By: Jenny Bruce
Over my six and a half years working in children's ministry, there have been some hits (constructing a model of a Roman road using Cocoa Puffs, whipped cream, chocolate chips, graham crackers, and M&Ms) and some big misses (trying to explain the meaning of baptism by dying eggs, only to have my Sunday schoolers come to the conclusion that baptism is "when you dip yourself in dye.")
One thing that I have found to be fun and effective is explaining the meaning of Jesus' birth through the following carols: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", and "Joy To The World." Each carol contains stellar theology and teaching with them allows you to combine Bible study, vocabulary, music appreciation, church history, and art into one lesson!
Since Christmas is around the corner, I thought I'd post ideas for a new carol each Saturday. These activities are geared towards elementary schoolers, but you can always adapt them to work with younger or older kids. Today we'll take a look at "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."
Music Appreciation: Find a recording of the carol and listen to it with your kids. You may want to give them markers and paper and let them draw a picture inspired by the music they're listening to. Then discuss questions like: "What is one word you would use to describe this song?" "Did you like listening to this song? Why or why not?" "How did this song make you feel?" "What kinds of pictures entered your mind as you listened to this song?" If you want to be really hardcore, play a variety of recordings of the carol and have your kids compare, contrast, and choose their favorite.
Discuss The Carol: Read through "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" with your kids, explaining what each line means. I use this carol to focus specifically on the incarnation and ask questions like: "Where was Jesus before He came down to earth and was born as a baby?" "What do you think Jesus’ life was like in heaven?" "What are some things you like about being a human?" "What are some hard things about being a human?" "Why did Jesus choose to leave the comforts of heaven, become a human and experience all these difficult things?" "When Jesus became a human, was He no longer God?"
Sing The Carol: Sing along with a recording, play instruments, or sing it acapella.
Do A Word Search: This is a neat way to expand your kids' vocabulary and discuss some of the tough words in the carol. Visit Discovery Education's Puzzlemaker and make your own word search using lyrics from the carol such as incarnate, reconciled, veiled, mercy, etc.
Make An Ornament: The preparation for this craft is a bit labor intensive, but it's a swell project if you have the time. Visit a craft store and purchase ribbon, Mod Podge, small wooden angel cut outs (they're about 25 cents), and holiday scrapbook paper. Hot glue a ribbon loop to the back of the wooden angel. Then type the lyrics to the carol in a variety of fun fonts, print them on a few pages of scrapbook paper, and cut out the lyrics. Help your kids brush the Mod Podge onto the backs of the lyrics and glue them all over the angel. When they're finished, coat the entire ornament in Mod Podge to give it a nice sheen. You can talk about the lyrics to the carol as you complete the craft.
Construct A God/Man Thaumatrope: Thaumatropes were popular among children in the Victorian age, are super easy to make, and are a surprisingly good way to describe the hypostatic union. Trace the bottom of a mug onto a piece of poster board and cut out the circle. Punch a hole on opposite edges of the circle and attach a short loop of string to each hole. Help your kids write "God" on one side of the circle and "Man" on the other. Then hold the strings between your fingers and twist them to wind up the toy. When you let them unwind, the two words will merge into one and you'll see "God" and "Man" at the same time.
Bake Gingerbread Men: I know this activity might seem like a bit of a stretch, but it's a neat way to discuss the implications of humanity. Bake and decorate gingerbread men. While you eat the fruits of your labor, talk about some of the difficult things about being human. Explain that Jesus experienced the same difficult things that we experience and understands our hardships. Then take some time to pray about together about your concerns and fears, knowing that Jesus understands what it's like to be a human.