The Nativity Season


Introduction (Ages 4-6)

All great things in life must be prepared for—we human beings can’t just casually “walk up to” significant events without readying ourselves for them. And certainly the Great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord calls for joyful yet serious preparation.

That is why this unit of study is entitled The Nativity Season. The feast does not stand alone. In preparation for the Feast of the Nativity, the Church offers us a season, a time,  to prepare—the Nativity Fast, or Nativity Lent, known to many in the West as Advent. One of the lessons in this five-lesson unit deals with this period of preparation.

God began preparing His people long ago, of course. A second lesson in the unit tells students about the ancestors and genealogy of Jesus Christ. The all-important Biblical connection is made in this lesson, showing students how the Old Testament prepared people over millennia for the coming of the promised Savior. The Theotokos is presented as the one who brought this long process to its intended fruition.

The Nativity season also brings us celebrations of several inspiring saints. First among these is Saint Nicholas, and a third lesson in this unit gives students an understanding of his real place in the Church. They come to see him as a self-denying defender of the faith and protector of the poor, rather than merely a cozy and uncritical dispenser of presents.

Another lesson takes students into the lives of more “winter saints”—among them Saint Romanus the Melodist, Saint Barbara and Saint Herman.  And of course there is a lesson on the various aspects of the Feast iself.

Like all the units now being produced by the DCE, this one is written on five levels, thus offering material for parishioners of all ages. So, for example, in one lesson the younger children talk together on a simple level about giving and receiving gifts. The same lesson, written on another level, invites older students to look at The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry’s great story about self-sacrifice and love. The format of all these lessons is the same as that in the units already available.

Two overall objectives for this unit are:

  1. Students will be able to describe some of the elements of the Nativity season, including hymns, saints, fasting, and Old Testament preparation.
  2. Students will be able to define the Feast of the Nativity as God’s long-awaited gift to us of a Savior.

Some Notes:

Gathering for Prayer: We suggest having a gathering place for the class to pray together. You might have a candle, flowers or a plant, and the appropriate icon for the lesson. Icons are provided in the Resource Section of each lesson. You can reproduce these and put them on backing and then display them on a small stand (like a plate stand.) Of course you can use your own icons, or print out the ones in the Feasts and Saints section of the OCA website.

Teachers of younger students may also want to establish a place to gather for stories. A specified area, perhaps sitting on a rug or gathering in a circle of chairs, will serve the purpose well.

Preparing Ahead of TIme: Lessons include themes, objectives, attached resources,  step-by-step procedure, and a list of materials needed. In some lessons, the Materials section will give you special notes for lesson preparation. These enable you, as you prepare by reading through the lesson and getting materials ready, to be aware of any particular things you'll need to do. It is assumed that you will always have Bibles (we recommend the Revised Standard Version) plus pens/pencils and paper ready for use in class.

Timing Your Lessons: Because our church schools vary widely in the time they have for teaching, we have not timed the procedural steps of these lessons specifically. You are free to adapt, shorten or expand the material, or to spread it over more than one session.

Extra Resources: Many lessons include extra information, icons, links to resources, or other items. Use these for your own edification, or to enhance your class presentations. They are there for you to use in whatever way you choose.

For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given. Authority rests on His shoulders, and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace  
(Isaiah 9: 6.)

Prepare the Way of the Lord (Waiting and Getting Ready) (Ages 4-6)

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Overview

We Wait and Get Ready - Children will become familiar with the word "Nativity" as the birthday of Jesus Christ.  They will relate this to their own birthday/day of nativity, and to the common name "Christmas," when the Son of God is born of Mary as a little child. They will consider the concepts of waiting and getting ready for good or important things.
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • Give examples of things you had to wait to have happen (or receive)
  • Describe ways in which you prepare for things that are going to happen
  • Compare waiting for special events in your life to the Church waiting for the birth of Jesus during the Nativity Fast
  • Identify some people and things in the icon of the Nativity of Our Lord

 

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Materials

  • Recording of the Nativity Troparion (and player) to be played during class. There are many recordings of the Nativity Troparion by various choirs. If you do not have one, you might record a good singer (perhaps yourself) singing the hymn, and use that. Otherwise, sing "live" to the class!
  • Words of the Nativity Troparion (the Opening Prayer) in large letters on a chart to hang in the classroom throughout this unit
  • Scripture story of the Nativity (from the Resources section of this unit)
  • Bowl of treats, either edible items suitable for all the children, or inedible items such as Christmas trinkets. Have enough so that each child can choose from several
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Christmas stickers (enough so that each child can choose one from several)
  • From "My Advent Calendar" (a resource for this lesson) a copy for each child of the page with blank blocks with "November" in the upper left block, and a copy of the page with blank blocks marked "December" for each child.  

