The Nativity Season


Introduction (Ages 10-12)

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 (Ages 10-12)

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Overview

It’s Hard To Wait - Students will review the stories of the coming of God’s Son to us on earth, as He is born of Mary "as a little, or in some translations a 'new' child." They will consider the concepts of waiting and preparing, as these relate to “meeting the Lord.” The birth of Christ is set within the context of human family and God’s family.
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Objectives

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

  • Define Advent/Nativity Fast as a time of waiting and preparation for the Feast of the Natvity of Jesus Christ
  • Compare some elements of Great Lent to the Nativity Fast
  • Identify figures in the icon of the Nativity of Jesus Christ
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Materials

  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Chart with the words of the Nativity Troparion in large letters
  • Christmas stickers
  • Resource handout: The Winter Pascha
  • Copies of the blank "November" and "December" pages of the Resource My Advent Calendar for each students (Note: The extra pages in this resource are for your own interest and further study of the Nativity season. If your parish is on the Old Calendar, make your own blank pages of December and January to use.)

 

  • For the "Waiting Game" (see #4 of Procedure for this lesson) have 
  • a timer or stopwatch
  • an inflated beach ball, or a plastic or sponge wiffle ball, or something light like a roll of paper towels (with a few rubber bands around the roll so it stays together) that students can safely throw to one another.
  • for each group of 4 to 6 students--a Bible, a pencil, and a copy of the sheet "Bible People Who Waited." Create the sheet by putting the title at the top, and then the following, leaving room for students to write in answers:

1. Read about me in Genesis 8: 6-12. What did I wait for? What is my name?

2. Read about me in Psalm 37: 1-9. What did I wait for? What is my name?

3. Read about me in Luke 2: 25-32. What did I wait for? What is my name?

4. Read about me in Acts 18: 24-26. What did I wait for? What is my name?

5. Read about me in John 3: 1-6. What did I wait for? What is my name?

6. Read about these people in Acts 28: 1-6. What did they wait for? What is their name? (Who are they?)

(Correct answers are in #4 of the Procedure for this lesson)

  •  for the first part of the game, a basket or container with small folded sheets of paper. On each paper write one of these phrases:

Something you wait for all year

A time you waited in line (make 4 copies)

A place where you have waited more than once 

A time when you have to wait your turn  (make 4 copies)

A time during this past week when you waited (make 4 copies)

Something you waited for when you were very young

A place where a machine tells you to wait 

Something that was really worth waiting for (make 4 copies)

(Note: The "place where a machine tells you to wait" might be a hard one for students to think of. You could suggest answers such as a walk/wait or walk/don't walk sign,or a toll booth.)

 

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Have the icon of the Nativity of Jesus Christ displayed where students can easily see it.

Have the chart with the words of the Troparion mounted where they can see it. (You can have these displayed for all five sessions.)

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

Play the Troparion for the students a few times. Then sing or say it 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!

Ask students to identify three places in the Troparion where Jesus Christ is compared to light. Talk a little about each one, asking students about their meaning and supplying information as needed:

Light of wisdom: Jesus is not a physical light, but the One who enlightens us with wisdom and truth.

Sun of Righteousness: Jesus is like the "Sun" giving light. He is also the "Son" of Righteousness--of God the Father. The wise men, who thought wisdom and knowledge could come from the stars, now know that He is the One to be worshipped because He is wisdom and truth.

Orient from on high: The light that rises in the East.


2

A Time of of Waiting

Write the word "nativity" on the chalkboard and ask, "What is another word that means the same thing?"  Let students come up with the word "birth" (or supply it yourself if they cannot) and put it on the chalkboard.

Say, "We celebrate the Nativity, or Birth, of Our Lord Jesus Christ on a big holiday. What is the name most people use for that holiday?"  (Put "Christmas" on the chalkboard.)

Ask a student, "When is your own day of nativity?" Let this student, or another if the first is unable to, make the connection of his/her birthday to "day of nativity." Say, "So Our Lord shares this with us. He has a birthday, a day of nativity, a day of being born. But His Nativity is not like any other. He came to be with us as a newborn baby, to grow up and to teach us and to save us. At the same time He was always the divine Son of God."

Read together John 1: 14 to see how the Bible expresses this. Ask, "Who is 'the Word' in this verse?" and make sure students know that "the Word" is Jesus Christ. Explain that He "became flesh"--which means He became a real human being, a real Man--but He never stopped being God at the same time.

Say, "Because the Nativity of Jesus Christ is so important, the Church gives us a time to prepare for it. What is that time called?" (Let students come up with the word "Advent" or supply it yourself, and write it on the chalkboard. Also write "Nativity Fast" on the chalkboard. Ask, "Why could we call the time of Advent by this other name, the Nativity Fast?" (Let students explain, or explain yourself, that before great feast days, days of celebration in the Church, there is a time of fasting and preparation.)

Give each student a few Christmas stickers, and copy each of the blank November and December pages from the Resource My Advent Calendar. Have them put their names on both. Have them mark with stickers the beginning of Advent/Nativity Fast on November 15, and also the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ on December 25th.

