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no-wreathsDifferent and Fun Ideas for Advent is an 'open' topic for your "different," off-beat, and ingenious ideas for celebrating Advent in church, worship, or Sunday School.

We're not looking for "yet another wreath project" in this topic, but rather things that are a bit different or offer a twist on familiar ideas. (So yeah, there is a wreath idea in this topic, but it's different!)

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Bethlehem Dinner Theater
A couple of years ago our church family performed "In Bethlehem Inn" by John Carter (Contemporary Drama Service). It is in a dinner theater format.

From its production notes;
The play is set in the dining room of the Bethlehem Inn on
the night Jesus is born.The audience becomes not only observers, but participants as well. They are the guests at the Bethlehem Inn. There will be times when they are called upon to respond, and the cast should do their best to encourage them to respond heartily!

The innkeeper and his family sit and eat at the head table, and the servants should sit and eat at the opposite end of the room. This places the audience in the middle of the action, and forces the cast to project to the opposite ends of the room so that all can hear.

In addition, there should be a live nativity scene set up.

When we did this program in our church, we made it intergenerational. There's a lot of humor in the program, but it was profoundly moving when we were all encouraged to "see for ourselves" the live nativity scene. Living in Vermont, we chose to have the nativity scene indoors rather than having to deal with boots, coats... This also made it easier for the many elderly folk. We sold out on our tickets with the number being determined by the size of our fellowship hall. We offered a traditional Christmas dinner at cost which made it very affordable for families. The entire evening was a huge success!

Get the script for this:

P748: In Bethlehem Inn, By John W. Carter.
A "you are there" church supper Nativity play. Those present are first-hand observers of the events that occurred on the night Christ was born. The Innkeeper and his family are presiding over a dinner at this crowded inn. We are the guests. Our dinner is interrupted by Joseph and Mary asking for a room. It is interrupted again by the announcement of a fiery star above the stable and then by a band of shepherds looking for the baby. Cast: 14 mixed and audience, All ages, Playing time is about one hour with dinner. Includes 14 scripts.
https://www.christianpub.com/d...HLEHEM+INN&p=349

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Birthday Party for Jesus


On the Sunday just before Christmas day, we have a Birthday Party for Jesus for all ages.

We invite the entire congregation to join us in "party games" and activities, then we sing "Happy Birthday" and don birthday hats and have cake and ice cream. All seem to enjoy it and it is an excellent reminder of the reason for all the holiday celebrations.

We add a "gift-giving" aspect to the party, inviting people to bring unwrapped gifts for babies (diapers, formula, clothing). We play "Pin the swaddling cloth on Baby Jesus."   

ORNAMENT GIFTS

One year we created a tree of removable ornaments of "gifts the church needs"  (cleaning supplies, TP, light bulbs, etc.) and invited people to wrap them and place them under the tree. 

Another year we brainstormed "gifts we could give to God" ...specifying acts of discipleship and devotion we could commit to. These were written on ornaments which people took home. 

The next week we brainstormed and labeled ornaments with "gifts God has already given us" (forgiveness, guidance, Bible, church, family) and invited people to write individual names of people in their life that were gifts to them. We also invited people to hang "prayers" for themselves (things they needed) on the tree (patience, relief, peace, etc). These were put on the church's tree. 

Our pastor turned the content of these ornaments into a sermon the following Sunday.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen


The Last Doorbell

An Advent sketch suggested by Neil MacQueen

We are working on simple play about being so busy/exhausted and caught up in our traditions and preparations that we fail to see the needs of others or answer the doorbell when the holy family arrives looking for a place to stay. 

The night begins with an extended family each involved in their "own thing" getting ready for Christmas.  Wrapping, baking, decorating, getting ready for church, etc.

The doorbell keeps ringing --interrupting what various people in the family think is more important.   

There are two deliveries at the door (UPS, Amazon -- one just throws the package at the door.

The next-door neighbor in need of help.

Carolers who just keep singing until they have the door closed in their face.

A lonely friend who steps inside for a moment but is sent away because its time to go to church.

The last doorbell rings but everyone is too exhausted to go answer it. But it's Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus who leave disheartened when no one answers the door because they are "too exhausted/busy."  (Each family member has a different excuse.)

Finally, a young child opens the door. Mary asks if they have room for them. The child turns and shouts to the rest of the family, "Mom, Dad, there's someone at the door asking if we have room for them!"  End.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Okay, Neil.
We ARE trying something new this year! 

