whatever).
9. If you’re presiding, you can wear the chasuble for the rest of the service, or you someone else can.
Please feel free to adapt this to your circumstances – I’d love to know what you did differently and how it went, so please do leave a comment if you’d like to.
I got an opportunity to pull together some of the things I’ve been going on about for the last decade and make them into a book. I just got my author copies, so it must be real. The book is about reflective practice and preaching, particularly all age preaching. And it has pictures!
You can hear me talk about the book on this podcast, courtesy of the Church Times.
Have you ever taken a small child to an ordination? It’s really important for children who have a significant adult being ordained to be able to take part and support that person at such a joyful and significant moment. It’s also really important to affirm that children are full members of the body of Christ- especially as we celebrate the way that God calls each of his people to ministries of different kinds.
But ordination services can be long, and while there’s lots going on, it may not feel very accessible to children. The original ‘ordination explored’ resources were compiled to help children engage with the event. You can download them all here:
We are now very excited to launch a revised ‘ordination explored – episcopal edition’ booklet designed for children who are attending the consecration of a bishop! You can download it here – make sure you print your copy before you set off if you’re heading to an episcopal consecration with children in tow.