Ask, "What are some of the ways the Church gives us to use these days of waiting to prepare for the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ?" (Suggested answers: Prayer, church services with special hymns, a chance to eat simple foods so that we don't spend a lot of time thinking about meals and can think about the gift of Our God coming to be with us.)

Ask, "What are some other ways we can prepare?" (Suggest that a good way to prepare is to follow the example of the One who is going to be born--by trying to love everyone, helping others, giving to people who are really in need, and so on. Look together at the suggestions on the My Advent Calendar pages for ways to use this time well.)

Ask, "Do you think these ways of preparing are different from the ways many people prepare for Christmas?" (Yes. Suggested reasons: The Church's ways call us to slow down and think about God rather than hurry around buying gifts, going to parties and spending a lot of money.)

Ask, "Can we still enjoy the feast if we follow the Church's ways?" (Let students give their opinions. Suggest that we can enjoy the feast more if we are not exhausted and already saturated with "celebrating" when it comes. We can have good times with family and friends during the Nativity Fast, but if we also take time to pray, thank God, and give to others, the feast will have special joy for us. We can have a wonderful feast!)


3

Nativity Icon

Have students identify the various figures in the Nativity icon: Mary, Joseph, the animals peeking into the manger, the shepherds, the magi or wise men, and especially the anticipated baby Jesus.

Ask: "Who is the old man, on the lower part of the icon, talking with Joseph?"  (He is the  devil, trying to convince Joseph not to believe that this baby is the divine Son of God, born  born by the power of the Holy Spirit.)

Ask, "Where does Jesus appear twice in the icon?"  (He lies next to His Mother, and is also shown being bathed. This detail reminds us that He truly became human and truly lived human life--including being a baby gettng a bath. Later, when He is an adult, He will also allow Himself to be baptized in water by John the Baptizer.)


4

Waiting and Preparing

Ask students:

  • When have you had to wait for something important to happen?
  • What makes waiting difficult, or not so difficult?

Let students give their own answers to these questions; to help the discussion you might tell about some experiences of waiting in your own life.

For the "Waiting Game," have students stand in two lines, about three feet apart.

  • Have container of folded papers and ball/object object ready.Tell students the papers describe situations in which we wait for something.
  • Tell students that each person will choose a paper, read it aloud, and think of an answer as quickly as possible.
  • That person will then throw the ball to someone on the other team, who will repeat the process: choose a paper, read it aloud, think of an answer and throw the ball to someone on the other team, all as quickly as possible.
  • Tell students that some of the papers say the same thing, because there are many possible answers that could be given.

Be sure each student gets at least one turn

This part of the game was just for fun. To choose a winning team, give each team--either 2 teams, or 4 if your class is large--a Bible, pencil, and a "Bible People Who Waited" sheet. Tell the students:

  • The winning team will be the one that works together to find the information in the Bible and gives clear, complete answers on the sheet in the shortest time.
  • You will time their work; limit is 5 minutes.
  • They will start when you begin timing and say "Go."

You may choose not to have a winner, but rather just use this as a timed exercise. Correct answers for the sheet are as follows. (Students' answers may differ in wording but should give the same general idea.)

#1. Genesis 8: 6-12. I waited for the dove to return with an olive branch, showing that the waters of the Flood had subsided. My name is Noah.

#2. Psalm 37: 1-9. I waited for the Lord (to do His will in His own time-students should be able to tell you that this is what the psalm writer was waiting for, even if they did not include it in their written answer). My name is David.

#3: Luke 2: 25-32. I waited to see the Lord's Christ (the promised Savior--students should know that this is what "the Lord's Christ" means, even if they did not include it in their written answer.) My name is Simeon.

#4: Acts 18:24-26. I waited with my husband Aquila till after Apollos had preached in the synagogue. Then Aquila and I took him aside and taught him the way of God "more accurately" (in other words, we corrected some of what he had said.) My name is Priscilla.

#5: John 3: 1-6. I waited till night to visit Christ and ask Him about His teachings. My name is Niocdemus.

#6: Acts 28: 1-6. We waited to see whether Paul would be killed by the bite of a viper, or snake. When he survived the bite, we thought he must be a god. We are the natives of Malta. (Paul assured us he was only a man.)


5

The Winter Pascha

Give each student a copy of the The Winter Pascha, from the Resources for this lesson. Have them read the first paragraph, and name three things that are the same in the Nativity season and the Pascha season. (They can name any of the things noted in those paragraphs.)

Write these lines from the second paragraph on the chalkboard:

He was born in order to die. He was baptized in order to be raised.

Ask, "What do these lines tell us about the way God prepares?" (Let students give their ideas. Emphasize that Jesus Christ saved us by being born--becoming a real Man. Then He was baptized, crucified, and raised from the dead. All these things had to happen in order for Him to save us and give us everlasting life. So all the events of Jesus Christ's life on earth were God's preparation to save us.)


6

Closing Prayer

(Have students stand.)