NOTES:The other pages of the "My Advent Calendar" resource, which list saints and feasts, as well as the pages with feasts and saints' names in the blocks are for you, the teacher, to expand your own knowledge of the Advent/Nativity fast season. You may wish to tell the children about some of the saints and feasts if you have extra time. Find information about saints and feasts on the OCA website and in several books of lives of saints.)

We suggest that you establish part of your classroom as the prayer area, with a candle, perhaps flowers or a plant and a pretty cloth on the table or desk, and the icon of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. This will be the area in which you pray during each session.

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Display the icon of the Nativity where children can see it, for this and all Opening and Closing Prayers. Also have the word chart where they can see it.

(Have children stand.) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Say together: O Lord, glory to Thee (or "You" if that is used in your parish and if your recording of the Nativity Troparion uses it) Play the Troparion for the children, and point to the words on the chart as it is sung.

Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it, those who worshipped the stars
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, glory to Thee!

Play the Troparion again, and have the children sing just the last line, "O Lord, glory to Thee." Practice the line, and sing it again with the recording. (Some words of the Troparion are beyond young children's understanding, so it seems best not to try to teach the whole hymn at once, but rather to familiarize them with hearing it, singing the line that is easiest to understand, and teaching a few lines at a time. Even then, familiarity with what they hear in church is the goal, rather than full comprehension.)

You may want to use the word "troparion" once or twice so the children hear the word, but rather than try to teach that word, refer to the hymn as a "church song.") I


2

Discussion

Talk about the word "nativity" in the Troparion. Tell the children that "nativity" means birth. Ask each child to tell you when his/ her birthday is. As each one tells you, say,  "June 5th (or whatever the date is) is the day of your nativity." (If some younger children don't know their birthday dates, just say "your birthday is the day of your nativity.")

Say: "The church song we listened to and sang with tells us about the nativity, the birth, of Jesus Christ. He is God's own Son, but He came to be born and to live with us. So we celebrate His Nativity every year in church. We celebrate His birthday. Do you know another name for the Nativity of Jesus Christ?" (Supply the word "Christmas" if the children do not know.)


3

Scripture Story and Nativity Icon

Have the Nativity icon displayed so the children can all see it easily. Read the story of the Nativity of Jesus Christ to the children. It is in the Resources section of this unit, under Stories. It is the 3rd story on the 4th page, and is entitled "Jesus, our Savior is born."

Have a Bible open as you read, so the children will know this is a Bible story even though you are not reading directly from the Bible. As you read, have children take turns pointing out in the icon: Mary and Joseph, the stable/cave, the shepherds, the animals at the manger, the angels. (Children may ask about the baby being washed in the icon--this shows us that Jesus was a real baby who was bathed and cared for. The old man at the bottom of the icon is the devil, trying to tell Joseph that this baby is not really God's own Son.)

Read again from the story the words that the angels sing: "Glory to God in the highest." Ask: "Where did we already hear that word 'glory' today?" (You sang it together; let children answer or give the answer if they cannot.) Say, "We sing to God just as the angels do. We give God glory. That means we thank Him for making such a beautiful world, and for loving us so much." Have the children stand and sing the last line of the Troparion/church song again. While they are still standing, tell them that there were three more people who came together to see Jesus Christ when He was born. Have them look together at the icon and find the three wise men. When they have found the three, ask them how they traveled. Did they walk, or ride animals?

Seat children again, and read the following story, "The Star and the Wise Men," written by Mrs. Sophie Koulomzin. Before you begin, ask the children what "wise" means. (Smart, knows a lot, can figure things out, etc.

When Jesus Christ was born there lived in a country far away three very wise men. These wise men spent much of their time studying the stars in the night sky.

One night the three wise men saw a star clearer and brighter than all the other stars. They knew it meant something special. They knew from the old holy books that a great King and Savior was to be born. The wise men wanted to go and worship this special Child. (Ask the children what "savior" means and help them define it as the one Person who gives us life with God that will never end. That Person is Jesus Christ.)

It was a long way from the wise men's home country to where the Savior was born. Their animals were heavily loaded with all the things they needed for such a long trip. (Ask the children to name some of the things the three might have needed.) They also carried presents for the Child. Every night as it grew dark a beautiful bright star in the sky showed them which way to go.They followed the star for many days. It led them to a small house in Bethlehem, where the Child was. Then it stopped.

The wise men were happy. This was the end of their long journey. This was the Child God wanted them to find. They found Mary with the baby in her arms. The wise men fell on their knees and worshipped the Baby. Then they brought out the precious things they had carried with them, and offered their presents to the Child. (End)


4

Waiting and Getting Ready

Ask students to think of some things we have to wait for. (Examples: waiting in line, waiting for our turn during a game, waiting for our favorite part of a story someone is reading to us, waiting for someone to come home, etc.--let children give their own answers.) Say: "Sometimes we need to prepare for things we are waiting for. I'll name some things we wait for, and you show me how we can prepare."