We are actually teaching and learning the Christmas story this year instead of pageant practice during the Sunday School hour. Hooray for rotation! The level of Christmas story mis-information even among people who come to church every week is truly astounding. 


Lisa

Last edited by Rotation.org Lesson Forma-teer

Who is Missing From the Nativity?
We are using the nativity scene to help our kids explore the Christmas story.

We will start our first week off (this Sunday) by taking Jesus out of the nativity scene and asking, "What's missing?" A whole link for us is around waiting, and advent.

Each week we are exploring a different character. Mary, Joseph, and Shepherds and the Angel (Shep's and Angel as one week).

Each week will will have that character missing from the scene, and ask. "Who is missing?"


An exciting workshop for us will be our art workshop with Joseph. We are having one of the men in our congregation who likes to woodwork, come as Joseph, and we will visit him in his workshop. It's going to be great!

Hope this helps anyone,

Jess

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Celebrating Advent in our CLASSROOMS TOO!

I don't know that this is that revolutionary or creative, but here it goes....

Lighting the Advent Wreath is an important part of our church services, but many kids in our church don't attend worship, just Sunday School, or never get to participate in the candle lighting (and want to).  

So we have brought our Advent Lighting and Liturgy into the beginning of EACH lesson. 

I create a short litany for the kids to read during the lighting. It's usually an edited version of what is used during church.

Yes, we light real candles. The smell and flicker creates a strong memory and focal point. We leave it burning throughout the lesson. Pish-posh on those who think it's not safe. You just need to look at your classroom and do the lighting in a safe place and manner. Use smaller candles or "votive" candles in sturdy holders. (Invite a congregational handy-person to fasten candle holders to a piece of plywood so as to safely hold the candles and cannot be knocked over.) Decorate with non-flammable materials/decorations. Let EACH STUDENT help light the candles. They love that.

You can also bring your CRECHE (manger) scenes into each classroom, and if you "assemble" the parts of the manger scene each week --adding new characters/props as you get closer to Christmas Day, then you can have a box of costumes and invite students to create the scene as it is read.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Live Nativity Characters Added Each Sunday

In past years in worship we used to bring out the church's "creche" (manger) scene piece-by-piece each Sunday and talk about each piece.

This year we are having KIDS dress up as the characters and form the creche scene. 

We start by introducing all the kid to the part of the story we are assembling for that Sunday. Then we all run away and quickly put on costumes, and then we reassemble upfront as a storyteller recites that part of the story.  We do it so fast that the kids are still getting their costumes and props together as they assemble (which is fun to watch).

We don't tell the kids what they're doing next week but we do give them a fun "clue" to get them thinking. 

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

This year our entire church we took time to explore the ORIGINS and meanings of some familiar Christmas traditions, culminating in our traditional infant-gift giving project and drive-thru nativity.

This is our first year (4th month) of rotation so we veered from the Rotation Model for December. We started Nov. 30 with every class (3yr - 5th grade) following the same lesson. We included the meaning of Advent, Nativity sets and Advent wreaths and let the children decorate an ornament to hang on a tree in the breezeway.

The 2nd Sunday we are caroling to the adult SS classes - our lesson explains the origin of Christmas carols and discusses the meaning of some of the songs, how they may not be totally true to what happened (the Bible doesn't say the angels sang or that Mary rode the donkey.)

Third Sunday is a Search for Baby Jesus.

We begin with a "gift-giving project" where children bring a baby gift (diapers, formula, etc. that are placed in several play pens located outside the sanctuary.

After worship, the children and other members wrap the gifts and decorating packages

We talk about baby gifts today vs. in Jesus time, what infants and parents need (including safe housing, support, supplies, extended family), and remind people to offer help to young parents in their lives. 

That evening, kids and parents return to continue "the search" by participating as characters or observers in our Drive-Thru Bethlehem Nativity.   Last-minute gifts can be left in the manger and there's an offering basket clearly marked "help purchase supplies for families in need."

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Isaiah's Light in the Darkness
Lessons that led to using flashlights in the Christmas Eve service

We chose to do our Advent rotation on Isaiah this year, Light in the Darkness, People who have walked in darkness have seen a great light. Our thinking was that most children (our regulars and most visitors) have a pretty clear understanding of the details of Jesus' birth, but not so much about the promise and expectations found in the Old Testament. We made Isaiah our focus in the lessons, and then practiced in each lesson some "light writing" techniques that were in fact REHEARSAL for a presentation on Christmas Eve.