If you wish to, play the Troparion as you did for the Opening Prayer. Then sing or say it together.

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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Showing God’s Love (Ages 10-12)

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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. He is so widely loved, across cultures and countries and time, that  every church school student should know about him. He is a great example of the kinds of things we should do as we prepare for the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.
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Objectives

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

  • Define "patron saint" and identify St. Nicholas as the patron saint of many groups of people
  • Consider ways of following Saint Nicholas' example
  • Examine the meaning of some words in Saint Nicholas' Troparion
  • Plan a way of secretly helping someone, in emulation of Saint Nicholas
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Materials

  • Resources:  St. Nicholas Banners (instructions)
  • Resources Handout: St. Nicholas Troparion and Kontakion
  • Resources handout: My Advent Calandar
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Icon of St. Nicholas

Materials for groups of 3 or 4 to create banners or posters as follows:

  • icon of Saint Nicholas,
  • fabric (for banners) or poster board
  • paper for students to draw and write on
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • glue
  • stapler
  • markers in various colors
  • decorative stickers or other decorative items
  • for banners, dowel to attach it to (with glue) and string to put at the ends to staple or glue to the ends to hang it.
  • a photograph of your Diocesan bishop
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

(Have students stand.) Say or sing the Troparion together, with the icon and the word chart displayed. You may want to review some words, as you did in the previous lesson.

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!


2

A Famous Patron Saint

Ask: "What is a patron saint?" (Let students answer. Bring out the fact that a patron saint is one who prays in heaven for and watches over a group of people. The people might be those in a certain country, or people who do a certain type of work, or people who are in a certain situation.)

Write the following groups of people on the chalkboard. They are taken from the Resource for this lesson entitled St. Nicholas--Nearly Everybody's Saint. (If you wish, you may choose other groups from the long list in that Resource.) Don't reveal Saint Nicholas's name as you write the list.

  • Orphans                                               
  • Shoemakers
  • Pirates
  • Prisoners
  • Newlyweds
  • Schoolchildren
  • The poor
  • Dockworkers and sailors
  • Robbers and thieves
  • Russia and Holland

Ask, "There is one person who is the patron saint of all these groups. Do you know who it is?" (Let them answer; if they don't know, tell them that it is Saint Nicholas.) If students are surprised that pirates and robbers/thieves have patron saints, remind them that God loves everyone and hopes those who do bad things will change their ways--perhaps through the influence and prayer of their patron saint!

Say, "Let's find out more about the life of Saint Nicholas. Maybe we can discover why he is the patron saint of some of these groups."


3

The Story of Saint Nicholas

As you read the following story to the class, have the icon of Saint Nicholas displayed where students can easily see it. You may want to gather the students together sitting on a rug, or in a certain part of the room, for this story and others.

Saint Nicholas was born hundreds of years ago in a small town near the sea. It's now in the country of Turkey. (Show Turkey on map.) His parents were raised him to love God and to care about other people. Nicholas had a great sadness--his parents both died while he was young. But he always remembered what they had taught him, and he helped other people whenever he could.

So it isn't a surprise to learn that one day, Nicholas did something that people still remember today, hundreds of years later. A very poor man in the town had three daughters who all wanted to get married. But their father had no money to give them the things they needed to get married, or even enough to buy a few nice clothes.

Nicholas's parents had left him a good amount of money, but he wasn't interested in keeping it for himself. On a dark summer night, he took a bag of gold and threw it in the poor man's window. Hearing the noise, the man woke up and ran to the window, but couldn't see Nicholas outside.

The next night, Nicholas did the same thing, again making sure that nobody saw him. But on a third night, the man was waiting by the window and saw the generous man who had saved his daughters from poverty. He thanked Nicholas with tears of joy running down his face, but Nicholas just nodded his head, smiled, and told the man to give thanks to God. Then he quickly left.

People in the town and the surrounding area came to love Nicholas. It seemed he was always helping someone, smiling at a child, or giving poorer neighbors what they needed. When it came time to elect a new bishop, Nicholas was everyone's choice.

But the Emperor Diocletian hated Christians, and soon Nicholas was arrested, chained, and thrown into prison. When the next Emperor, Constantine, took the throne, Nicholas and thousands of other Christians were finally set free. They had been tortured and starved, but they still kept their faith. Nicholas would face many troubles and would suffer during his life, but he never stopped helping others.

There is a story of sailors who were caught in a raging storm at sea. They had heard of St. Nicholas, and they had heard that he saved people and even did miracles. They called on him to save them, and as they did so he came to them in a vision, took the helm himself, and guided the boat safely into port. When the sailors reached town they went to church and thanked God, just as Nicholas would have wanted them to. After this happened, sailors wished each other a safe journey by saying, "May St. Nicholas hold the tiller!" (Ask students what the tiller is, and if necessary tell them it is a bar or handle on a boat that turns the rudder, the hinged piece that steers the boat.)