Have children stand, with plenty of space between them, and have them act out silently how they would get ready in the following ways. Tell them they don't all have to do the exact same thing:

  • cleaning the house before company comes
  • putting on our good clothes before going to church
  • mowing the lawn and pulling weeds before leaving on a family trip
  • making the bed before having breakfast

Say: "In church we have some days of waiting for the birthday, the nativity, of Jesus Christ. We call these days Advent. Write the word on the chalkboard. (You can add that we also call these days the Nativity Fast, but the children don't need to memorize these terms.) We get ready for His birthday by doing things we know He wants us to do. We try to be kind to others, we help our parents and do as they ask, we pray and go to church."  Let children name ways they can get ready for the Nativity of Jesus Christ.


5

Discussion: Calendars

Talk with children about calendars: how they help us to keep track of important days/dates to remember: birthdays, doctor appointments, plans for traveling or having visitors, etc.

Ask whether someone at home writes or marks important things on a calendar. Then give each child a copy of the page with empty blocks, marked "My Advent Calendar" and with November in the upper left block. Say: "This calendar page shows the days of Advent during which we wait and prepare for Christmas, the Nativity of Jesus Christ." Have children put their names (or do it yourself) at the bottom left of their pages. Give each child a Christmas sticker and let them mark November 15, the first day of Advent/Nativity Fast. Have each choose a second sticker and mark the Feast of the Nativity on December 25.) Collect the pages to use again.

Special Note: If your parish is on the Old Calendar, you can easily make your own calendar on two sheets with 31 blocks each for December and January.


6

Wrap Up

Put the bowl of treats on the table for all to see. Tell children that everyone will each get one, but that you are going to practice waiting just a few minutes, till you have finished. (If some children become really impatient, put the treats out of sight and assure them that you will bring them out in just a little while.)

Review the meaning of the words "Nativity" and "Advent" with the children. Ask them to think again about things they suggested as ways to prepare for the Nativity or birthday of Jesus Christ, and encourage them to do these things at home during the week.

Praise the children for waiting for the treats, and join them in each chosing one. Then enjoy them together.


7

Closing Prayer

(Have the children stand.) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
Practice making the sign of the cross with the children. Then play the Nativity Troparion, and have them sing the last line.


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Showing God’s Love (Ages 4-6)

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Overview

St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia - The life of St. Nicholas illustrates how we can help others, thereby showing God’s love for all. We also can associate acts of charity with the real St. Nicholas and help students not to confuse him with the more familiar “Santa Claus.” Santa (whom many young children believe in) is not mentioned in the lesson. But if childen get a solid idea about Saint Nicholas, they will in later years be more able to replace "Santa" with a real person who did good throughout his life, and is a true example.
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • Tell a story about an event in St. Nicholas' life, showing how he helped others
  • Identify St. Nicholas as a bishop, and state that your church also has a bishop
  • Give a simple definition of a "saint" as someone who lives as God wants us to
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Materials

  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Recording of the Nativity Tropar and player
  • Icon of St. Nicholas
  • Notes to parents of each child, telling them that the children are bringing home copies of Advent calendar pages with some suggestions for good deeds to do at home to get ready for the Nativity of Jesus Christ (Christmas.) Ask parents to stress being helpful, praying, and coming to church during this season.
  • Christmas stickers
  • Copies for each child (from last week) of 2 "My Advent Calendar" pages, November and December
  • Picture of your Diocesan bishop to show the children (OCA bishops' pictures are on the OCA website)
  • Paper and crayons for each child

 

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

(Have children stand.) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As in the previous lesson, play or sing the Troparion for the children and refer to the words on the wall chart. Have them sing the last line together.

Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it, those who worshipped the stars
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, glory to Thee!


2

Review Activity and Icon

Have the icon of the Nativity displayed so all the children can see it. Ask them to recall the meaning of the word "nativity."  Remind them that we celebrate the Nativity or birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas, and that each of them also has a day of nativity--their birthday.

Write the word "Advent" on the chalkboard and ask them to recall its meaning--it's the time during which we wait and prepare for Christmas. Ask whether they remember another name for this time: Nativity Fast. Write the phrase on the board. Show them the calendar pages from last week. This is the way we keep track of many things, including these special days of waiting and getting ready.

Have children find in the icon: Joseph and Mary, the baby Jesus Christ, the shepherds, the wise men, the angels, the animals. Then, as a review of the Nativity story, have them stand and listen as you read the following. Ask them to make motions or to move in ways that "match" what you are reading. Suggestions are in parentheses, but try to let the children come up with their own ideas.

