During the season of Advent, the children heard about different people show us the way to Bethlehem and point us to Christ – the prophets, Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, and the Magi. When learning about the magi, the 0-4 year olds pretended to be the wise men dressed in fine clothing carrying gifts on their journey to see Jesus. They wondered how it is wise to follow Jesus just as the wise men followed the star. The 5-7 year olds responded to the stories by wondering how each of the people felt, making prophetic drawings, as well as making paper nativity scenes with the people with all of the people and animals from the Christmas story.
During the Christmas and Epiphany season, the children will focus on worshipping the Christ child of many names. They are memorizing Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” During the week of Christmas, they learned how God is Emmanuel, “God with Us.” The 5-7 year olds drew pictures of times when God is with them – there were pictures of God standing alongside their family, pictures of favorite animals that reveal God, and discussions of how God is with us at all ages and all places (including the emergency room to get stitches). The 8-10 year olds talked about how they can know God is with us through receiving the gift of faith, participating in sacraments, and practicing obedience.
Godly Play (the model that children’s structure is informed by) asserts that children have an innate understanding of God. Therefore, the structure invites children into the mystery and joy of God as it is connected to their personal experiences and gives children language to communicate this and engage with the larger church. In shepherding, I become a learner and a witness to children interacting with God. One Sunday in the liturgy before communion, I heard the collection of children voices speaking together with knowledge the lines ‘God is with us – We are not alone – Christ is present here – The Spirit moves within us – Let us give thanks to God – In memory and in hope.’ The children have been given not only language (and I trust understanding), but the way to engage in the life of the church, and for that I rejoice greatly.
Aliza Bruner (0-4 year-old children)
Laura Menze (5-7 year-old children)
Jill Stoxen (8-11 year-old children)
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