Another time, there was a famine--a terrible shortage of food--in Nicholas' home town of Myra. Some ships loaded with wheat came into the harbor, on their way to the great city of Constantinople. Bishop Nicholas asked the crews on the ships to leave some wheat for his starving people. They refused, worried that they would get in trouble if they arrived at Constantinople with less than full loads. But the bishop assured them that they would have no problem.

They trusted this bishop so famous for his goodness and mercy, and left two years' worth of wheat. And sure enough, when they reached the port at Constantinople, their ships were full.

St. Nicholas did many miracles. But we remember him especially for his kindness. We may never do miracles, but we can help and be kind to others. Maybe, like St. Nicholas, we can sometimes do good things secretly. Only God will know, and He will rejoice that we have learned from the great saint and bishop, Nicholas.

Look again at the list of groups on the chalkboard. Ask, "Do you see from the story why Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of some of these groups?" Students should be able to see why Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of prisoners, the poor, dockworkers and sailors. Let them name any groups they feel are represented in the story.


4

Troparion & Kontakion

Give each student a copy of the Resource handout St. Nicholas Troparion and Kontakion. (Make sure students know that these two words are both types of hymns.

Look together at these words from the Kontakion: "...you fulfilled the Gospel of Christ by giving up your soul for your people, and saving the innocent from death."

Ask: "How does a priest give up his soul for his people?" (Let students answer. Suggest that a priest puts his people first, as Christ did. This is a way of putting your own soul in God's care, not relying on the world to take care of you. Few people can do this.A priest also helps those most in need, such as those who are innocent and have been wrongly condemned to death.)


5

Story Review

Review the story with a "True/False" game.

Have students stand, making sure they have room around them to move and make gestures. Tell them, "For this review game, I am going to  say something about St. Nicholas. I will ask you to do one thing if what I have said is true. I will ask you to do something else if what I have said is false. So listen carefully!" (Be ready to repeat each statement, and give students a few seconds to think about it. Give correct answers each time.)

1. Say, "The country of Greece is where Saint Nicholas was born. If that's true, march in place. If that's false, raise.both hands high in the air." (False--he was born in Turkey.)

2. Say, "Saint Nicholas's parents were poor farmers. If that's true, bend over and touch the floor with your fingers. If that's false, put your hands behind your head." (False--they were wealthy city people.)

3. Say, "Saint Nicholas was a bishop. If that's true, put your hands above your head and clap. If that's false, march in place." (True.)

4. Say, "Saint Nicholas's parents died when he was young. If that's true, turn around in a circle. If that's false, bend over and touch the floor with your fingers." (True.)

5. Say, "Saint Nicholas was put in prison and tortured for being a Christian. If that's true, wiggle all ten fingers. If that's false, raise both hands high in the air." (True.)

6. Say, "Some other prisoners and Saint Nicholas secretly escaped from prison one very dark night. If that's true, put your hands behind your head. If that's false, bend over and touch the floor with your fingers." (False. Saint Nicholas was released from prison only when a new emperor came to the throne.)

7. Say, "Sailors wished each other a safe journey by saying, 'May Saint Nicholas fill your boat's sails with wind." If that's true, march in place. If that's false, wiggle all ten fingers." (False. They said, "May Saint Nicholas hold the tiller'" because of a time when he came in a vision to sailors haveing trouble in a storm, and guided their boat safely to harbor.)

8. Say, "Saint Nicholas, when he was a bishop, once saved his people from starving by getting loaded ships to leave grain with him. If that's true, turn around in a circle. If that's false, put your hands high above your head." (True. Ask students to tell you the part of the story that is a miracle--the ships were still fully loaded when they reached their final port, even though they had left a good deal of grain for Nicholas' people.)

9. Say, "At the Council of Nicaea, a man named Arius slapped Saint Nicholas because of the things he was saying. If that's true, bend over and touch the floor with your fingers. If that's false, put your hands on your knees."  (False. Nicholas, unable to listen to any more lies about the Son of God from the mouth of Arius,  slapped him.)

10. Say, "One time, Saint Nicholas couldn't convince a government official that the offical was wrong to take bribes and let innocent men die. If that's true, shake your arms. If that's false, turn around in a circle." (False. He did convince the official, and got him to repent and ask God's forgiveness.


6

Banners

Using the Resource Activity St. Nicholas Banners attached to this lesson, let groups of 3 or 4 students choose to create a banner or poster depicting some event(s) from the life and work of St. Nicholas. Make sure they put a title on their creation.

When the projects are finished, ask one person from each group to tell why the event they chose was significant for them.

Display the students' work in the room or in an area where parishioners can see it.


7

Activity: Advent Calandar

GIve students their copies of the December page from the Resource My Advent Calendar, plus a choice of stickers. Have them mark Saint Nicholas' feast day on December 6th.

If students have any important personal days during December, such as family birthdays, they can mark those with stickers too. They can do the same with the November page.

Collect the calendar pages to use at the next lesson.


8

Optional Activity

Give each student pencil and paper, and ask them to think of something they can do that will be of help or comfort to another person. This might include taking on a task at home, doing or making something for an elderly family member, etc. They should keep their intention secet from everyone, so as to follow Saint Nicholas' example of not looking for praise.