The three wise men traveled long and very far; from other lands they came, following a special star (motion of riding a horse, as shown in the icon; point up to a star)

The shepherds were in the field caring for their sheep; though it was cold and dark that night, the shepherds didn't sleep (looking all around to see the sheep and make sure nothing threatens them; huddling against cold)

Mary and Joseph were together in the cave; watching over God's own Son, Jesus the newborn Babe (gazing down as if at the baby in the manger)

Even the animals worshipped the Child they saw; peeking in the manger where He lay on His bed of straw (bending over and lowering heads; using hands as animal's ears on head; "peeking" in silent amazement)

They all heard the angels singing a holy song; the Savior is born because God's love is deep and strong (cupping ears to hear angels singing)


3

Story of St. Nicholas and Icon

Have the icon of Saint Nicholas displayed so all the children can see it. Say to the children, "During the days of Advent we remember in church many saints. Saints are people who love God and try to live good lives because they love Him. I will tell you about one saint--Saint Nicholas." Write "Saint Nicholas" on the chalkboard, draw children's attention to his icon, and then tell the story:

Saint Nicholas was born in a place far from here, but he did some of the same things you do. He played with friends, enjoyed games, and went on picnics with his parents. He also loved to pray and read the Bible. Nicholas loved God. He spent a lot of time in church.

Nicholas showed his love for God by being kind to others. As he grew up, he was able to do lots of good things for people. Once there was a man who was so poor he didn't hav money to feed his three daughters. This man wanted his daughters to get married, but he had no money to help them buy the things they would need. Nicholas heard about the man's troubles, and one dark summer night he threw three bags of gold into the man's open window--one bag for each daughter. At first the man didn't hear anything, but as the third bag was thrown in, he heard the sound of it hitting the ground. He went to the window, saw Nicholas, and thanked him. Nicholas said to the man, "Give thanks to God always." He did kind things only because he loved God, not because he wanted everybody to tell him how great he was.He didn't even want to be thanked.

The man and his daughters were so happy--now they would have enough of everything!

Another time Nicholas was on a boat and a great storm came up--the huge waves were crashing against the side of the boat. Everyone on the boat thought they would all be killed. But Nicholas prayed, and the storm died down.

Nicholas became a leader in the church. He became a bishop. (Put this word on the chalkboard.) A bishop is a man who is in charge of many churches. Even though he had to work very hard as a bishop, he never stopped doing kind things for other people. (End)


4

Story Review and Calendar

Ask, "What is a saint?" (Help children remember that a saint is a person who tries hard to live the way that God wants us to live.)

Say, "We heard the story about Saint Nicholas. What is one special thing he did?" (Let children recall something from the story.)

Have the children stand, with plenty of room between them. Have them act out these things:

  • Saint Nicholas tossing heavy bags of gold into the window of the poor man with three daughters
  • The poor man with three daughters telling the girls how Saint Nicholas helped them
  • A sailor standing on the ship caught in a storm, when the waves were crashing against the side and making the ship rock from side to side
  • A sailor standing on the ship after Saint Nicholas prayed and everything was calm

GIve each child his or her "My Advent Calendar" page for December, and have each one choose a sticker. Have them mark December 6, the day when we remember Saint Nicholas in church.


5

Drawing: Being Like Saint Nicholas

Give each child paper and crayons. Have them draw a picture of something they will do at home to help someone, or make someone happy, as Saint Nicholas did. Remind them to ask God for help in doing good things.


6

Extra Activity: St. Nicholas Shoes

If time permits, follow the procedure outlined in the Resource Activity St. Nicholas Shoes attached to this lesson. That Resource suggests a festival to be held on a Saturday. An early weekday evening is another possibility.


7

Wrap Up

  • Ask children: "Was Saint Nicholas a bishop?" (Yes. Remind them that a bishop takes care of a group of churches.)
  • Say, "Our church has a bishop too." Show them the picture of your bishop, and help them pronounce his name.
  • Give children their 2 "My Advent Calendar" pages and the notes to their parents to take home, or plan to send them

8

Closing Prayer

(Have children stand.) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Play the Troparion, singing the last line, as you did for the Opening Prayer above. Then have student begin learning the hymn, by writing the two first lines on the chalkboard:

Thy (or Your) Nativity, O Christ our God,

Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.

Practice singing these two lines together a few times. Don't worry if the children, especially the younger ones, don't have the words exactly right.

As a formal ending to the session, say "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" together, making the sign of the cross.