Why Christmas Eve?  Because the sanctuary will be dark by 6 p.m. and our "light presentation" could be dramatically seen.

LIGHT figured big in our lessons, so as we approached the Christmas Eve children's service, we decided to "WRITE WITH LIGHT"  --illlustrating key points in the script/story using LED light ropes and flashlights during the service.

We marched in using flashlights to find our way in the darkness, then we saw a GREAT LIGHT. There was a point in the presentation where we placed the lights underneath our shirts to make a "heart light" begin to shine when the Star of Bethlehem (another light beam) descended on each child.   At the conclusion, we invited people to "shine their cell phones"  (even "make a call to God, text somebody hope, text someone you love them. use your phone's light to make a donation, etc etc. Call God.  Always wanted to do a skit where a child called God on their parent's cellphone.)  

This required some rehearsal.

It also required actual flashlights with D size batteries, and not the little cheapie flashlights that don't have enough brightness to them.  Not very expensive, and we decorated the flashlights with words from the Isaiah verses.  

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Decorating an Advent Tree
For the opening weekend, we did "The Advent Tree", a simple play that incorporates 24 kids (we used 25), each of whom bring forward a special ornament to place on the tree. Each ornament has specific significance. Obvious ones are the star, fish, bell, etc. No so obvious ones include an owl (reminding us to be wise as we watch and wait for Jesus), a piggy bank (to remind us to give to others and not to be "piggy", a four-leaf clover (to remind us how lucky we are), an Easter egg (no Christmas story is complete without the Easter story), etc. The play comes from Contemporary Drama and it took NO rehearsal, yet 25 kids got to participate. Youth helpers placed the ornaments on the tree and adult leaders read the meaning behind each one. A hand-out was given to each child to remind them what each ornament stood for. The purpose was to help children find Jesus in many different things, not just the symbols that are so familiar to them. We tasked them with making one ornament such as those on their tree at church. We used this as the launch to Advent. Yes, the time ran over a little for the Workshops but it was well worth it.

Reesee
Virginia Beach United Methodist

Moderator Adds:

WoW - I think I found the actually drama Reesee was talking about.

  • P1227: The Advent Tree, By Jan Brown.

A pre-Christmas children's program. All the children in your Sunday school may be included in this easy-to-present program featuring symbols of the Advent season. The symbol ornaments hang on a large Advent calendar banner when the program begins. A reader explains the meaning behind each of the 24 symbols as a preschool child hangs the ornaments on a tree. After the tree is trimmed, the traditional Christmas story is told in rhyme with familiar Christmas carols interspersed. Instructions for each symbol included (candle, star, owl, Easter egg, etc.). Playing time is 30 to 40 minutes. Includes 10 scripts.
https://www.christianpub.com/d...DVENT+TREE&p=522
when you get to the site in the search box type P1227


Other ideas (books)

Dana

  • The Advent Jesse Tree, by Dean Meador Lambert, Abindgon Press, 1991,  A collection of 25 devotions for adults and 25 devotions for children. Reproducible cutouts for the Advent season. Hardcover.
  • Before and After Christmas, by Debbie Trafton O'Neal, Augsburg, 1991, Looking for ways to add meaning to the season---from Advent through Epiphany? Here's an idea-a-day! Activities, service projects, crafts, recipes, worship plans, stories, and more. 64 pages, softcover. (not sure if the Jesse tree is covered in this book)

 

Hilary S.
Reesee's "Advent Tree" sounds like it has different symbols from the "Jesse Tree". My husband and I made the symbols for the latter some years ago and our children enjoy putting it up at the start of Advent. The story is told much like "The House that Jack Built", teaching the story of Jesus right from "the apple of Eden", the ark, Ten Commandments, to the proclamation by John the Baptist.