Of course it may not be possible to keep what they do entirely secret, but they can at least begin that way.

Have students write down what they have chosen to do.


9

Wrap Up

Remind students that Saint Nicholas was a bishop. Show the picture of your Diocesan bishop and make sure students know his name.

Practice receiving a blessing from the bishop--open hands, with the right hand resting in the left, then kissing the bishop's hand as he blesses us and rests his hand in ours.


10

Closing Prayer

(Have students stand.)

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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The Winter Saints (Ages 10-12)

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Overview

Saints Are Special People Who Are Friends of God - Knowing about some of the winter saints helps students to understand that love for Christ led some to sacrifice their lives, and others to focus their whole lives on Him.
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Objectives

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

  • Define Saint Romanus as the composer of the Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ
  • Reflect on the words of the Kontakion
  • Identify Saint Barbara and Saint Herman as two saints commemorated in the winter
  • Recall some elements of the lives of Saints Romanus, Barbara, and Herman
  • Note the dates on which these three saints are commemorated in the Orthodox Church's calendar
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Materials

  • CD of the Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ, and a CD player (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)
  • Chart with the words of the Nativity Kontakion, mounted on the wall for students to look at as you say or sing it for the Closing Prayer
  • Thick markers for students to share
  • For each group of 3 to 4 students: a copy of the Resource entitled "Saint Herman Handouts (PDF). These include the saint's life story, a black and white iconographic picture, and a map of his travels)
  • Icons of Saint Romanus
  • Picture of the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul/Constantinople. This is easily available in books or on line
  • A rolled-up piece of paper, on which you have drawn lines with some musical notes on them. This can be very simple; it is just a way of giving students an idea of what a scroll of music would look like
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Icon of Saint Barbara
  • Resource My Advent Calendar December pages (with students' names)
  • Christmas stickers
  • Materials for friendship bracelets. Instruction and needed materials are given in the Resource section for this lesson

 

  • For the "Fill in the Facts" Game (see Procedure #6) create two posters. On the first, put the title Saint Barbara and write the following sentences in large letters, with the blank spaces as shown. The blank spaces should be large enough for students to tape in cards or pieces of paper with the correct words. Do the same for second poster, entitled Saint Herman. Instructions for the cards are below.

On the first poster:

a.. I was the __________ of a rich and well-known man.

b.. I grew up living in a _______ my father built.

c.. I had three ________ made to honor the Holy Trinity.

d.. I knew that man-made_________ could not have created the beauty of nature.

e.. My own father had me________.

 

On the second poster:

a. I was a ________ in Russia.

b. I did most of my work for God in ________.

c. I lived on an _________.

d. My only blanket was a ________.

e. Even the wild forest ________ trusted me as a friend.

 

On cards or pieces of paper that will fit into the blanks (students will tape them onto the posters), write the following words. Use 2 different colors of paper, or of markers, for the 2 groups of 5 words:

For the first poster: daughter, tower, idols, windows, killed

For the second poster: monk, Alaska, island, board, animals

Have tape for students to use.

If you have a large class, you may want to make more copies of the posters and word cards. The teams playing the game should be 3-4 students each.

 

 

 

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

(Have students stand.) Have the icon of the Nativity displayed, and have the word chart where students can easily see it.)

Say or sing the Troparion together.

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!


2

Discussion Starter

Give each student a copy of the Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ, and play the recording of the Prelude. Ask students to listen for what is being expressed in the Prelude, and write their ideas on the chalkboard. (Points to get across: The Kontakion tells us that the whole universe is offering gifts to the newborn Christ. The Virgin Mary gives birth to Him, the earth gives a cave, the angels and shepherds give glory, and the magi give their precious gifts. The last line, the refrain "a little Child, God before the ages" tells us that this human baby is also the Son of God.)

Have the class find these parts of the Kontakion:  the stanzas or ikoi (strophes), the opening words of the first stanza, and the refrain.  Also have them check to see how many stanzas there are. (Answers: the stanzas are the groups of verses; the first stanza begins "Bethlehem has opened..."; the refrain of each stanza is "a little child, God before the ages"; there are 24 stanzas.)

Look together at the first line of the 2nd stanza: "The mother's Father has willingly become her Son." Then read John 1: 1-3 and 14-15. Ask, "How do these words in the Kontakion reflect what the Gospel of John says?" (The Kontakion is saying that Jesus Christ, along with His Father, made everything. So He is the "Father" or Creator of Mary. But now He is becoming her Son be being born of her. The Gospel also says that the Word, Jesus Christ, created everything with His Father, and then "became flesh and dwelt among us.")

Read the 22nd stanza together. It begins "When the blameless Virgin saw..." Ask:  "What "trinity of gifts" does the Mother of God ask her Son to accept?" (The three gifts of the Magi--gold, frankincense, and myrrh--are named in the 21st stanza.Students can look back and find them there if necessary.)