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The Winter Saints (Ages 4-6)

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Overview

Saints Are Special People Who Are Friends of God - Saint Romanus and other saints who are remembered during the fall and winter help us get ready for the feast of the Nativity, because they give an example of love for Jesus Christ. Saint Romanus, in particular, wrote hymns praising Christ and His Birth.
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • State that saints, by living as God wants us to, become "friends of God."
  • Tell a few facts about Saint Romanus, the sweet singer.
  • Tell a few facts about Saint Barbara the Greatmarty
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Materials

  • Resource Download: Kontakion, Nativity of Christ
  • NOTE: You may wish to consult the Resource handout The Life of St. Romanus for more details about him. Attached to this lesson is an MP3 file of the Nativity Kontakion which you can download and burn to a CD for use in class. Also in the Resource section is the lengthy Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ. The children are much too young to study this, but for your own edification and interest you may wish to look through it, and note its many Biblical references, as an example of other hymns written by St. Romanus.
  • Icon of St. Romanus (either showing him holding a church and a scroll, or a church and a censer)
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Poster paper and markers
  • Four pieces of paper or card stock. In large letters that the children can see in class, write the first two lines of the Nativity Troparion on the first piece. Write the second pair of lines (beginning with For and Were) on the second piece, and the third pair of lines (beginning with The and And) on the third piece. On the fourth piece, write the line the children have been practicing: O Lord, glory to Thee (or You). Have these ready at hand to use in the next weeks.
  • Tape
  • Long, rolled-up piece of paper, on which you have written some musical notes, to show children what a scroll looks like as you tell them the story of Saint Romanus
  • Photo of the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople to show children as you tell the story
  • Black and white icon-style picture of Saint Barbara (from the Optional Resources section for this lesson)--one for each child
  • Crayons for children to share

NOTE:  Saint Catherine, Saint Ambrose of Milan, and Saints Cosmas and Damian are a few of the other "winter saints" whose feast days are in fall and winter. You may wish, if time permits, to tell the children a little about one or more of them. Find information (which you can simplify and shorten) on the OCA website, as well as icons of the saints. An icon and information about Saint Barbara, whose feast day is December 4th, and Saint Herman, whose feast day is on December 13, are included as resources for this lesson.

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

(Have children stand.) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Play the recording of the Troparion, or sing it, as you have done in the previous two lessons, having the children sing the last line. Say: "This church song or hymn is telling us that when Jesus was born, people saw the truth about God--He loves us enough to send us His own Son to be with us. Jesus gives light to the world, more than all the brightest stars."

In place of the chart with all the words of the Troparion, tape the piece of paper with the first two lines of the Troparion where children can see it, and practice singing these two lines (as you bgan doing last week). Review the meaning of the word "nativity" and let them define (or define for them) the word "wisdom" as meaning "knowing what is true."

Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it, those who worshipped the stars
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, glory to Thee!


2

Discussion Starter

Ask, "What is something you like to do?" Let children answer, and then say, "Sometimes we have to work hard to learn how to do something we want to do. Sometimes we won't be very good at it at first. So we have to keep doing it till we get better at it." Let children give examples, and give one or two from your own life.

Say, "I would like to tell you about a saint who had to work hard to learn something he really wanted to do." You might want to bring the children into a circle for the story.

 


3

The Story of Saint Romanus

The story:

Saint Romanus was born many years ago. He lived in a big city, and he helped the priests and bishop in the great church there. (Show the photo of Hagia Sophia, and tell the children you can still visit this church today.) Many people came to worship at the great church, and he was busy all day. But he spent his nights praying alone, sometimes in a field or in a smaller church outside the city.

One Christmas Eve, the night before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, Romanus was asked to read some of the prayers during the service. The great church was crowded, and everyone was listening. But Romanus was not a good reader. He did not say the words clearly, and nobody could understand what he was saying. Another reader had to take his place. A few people even laughed at him.

Romanus was very unhappy. He wanted so much to be able to read in church. But maybe he would never be able to. He prayed before the icon of Mary, the Mother of God, and told her how sad he was.

The next day, the Mother of God spoke to him in a gentle voice as he prayed. She gave him a scroll ( show children the scroll and say that a scroll can have writing or music on it) and told him to eat it. That may seem strange to us, but it was her gift to the young man. It probably tasted like thin bread. Once he ate the scroll, a wonderful thing happened. Romanus was able to sing and to write church songs or hymns.

That evening in church, Romanus was able to sing in a beautiful voice. What did he sing? The very first hymn he wrote, the Nativity hymn that starts, "Today the Virgin gives birth ..." (Ask the children: Who was the Virgin Mary's child, the one she gave birth to? Make sure they know that the Virgin and the Mother of God are the same person: Mary, and that she gave birth to Jesus Christ.)

Romanus became a deacon in the church, and a teacher of singing and songs. He wrote so many beautiful hymns and lived such a good life that the Church made him a saint. Romanus was able to do what he loved most, thanks to the loving kindness of the Mother of God.

Today, in our churches, we still sing many of the hymns that Saint Romanus wrote. They are called "Kontakia."

 


4

Story Review and Icon

Have the children stand, and say, "Let's try to remember some things from this story without you children saying any words. I'll tell you something, and you show me what you remember."

