Welcome to the celebration of Epiphany Sunday, January 7! I hope your 2015 will soon be off to a wonderful start. This Sunday you can choose whether to present the Epiphany story or the story of the Dedication of Jesus to God. I’m including both in this blog post.

Epiphany

Since we’ve missed Sunday school the last two Sundays, this Sunday is a great time to talk in more depth about the visit of the Magi–and to help children understand what Epiphany really celebrates. As you teach the lesson as is written in the book, I hope you’ll have time to light the frankincense and myrrh, discuss the significance and meaning of each one, and let the children compare the scents. They won’t forget this! If you have any experience with being at a worship service when incense was used, I hope you’ll share it. Also, you might like to add that we still have a star of sorts on our own journey to discover who Jesus is: the scriptures in the Bible which share the words he said and the things he did.

As you know, on Epiphany, we celebrate that Jesus was born not just for the Jewish people but for the Gentiles as well (such as the Magi.) The children may need help realizing what a big deal this is.  Epiphany also commemorates the dedication of Jesus in the temple with Simeon. (Luke 2:21-38) This is not in the Godly Play script, so the children may not know this story. What a great time to share it! Especially since most of them have been dedicated in our church or have seen a baby dedication.  You could follow the script with a retelling of this story.

Since there are so many different ways you could go in this lesson, I’m not going to give you wondering questions. If you use the Epiphany lesson, I hope you’ll come up with your own questions to get the children thinking and deepen their thought process. I’d love it if a teacher could write down any comments the children make during this wondering time that I could share with their parents. I’ll put a sheet of paper in your class folder for this.

Hints for the Create-a-gift-for-God time:

1.  Children love making stars and crowns, so this is a perfect time to do that!

2. You could also have the children recreate Jesus’s dedication in the temple, either by drawing or painting it with watercolors. A child could make a baby Jesus 3 dimensionally with clay or clothespins and other children could make the parents and the temple.

Baby Jesus Is Dedicated to God

Hopefully this story will help the children understand Jesus’ dedication in the Temple as well as explore the way they were dedicated to God at our church when they were babies. The Bible story comes from Luke 2:21-39.

If you teach Godly Play at a different church, this lesson might work for you too. You just may need to adjust the second part of the lesson to fit your church’s traditions.

The story basket contains: a swaddled Baby Jesus, a pair of doves, figures for Simeon and Anna, a rose, a New Testament, a copy of our dedication song, and the felt underlay.

Here’s the story script, with instructions to the storyteller in regular lettering, and words to say in italics:

At Christmas we celebrated the good news that God sent Baby Jesus into the world.

(Place Baby Jesus on the underlay.)

 Joseph and Mary celebrated too when Jesus was born, and forty days later it was time to celebrate again. Back in Jesus’ time, forty days after a mom and dad had their first boy baby, they took him to the big temple in Jerusalem and dedicated him to God. Jesus was Mary and Joseph’s first boy, and they wanted to dedicate him to God too. So off to the Temple they went, Mary and Joseph and little Baby Jesus.

Just like all the other families, they took with them a pair of doves or young pigeons to give to God as a gift.

(Place pair of birds on the underlay.)

They didn’t know that something special was going to happen that day, something that had never  happened with other families.

There was a good man living in Jerusalem who loved God very much. His name was Simeon, and he was sure that one day God would send someone to change everything and save the people of Israel. This man’s name was Simeon.  God had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, the special person God would send.

(Place Simeon, a figure of a person, on the underlay.)

God told Simeon to go to the temple that day. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in, Simeon took Baby Jesus in his arms and knew that this was the Messiah, the special person God had sent to change everything. As he held Baby Jesus, he thanked God for him and prayed something like, “God you’ve done it! Now that I’ve seen him with my own eyes I can be at peace.”

Mary and Joseph were amazed at what Simeon said. They hardly knew what to think!

Then Simeon said to Mary that Jesus would save Israel. He also told her some strange, sad things. He said that many people would speak out against Jesus. He told her that what would happen in Jesus’ life would break her heart.

There was another person in the temple who noticed Jesus too. Her name was Anna, and she was a very old prophet, 84 years old.