Ask: "What three things does she ask her Son for?" (Seasons that are temperate and pleasant; growth of the crops and fruits of the earth; the well-being of all the people on earth. As you tale about the Mother of God's requests, emphasize to students that she is always praying for us and caring about our well-being.)

Ask, "What do the words 'him whom no one can approach' mean?"  Help students understand that these words do not mean that Jesus Christ is distant from us. They mean that His glory is beyond measure--beyond the ability of anyone or anything to approach. Yet this One who is "above all being" is willing to have the Virgin give birth to Him so that He can be with us, overcome death for us, and save us.


3

We Practice and Prepare

Ask, "What is something you would like to be really good at doing?" (Let anyone answer who wishes to, and put brief answers on the chalkboard.

Ask, "What would a person have to do to become good at these things we have named?" (Point to each answer on the chalkboard, and let students give ideas, such as practicing a lot, observing those who are good at doing the thing, taking lessons, etc.)

Ask, "Can we pray and ask God's help to make us good at something?" (Help students understand that God will help us if we are willing to work at the things we have mentioned.)

Say, "When you work to become good at something, remember that God is the One who gives us our abilities and gifts, and He will help us to develop and use them."


4

Introducing the Story

Say, "Let's read about someone who had to work hard to do the thing he really wanted to do. He is the man who wrote the Kontakion, the hymn we have been talking about. He is Saint Romanus. As you hear the story, find what you think is the most important thing Saint Romanus did."


5

Story: The Life of St. Romanus

Have an icon of Saint Romanus displayed.

Saint Romanus was born in Syria in the fifth century. He moved to Constantinople, where he helped the priests and bishop in the great church of Hagia Sophia. (Show the photo of Hagia Sophia.) This was the central church of the city, and many people came to worship and pray there, so Romanus was always busy. 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 with people. There were government officials, priests and monks and nuns, and families. Everyone was listening to the beautiful prayers and hymns.

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. Some people laughed at him, and everyone in that crowded church could hear them laughing.

Romanus was embarrassed, and ashamed of his failure. He wanted so much to be able to read in church, and to let people hear the beauty of God's words. But maybe he would never be able to. Feeling completely miserable, he prayed before the icon of Mary, the Mother of God, pouring out his sorrow.

The next day, the Mother of God spoke to him in a gentle voice as he prayed. She gave him a scroll ( show 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 we heard and talked about today.

Romanus became a deacon in the church, and a teacher of singing and songs. Of course, he had to work very hard to do this. The gift from the Mother of God was not magic--it was her way of encouaging  Romanus. But he had to practice and work to get better at singing and writing church songs.

But by the time he was older, he had written 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.

When Saint Romanus died, in about the year 556, he had written a thousand hymns. We have eighty of them and we sing them in our churches today.

Ask: "What did you think was the most important thing Romanus did?" (Students' answers may vary. Point out that one important thing Romanus did was to pray for help to the Mother of God. He did not give up, or allow his embarrassing experience in church to make him stop trying to become a singer and writer of songs.)

The Resource section has several icons of Saint Romanus Look together at some of these. Ask students to note details which vary in the icons: the deacon's stole or orarion, the musical scroll, the church Romanus is holding as a symbol of his service to the great Church.


6

Saint Barbara and Saint Herman: Fill in the Facts

Say, "Let's see how well we can put together some facts about two saints who are remembered during the Nativity Fast, as we prepare for the Feast of the Birth of Jesus Christ."

  • Mount the two posters, with the names of the two saints, on a wall.
  • Divide the class into two teams, and assign each one a chart to fill in.
  • Give each team their set of word cards, and tape.
  • The winning team will be the one that is first to put their cards in proper order on their chart. (The order given in the Materials section is correct.)

Review the answers and make sure they are in the right order on the posters. Say, "You have done a good job of telling us about Saint Barbara and Saint Herman. Let's find out more about them."


7

Stories: Saint Barbara and Saint Herman

Gather the students for a story. The following is a slightly altered version of the text on Saint Barbara in the Feasts and Saints section of the OCA website. Let students take turns reading, or tell the story yourself.

Greatmartyr Barbara

In the early fourth century, a rich and well-respected man named Dioscorus lived with his daughter Barbara in the Syrian city of Heliopolis. 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. Perhaps it was because his wife had died that he felt he had to take such very good care of Barbara. He built a tower for her to live in.

Barbara's pagan teachers were allowed to visit her, for Dioscorus was devoted to the worship of the gods and wanted his daughter to learn to be the same.But nobody else except servants could enter the tower, which was very luxurious and beautiful, but still a prison.

A tall tower does at least offer a view of 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 incredibly harmonious and beautiful, and   Barbara began to ask herself how it could have come into being.

Before long she became convinced that the idols her father and friends worshipped could not have created anything. They themselves were created by people's own hands! She decided to spend the rest of her life trying to discover who created the world, rather than getting married and living as a rich man's wife and the mother of his children.

Her father had other ideas. He wanted her to marry, and there were certainly plenty of young men ready to become her husband. He insisted so strongly that she must marry that Barbara warned him, "I love you very much, but if you keep pushing me on this you may create a separation between us that we won't be able to heal."