  • Say, "The first time Saint Romanus tried to sing and read in the great church, how do you think it sounded to the people there?" (Let children have fun singing off key, or talking so fast their words can't be understood.)
  • Ask, "How did Saint Romanus feel?" (Sad face.)
  • Say, "Saint Romanus prayed to the Mother of God. What did she tell him to do?" (Act out eating a scroll.)
  • Say, "The next day Saint Romanus sang in church again. How do you think it sounded this time?" (Nice-sounding singing.)
  • Say (with the musical scroll clearly in children's view), "Point to something that tells us what Saint Romanus did after that." (Scroll--he wrote church songs or hymns.) Say, "Yes, he wrote many beautiful chuch songs or hymns that we still sing today."

Look together at the icon of Saint Romanus. Ask the children why he is holding a church. (This tells us that he did something good for the people in the Orthodox Church--he gave us beautiful music to sing.) Next, ask the children what else he is holding. Why is he holding this? (Some icons show a censer because he was a deacon; others show a musical scroll for the church songs he wrote.)


5

Music and Icon

Have the Nativity icon displayed so all the children can see it. Play Saint Romanus' Kontakion for the Nativity of Christ. Say, "Saint Romanus gave us a way to sing what the icon lets us see." Say the lines of the Kontakion (with some of the words beyond children's comprehension changed) and have them point out the corresponding items in the icon:

  • Say, "Today the Virgin gives birth to the One who is above all things" (Icon: Virgin lying in cave with the Baby)
  • Say, "And the earth offers a cave to the One who is like no other" (Icon: the cave)
  • Say, "Angels with shepherds give glory" (Icon:angels and shepherds)
  • Say, "The Magi journey with a star" (Icon: wise men; tell children that "magi" is another name for the wise men)
  • Say, "Since for our sake the eternal God was born as a little child." (Icon: the Baby Jesus)

You may have a version of the hymn with slightly different words, but you can still do this exercise of corresponding the icon with the words.


6

Color the Image of Saint Barbara

GIve each child crayons and a copy of the black and white image of Saint Barbara. Say, "Here is a picture of another saint. What can you tell me about this saint?"

Let children answer. Of course the most obvious thing is that she is a woman. Children might also notice that she is not dressed the way we dress, so maybe she lived a long time ago.

Tell the children that you will find out more about her. First, they can color her picture. Tell them her name: she is Saint Barbara.


7

About Saint Barbara

Gather the children and tell the story:

Long ago, a rich lived with his daughter Barbara in the country of Syria. He was proud of his beautiful daughter--so proud that he began to worry about letting anything or anyone in the world come too close to her. So he built a tower for her to live in.

Barbara's teachers were the only people allowed to visit her. They did not believe in  our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, they believed in  many gods. So did Barbara's father. He wanted her to learn to worship the gods as he did.

From a tall tower you can see the country around it. Barbara saw wooded hills, a swiftly flowing river, and meadows covered with flowers. At night the sky was full of stars and twinkling lights. All of this was wonderful, and beautiful. Barbara began to wonder who could have made such beautiful things.She knew that the gods her father believed in were just statues--they could never have made these things!

Barbara's father decided that she was alone too much. He let her leave the tower and  go into the city. There she met Christians who could answer her questions about the Maker of all things. They taught her about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. A priest who was visiting the city told her that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who loves us and who made the world for us with His Fathr. The priest baptized Barbara.

About this same time, Barbara's father ordered another building, with a pool, to be built on his property. He told the builders to put in two windows. Then he looked over the  construction plans, and went out of town on business. While he was gone, Barbara told the builders to put in a third window. This was a way of showing how the real God--the Father, Son and Holy Spirit--give light to the whole world.

When Barbara's father came back from his trip, he was angry that the bulders had put in an extra window. Then his daughter told him the reason--she had found the true faith.  She did not believe in his gods and statues.

This made him so angry that he grabbed a sword and began beating her with it. She escaped and ran into the street, but her father found her. He could not believe that his dear daughter would not do what he told her to. He turned her over to the governor of the city. When the governor and his helpers could not make her deny her give up her faith in Jesus Christ, they took her into the public square and beat her even more.

A Christian woman named Juliana saw what was happening to Barbara. She called out, "Stop that! She has done nothing wrong!" The governor's helpers grabbed Juliana, and beat her along with Barbara. The two women died together. People who were standing around could see that they were both praying and thanking God. Their faces showed that they were not afraid. They were ready to go and be with God. --end--


8

Wrap Up

Say, "Remember that we said a saint is a person who tries hard to live the way God wants us to live. Sometimes we say saints were 'friends of God'. How would a person become a friend of God?"  (Let children answer. Try to bring forth that we become friends of God by praying and by doing the things He wants us to do.)