(Place Anna, a figure of a person, on the underlay.)

 Anna loved God so much that she never left the Temple. She was so close to God and God was so close to her that she knew what was important.  She saw Simeon holding Jesus and she knew how special Jesus was. She gave thanks to God and then told everyone that Jesus was the one who would change everything.

What an amazing day at the temple! Jesus was dedicated to God. Now he did the important work of growing into a little boy and then a young man.

Did you know that people still go to church to dedicate babies to God? Different churches do it differently.

If you are a baby at First Baptist, we do some special things to celebrate your birth. On the Sunday after a baby is born, we put a red rose on the baptistery and tell the whole church about the baby in worship.

(Place a rose on the underlay.)

Then the whole congregation sings a song together to celebrate the baby’s birth.

(Place the song on the underlay and read it to the children. )

When the baby is old enough to come to church, we have a special time in worship to dedicate the babies to God. A family brings the baby up to Pastor Jim, and Pastor Jim introduces the family to the church and takes the baby for a walk around the sanctuary. As he holds the baby and walks, Pastor Jim tells the baby about how much God loves her, how much our church family loves her, and how we will show our love to her as we teach her about God and watch her grow. Then the baby is given a little Bible with her name on it.

(Place a Bible on the underlay.)

Then we pray together, asking God to bless the baby and her family.

Wondering Questions:

I wonder what is your favorite part of the dedication of babies at our church.

I wonder what is your favorite part of the story of Jesus’ dedication to God in the Temple.

I wonder what Mary and Joseph thought when Simeon said that their baby Jesus was the person who would save Israel. I wonder what they thought Jesus might do.

I wonder what Mary thought when Simeon told her that what happened to her son would break her heart.

I wonder what part of this story is about you.

I wonder what this story is teaching you about God and what God is like.

For teachers of older children:

For older children, you may want to include a clarification about the timing of all the events- the presentation in the Temple, then the visit of the Magi, then the escape to Egypt, then the return to Nazareth. It may make the circle time a little long, but consider adding it if you want to. It is something the kids (and adults!) get confused by, since we present the Magi in with the Christmas story.

IDEAS FOR CREATING A GIFT FOR GOD TIME (ART RESPONSE):

There are many directions the children could go in responding to this story, either focusing on Jesus’ dedication or their own. Both are important. Children love getting to choose which way they want to respond and what particularly they want to do.

Ideas to respond to the story of the dedication of Jesus:

1.  Make puppets of Simeon and Anna out of socks or paper bags or tongue depressors and paper. There are general directions for making all sorts of puppets here. You could also make ones for Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus.

2. Act out the Bible story. (Be sure to video!) I’ll have a baby doll or two on hand in the activity room for anyone to borrow.

3. Make a pair of doves, as shown in various ways here.

4. Make a collage of gifts we can give to God

5. Simeon and Anna became close to God through constant prayer. One symbol of prayer is the pretzel (which represents arms crossed in prayer, as people did long ago.) Make a pretzel necklace, as shown here. (Scroll down to p.11)

6. Make a temple out of blocks (First grade has blocks in the Rubbermaid containers near their story circle.

7. Draw the scene in the temple of Baby Jesus in Simeon’s arms, or Mary and Joseph with Anna.

Ideas to respond to the story of the dedication of babies at our church:

1. Have the children draw themselves as babies with their parents, and then draw themselves now with their families.

2. The children can make a self portrait and title it with a line from the blessing: “I am (child’s name), a child of God” or “God made me!”

3. Help the children think about how our church takes care of them. They could make a collage or drawing of the ways we do it: holding them, feeding them, reading to them in the nursery, teaching them about God and Jesus, reading Bible stories to them, teaching them songs in choir, teaching them about missions and sharing God’s love, etc.

4. What does it mean to be a partner with God, taking care of God’s creation? Children could make a collage or mural about that, cutting out pictures or drawing ways we take care of God’s creation: taking care of the earth, taking care of each other, etc.

5. Make a class collage of pictures of babies for your classroom. Have the children come up with a title having to do with dedicating our children to God. Discuss what that means.

For more ideas for art response, check out my Pinterest page, here.

Enjoy, and happy new year!