Dioscorus decided that Barbara had been too isolated, and allowed her to go into the city. There she met Christians who could answer her questions about the Creator, and who taught her about the Holy Trinity. A priest who was visiting the city told her about Jesus Christ the Savior, and granted her request to be baptized.

About this same time, Dioscorus ordered a bathhouse to be built on his property. He instructed the builders to put in two windows, approved 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 honoring the Holy Trinity and a way of showing how the Three-Person God enlightens the world.

Dioscorus, back from his trip, was angry that his instructions had not been followed. Then his daughter told him the reason--she had found the true faith of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She did not believe in his idols and would not worship them.

This enraged him so much that he grabbed a sword and began beating her with it. She escaped and ran into the street, but her father found her. Unable to believe that his own daughter would defy him, he turned her over to the governor of the city. When the pagan governor and his helpers could not make her deny her faith in Christ, they took her into the public square and tortured her.

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 tortured her along with Barbara. The two died together, praying and praising Christ. 

Nine hundred years later, the relics of Saint Barbara were transferred to the city of Kiev by another Barbara, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor.The relics rest there now, in the Cathedral of Saint Vladimir.

 

After you have read the story about Saint Barbara, divide the class into groups of 3 or 4. Give each group a copy of the "Saint Herman Handouts" and have them read the life story of Saint Herman, and then trace his travels on the map.

Ask, "What do you think conditions would have been like during Saint Herman's journey from Russia to Alaska?" (Let students answer. Bring forth these points: the conditions would have been far from luxurious on the very long journey. Also, Saint Herman was leaving his familiar home country for a vast, unknown land whose people whose had a culture that was completely different from his own. All this was a real effort to preach the Gospel, made for love of Jesus Christ.)


8

Reviewing Stories of Three Saints

Note: If you feel that you will not have time to do this review activity today, save it for the next session. Have students do the first part today--making their three papers--and tell them you will use these next time to review the stories of the three saints.

GIve each student three pieces of paper, and have them write a large letter B on one, R on the second, and H on the third. Students can do this with thick markers,  which they will share.

Have students stand. Read the following review statements one by one. Students should hold up the B paper for statements about Saint Barbara, R for statements about Saint Romanus, and H for statements about Saint Herman. (Answers follow the statements--the correct letter is given.)

1. A tower was my home. (B)

2. The Mother of God helped me become a singer (R)

3. I saw my father go crazy with anger (B)

4. I was laughed at in a big crowd, but I didn't give up (R)

5. I made the long voyage from Russia to Alaska (H)

6. The Mother of God cured me of a disease (H)

7. I was a deacon (R)

8. I was publicly tortured (B)

9. I grew my own vegetables and shared them with people and animals (H)

10. You will hear my songs in church (R)

11. An island was my home (H)

12. My relics are now in Kiev, Ukraine (B)

    Go over the answers together.


9

Marking the Advent/Nativity Fast Calendar

Give each student his or her copy of the December page of My Advent Calendar, and a choice of Christmas stickers. They can mark the feast days of Saint Barbara on December 4th and of St. Herman on December 13th. (Saint Romanus' feast day does not fall in the Advent period.)

Collect the calendar pages to use again in the final session.


10

Friendship Bracelets

Have students make these bracelets, as described in the Resource section.


11

Closing Prayer

(Have student stand.)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sing or say the words of the Prelude from the Nativity Kontakion together.

Today the virgin gives birth to the transcendent one,
And the earth offers a cave to the unapproachable one.
Angels give glory with the shepherds,
The magi journey with the star,
As for our sake He is born as a new child, He who from eternity is God


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Members of God’s Family (Ages 10-12)

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Overview

God's Family - We can learn much about the coming of Christ and the incarnation in the Old Testament, especially in the prophecy of Isaiah.
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Objectives

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

  • Recognize that the ancestors form a continuous line from the forefathers of the Old Testament to the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah.
  • Discuss some Old Testament prophecies and images of the coming of Christ and the Incarnation.

 

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Materials

  • Copies for each students of the Resource handout: Messages of the Promised Messiah
  • Icons and artistic representations of the ancestors of Jesus (Resources)
  • Example of a family tree (a picture in a book or on line, perhaps of a famous person--anything that shows students what a family tree looks like)
  • Chart with the words of the Nativity Kontakion, mounted on the wall for students to look at as you say or sing it for the Closing Prayer

 

For the Jesse Tree activity (# 4 in the Procedure for this lesson):

  • Card stock--have enough 5" by 5" pieces to make 12 ornaments for the tree. If you have more than 12 students, several students can make the same ornament. Have extra pieces in case some students need more than one try!
  • Scissors, hole punch
  • Pieces of string to hang ornaments
  • Thin and thick markers or crayons in various colors
  • Christmas stickers, star stickers
  • Large, clean branch with strong twigs or limbs that ornaments can hang on
  • Pot of sand, gravel or soil in which branch will stand firmly (or some other means of making branch stand)
  • 12 copies of the following readings, for students to read from: 

TWELVE READINGS FOR THE JESSE TREE

1. God gave Adam and Eve a beautiful Garden to live in and cultivate. When they disobeyed God and had to leave the Garden, He did not abandon them.