Say, "When we want to be friends of God, we can't give up on the good things we're trying to do. We need to keep trying. Did Saint Romanus keep trying instead of giving up?" (Yes. Saint Romanus didn't say, "I will never sing again" when he had a bad time trying to sing in church. He prayed and asked the Mother of God to help him.)


9

Closing Prayer

(Have children stand.) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Follow the same procedure as for the Opening Prayer above.

Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it, those who worshipped the stars
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, glory to Thee!


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The Ancestors of Christ (Ages 4-6)

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Overview

God's Family - We are all members of God’s family.
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • Recognize that their grandparents and earlier relatives are their "ancestors"
  • Develop an understanding of ourselves as members of God's Family
  • Identify the ancestors of Jesus (his earthly parents and grandparents)
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Materials

  • Icon of Joachim and Anna
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Round card stock or poster board piece about 3” in diameter with a hole punched in the top (one for each child)
  • Yarn to make the round piece into a medallion (one for each child)
  • Hole punch
  • Crayons, markers and small stickers (stars, dots, etc.)  to decorate the medallions
  • Colored chalk if you wish to use it for the second step of the Procedure, entitled "Discussion Starter"
  • Icon of the Old Testament figure David the King

 

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Resources


Optional Resources
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

(Have students stand.) In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tape the paper with the second pair of lines of the Nativity Troparion where children can see it. Have children practice singing these two lines a few times, then tape above it the paper with the first two lines, and practice all four. The children can again sing "O Lord, glory to Thee (or You)" as the last line.

Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it, those who worshipped the stars
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, glory to Thee!


2

Discussion Starter: Ancestors

On the chalkboard, write the following words as shown:                                        

                                                   ANCESTORS

Grandmother and Grandfather                           Grandmother and Grandfather

                                            Mother and Father

                            (leave space here to write in "Jesus Christ" later)

                                                        YOU

Connect all the words except the word ANCESTORS  with dotted lines and colored or white chalk.

Say, "We all have parents and grandparents. Then there are the people who were the grandparents of our parents. We call these our ancestors." Under the word "YOU" on the chalkboard, write all the children's names. ( Leave room under the words "Mother and Father" to write in the name of Jesus Christ later.)

Say, "You all have ancestors." Circle the word "ancestors." Have the children say it a few times. Ask the children to name a few of their ancestors--grandparents and perhaps great-grandparents. (Some children may not be able to name anyone, so this need not be a big part of the lesson. The names given will just be examples of "ancestors.")

 


3

Jesus' Ancestors and Icons

Ask, "Did Jesus have ancestors?" (Let children answer. Yes. The Bible tells us who they were.) Write Jesus' name right below the words "Mother and Father" on the chalkboard. Say, "Jesus had ancestors, just as we do."

Look at the Nativity icon together and let children identify Mary and Joseph.Say, "Even though Jesus was God's own Son, Joseph took care of Him like a father, and also took care of Mary. Mary is Jesus's mother."

Next, show children the icon of Joachim and Anna. Say, "These were Jesus' grandparents. They were Mary's parents."

Say, "The people who were our ancestors are part of our family." And we all belong to God's family because He loves us all."


4

Medallions

GIve each child one of the card stock rounds. Have them write (or help them write) their names on one side, and decorate the round with markers and stickers. On the other side, have them write (or help them write) "I belong to God's family" and decorate that side.

Punch a hole at the top of each round and help the children string and tie yarn to make "necklace" they can wear home.


5

Story Reading

Gather the children for a story. Have the icons of Ruth and David displayed, and point to them as you tell the stories.

Say, "The Bible tells us about many people who were Jesus' ancestors. Let's hear a little about two of them. The first is a young woman named Ruth. She was married to a man from the city of Bethlehem. Her husband died. When that happened, her husband's mother, who was named Naomi,  said, "Ruth, go back to the place where you grew up and find happiness there." But Ruth said, "I want to be with you, Naomi. Your people will my people. Your God will be my God." So Ruth went with Naomi and took care of her. Something wonderful happened, too--Ruth found a man to marry, and he, Ruth, and Naomi made a happy family."

Say, "Another ancestor of Jesus was a young man named David. He could write songs and play the harp. He also wrote some poems in the Bible that we say often in church. They are called the Psalms. David grew up to be a great king of the people of Israel. He still wrote songs and poems, but he also was a brave soldier. God gave him many victories over enemies. David built a palace in the city of Jerusalem, and made it a beautiful city."

Say, "Ruth and David are just two of the people the Bible tells us were ancestors of Jesus Christ."

 


6

Wrap Up

Review the meaning of the word "ancestor" as being the members of our family who lived before us.

 


7

Closing Prayer

(Have children stand.) In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

Say the first four lines of the Nativity Troparion together several times. End the session with the last line, "O Lord, glory to Thee (or You)" and make sure the children take their medallions home.