Moderator also suggests:

  • A Very Opinionated Christmas Tree, Abingdon Press, 2005, 9780687495665.
    Includes DRAMAS, speeches, recitations, and very short dramas for Advent and Christmas.
    One we've used is "A Very Opinionated Christmas Tree." A discussion takes place between a grumpy Christmas Tree and someone in the church. The tree is adamant it's not a Christmas Tree and he finally convinces the person that to be a Christmas tree he must not only be decorated with ornaments representing the Christmas story, but the people decorating him must know the meaning behind each. Gives several suggestions on ways to decorate the tree and ornament suggestions. Focuses on the nativity story only, but you could add things starting at a globe for creation, apple for Adam & Eve, etc. Reproducible. Ages 3-12.
    (Have someone with a microphone (be the voice of the tree) hidden but who can see the tree (speaker under or in tree) but can't be seen himself - great fun for the congregation and the kids.)
Last edited by Luanne Payne

Las Posada Fiesta
Our advent rotation was based on the Mexican celebration of Las Posadas, Mary and Joseph's search for lodging in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus' birth. In the Las Posadas processions, children play the role of Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds, stopping at several homes (inns)to ask for lodging. They are repeatedly refused, but at the last house they are invited to enter. After prayer, all join in a fiesta to celebrate the imminent birth of the Messiah. While this twist on the story is not consistent with the Bible, it does allow the children to imagine how the Holy Family should have been treated as they prepared for the joyous occasion of Jesus' birth.

There are several Las Posadas celebrations in our town prior to Christmas, and our church hosts one of these events, so it was a nice way to collaborate with other church and community groups.

We offered three workshops:
Art (Surfside Studio): Decorate and fill a (pre-made) pinata.

Computers (Cyber Cove): The instructor tells the Las Posadas story via a PowerPoint presentation so the children are able to follow along with the text and graphics on their screens while she talks. The kids use KidPix software to make "No Room at the Inn" signs.

Cooking (LIGHT House Cafe): Make home made tortillas and use a Mexican molinillo (chocolate beater, purchased on e-Bay and shipped from Mexico) to whip up Mexican hot chocolate.

On the 4th week, we had a fiesta with all age groups. The kids broke open pinatas, had snacks and did a variety of art projects and games.

Very festive. Very successful. If you make 70 homemade pinatas--lots of work

WormyPencil-BecomeSM

Last edited by Luanne Payne

"Waiting" a Living Advent Calendar Pageant

by Mary Jo Ramsey
First Congregational Church, Vermont

We just had our Pageant Sunday performance.  Because it had to be this early (Dec. 15), we chose a theme around "waiting".

We did a "living Advent Calendar." Members of the congregation asked scripted questions, and then the children took turns popping their heads out of the calendar with the answers. Waiting Advent Pageant Window Pop-Out

There were lots of laughter, and tears as well.

Members especially liked the message of waiting, serving others, Mary and Joseph's journey. We did this with just 6 children. Much more than that would be crowded behind the calendar board we created.

The asterisks in the script are the children parts. This script is really quite easy to adapt to any situation.

Remarks from members were great.  They were struck by the whole message of waiting and the fact that there ARE more important things than presents!

As part of Advent, our Pastor invited the children to move the creche figures a little closer to the manger every week.

Mary Jo Ramsey

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Waiting a Living Advent Pageant Script
Last edited by CreativeCarol

Hi Luanne,
The board was donated so I have no idea how they built it, but it appears
that they cut the holes and then cut new pieces for the doors because they
fit pretty tight. I can send pics of rhe back later this week. I am so
happy that someone finds this helpful!

Mj

Last edited by Luanne Payne
Monica Buzbee -- member posted:

Las Posada Fiesta
Our advent rotation was based on the Mexican celebration of Las Posadas, Mary and Joseph's search for lodging in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus' birth. In the Las Posadas processions, children play the role of Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds, stopping at several homes (inns)to ask for lodging. They are repeatedly refused, but at the last house they are invited to enter. After prayer, all join in a fiesta to celebrate the imminent birth of the Messiah. While this twist on the story is not consistent with the Bible, it does allow the children to imagine how the Holy Family should have been treated as they prepared for the joyous occasion of Jesus' birth.

"My first attempt at posting.  I wrote a script for something like this we did last year during the pandemic.  A very pregnant Mary and Joseph traveled to three or four different locations around town (homes of church members) knocked on doors and were rejected.  Finally, they arrived at the home of a parishioner who raises chickens.  Their youngest led them out back (along with the dog, cats, and such) where Jesus was born.  We got it all on video and the media folks edited it down for the program.  If I can learn how or if someone helps me, I would happily post that script."

Update: The script is attached!

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Last edited by CreativeCarol

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