 


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God is with us! (Ages 4-6)

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Overview

The Birth of Jesus Christ - God became man and dwelt among us.
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • Tell the story of the Birth of Jesus Christ, using the icon of the feast
  • Identify the main characters present at the birth of Jesus
  • Learn the Nativity greeting and response, Christ is born! Glorify Him!
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Materials

  • Small icons of the Nativity of Christ for each child, laminated, as a gift for each child
  • Strips of felt with the images of the angels, etc. on them for the matching game to the verse “What shall we offer…”
  • Poster of the verse “What shall we offer…”

 

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

(Have children stand.) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tape up the card with the third pair of lines Nativity Troparion, and sing through them  with the children several times. (Have children also sing the last line.) Don't be concerned about pronunciation; the idea is just to familiarize them with the hymn. You may want to repeat the brief explanation of the hymn that was suggested in a previous lesson: "Remember that this church song or hymn is telling us that when Jesus was born, people saw the truth about God--He loves us enough to send us His own Son to be with us. Jesus gives light to the world, more than all the brightest stars."


Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it, those who worshipped the stars
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, glory to Thee!


2

Review of the Nativity Story and Icon

Have the Nativity icon displayed so all the children can see it. Have them stand, with space between them, and review the Nativity story with an activity from a previous lesson. They will do appropriate motions as you read the following lines:

The three wise men traveled long and very far; from other lands they came, following a special star (motion of riding a horse, as shown in the icon; point up to a star)

The shepherds were in the field caring for their sheep; though it was cold and dark that night, the shepherds didn't sleep (looking all around to see the sheep and make sure nothing threatens them; huddling against cold)

Mary and Joseph were together in the cave; watching over God's own Son, Jesus the newborn Babe (gazing down as if at the baby in the manger)

Even the animals worshipped the Child they saw; peeking in the manger where He lay on His bed of straw (bending over and lowering heads, using hands as animal's ears on head; "peeking" in silent amazement)

They all heard the angels singing a holy song; the Savior is born because God's love is deep and strong (cupping ears to hear angels singing)

Have them find the various figures in the icon: Mary and Joseph, the sheperds, wise men, angels. Remind them that Joseph is being tempted by the devil not to worship God or His Son Jesus. Ask, "Where do we see the baby Jesus in the icon a second time, not just in the manger?" (Let them find the baby being bathed, which tells us that He was a real baby who needed to have baths as we all do.)


3

Word Review

Review the meaning of these words with the children:

Nativity: birth

Saint: a person who tries hard to live the way God wants us to live. Sometimes we call saints "friends of God." Ask the children, "What are some ways we can become friends of God?" (Let them give answers such as praying, going to church, helping at home, being kind to people, caring for animals, etc.)

Advent: the time when we get ready for the Nativity of Jesus Christ, or Christmas.


4

Making a card


Let children choose a piece of card stock. Help them fold their pieces evenly to make a card, and to write Christ is Born! on the inside.

Children can decorate their cards with the materials you have provided.

Help them sign their names on the cards, and ask them to tell you the person to whom they plan to give the card. You might want to make a note of each recipient so that you can be sure the cards are received.


5

Icon Review

Have the icons of Saint Nicholas and Saint Romanus displayed so the children can see them.

Ask the children, "Who was the saint who secretly gave gifts and helped people?" (Remind them of the story of Nicholas and the poor man with three daughters.) Say "Let's remember how Saint Nicholas threw the bags of money into the poor man's window." Let the children "sling" three bags of gold--give them plenty of room! Look together at the icon.

Ask, "Who was the saint who ate a scroll?" (Remind them of the story of Saint Romanus being unable to sing and asking the Mother of God for help, eating the scroll at her direction, and then being able to sing and to write church songs.) (Let children act out eating a scroll.) Look together at the icon, and note the items Saint Romanus is holding--a deacon's censer or a scroll, and a church to reflect his helping the Orthodox Church by writing beautiful music to sing.


6

Activity

Practice the Nativity greeting with the children:

Have half the children say "Christ is born!" and the other half respond "Glorify Him!" Then reverse it and have the responding half say "Christ is Born!" and the others respond. Go through this several times.

Ask children what it means to "glorify" Jesus Christ or to say "Glory to You." (It means that we worship Him as God, and thank Him for making the world, for making us, and for being with us in our lives.)

 


7

Wrap Up

Tape the card with the first lines of the Nativity Troparion where children can see it, and practice it. One by one, add the other three cards and practice the whole hymn together.


8

Closing Prayer

Use the Nativity Troparion as your Closing Prayer. Give the children their small icons to take home. End with "Christ is Born!" "Glorify Him!"

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen:

Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it, those who worshipped the stars
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, glory to Thee!


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