2. When human beings continued to sin, God sent a great flood to cleanse the earth. But the rainbow was the sign to righteous Noah that God would not destroy the earth again.

3. God promised the elderly Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, as many as the stars in the heavens. God's promises were also given to Abraham's son Isaac and to Isaac's son Jacob.

4. Moses was given strength to lead God's people, the Israelites, out of Egyptian bondage. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments as a law for the people to live by.

5. Years of  wandering followed. The Israelites finally settled in the land God gave them, but there was war, foreign domination and corruption. Still, God never gave up on  His people. He later sent them great leaders like David--a soldier, poet, musician and king.

6. But the people continued to disrespect God, and worshipped the idols of those who lived in the lands around them. God let them make their free choice, but sent prophets like Elijah to warn that it would lead to disaster, and to call the people back to holiness.

7. As Jeremiah and other prophets warned, the conquering armies of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. They took the Hebrews far from their homes, into exile and slavery.

8. Now God's people, the Israelites, were like the mere stump of a tree that God had  once carefully and lovingly planted. But the prophet Isaiah wrote: "A shoot will spring forth  from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots" (Isaiah 11:1). Jesse was the father of King David.

9. God did not forget the promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He brought the people back to their land, and forgave them, offering them another chance to be truly His people. Nehemiah led them in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and they did not fall into the worship of false gods again.

10. The people never fulfilled their dream of restoring the great kingdom they had once had. Harshly ruled by the Greeks and then the Romans, they became discouraged in the struggle to live up to their calling as God's people. But after many years, God would send a final prophet, John the Baptizer, who would come to "prepare the way of the Lord."

11. Mary went to the house of her cousin Elizabeth, who would soon give birth to her baby, John the Baptizer. Mary shared with Elizabeth the wonderful news: the angel had told her that she, too, would give birth.  Her child would be Jesus, the Son of God.   Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary, and called her "the mother of my Lord."

12. Jesus Christ was born. He was the Savior God had promised. God's plan was fulfilled. This is the plan that He has always had for all of us who live on earth.  We are all members of His family, and His loving will is for us to live with Him forever in His Kingdom.

----end---

 

 

Note: This activity calls for students to draw symbols of several Biblical figures. If you prefer, you can, for many of these figures,  find and use small icons.

You might consider having students rehearse this activity a few times. They could then present it to the parish.

Many Old Testament figures can be used for the Jesse Tree--we have chosen certain ones for this lesson. You can find several lists of possible figures on line, and you may want to have students look up some of these with their symbols, read about them in the Bible, and talk about how they fit into the long line of Jesus' ancestors.

 

 

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Display the icon of the Nativity, and the word chart.

(Have students stand.) Sing or say the Troparion together:

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!


2

Discussion Starter

If you decided to save the Reviewing Stories of Three Saints activity from last week, do it with students now, and then go over the correct answers.

Begin this week's procedure by putting this passage on the chalkboard:

The eternal purpose that God has carried out in Jesus Christ our Lord  (Ephesians 3:11)

Ask, "What do you think this passage means? How could you put it in different words?" (This may not be easy for students. Let them give their ideas. Bring forth the point that God has had a plan for us forever, long before Jesus Christ was born on earth. The plan was carried out, or fulfilled, when Jesus Christ came.)

Ask, "What part of the Bible tells us about some of the long, long years before Jesus Christ was born?" (Have one or more students open the Bible and pick out the very thick part that tells about the centuries before Jesus Christ was born. Make sure students can name this as the Old Testament.) Put the words Old Testament on the chalkboard.

Say, "One of the writers in the Old Testament who tells us the most about God's plan is the prophet Isaiah. Let's look at some of the things he said." Put the words Prophet Isaiah on the chalkboard.

Give each student a Bible, copy of the Resource Messages of the Promised Messiah and a pen or pencil. Divide the class into groups of three or four and let them work together to fill in the blanks.


3

The Words of Isaiah

Ask students, "What is a prophet?" (Write the word on the chalkboard. Let them give their ideas, and if necessary define prophet as a person whom God has chosen to tell people what God wants them to do. Sometimes a prophet warns; other times a prophet reminds people of God's promises. Write "prophecy" on the chalkboard and tell students that this word means the message from God that a prophet gives.

Emphase that prophets are not fortune tellers, though they do sometimes tell what God plans for His people in the future. Say that Isaiah, whose words you will be looking at, is one of the most important prophets.

Go over the first part of the Messages of the Promised Messiah sheet with students. There are several possible "attributes" of the coming Savior in verses 1-5, so students' choices may vary. Discuss their reasons for choosing the particular attributes they did.

Ask students what they think verse 3b means: "He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear." (Let students give their ideas. Emphasize that Isaiah is saying the Savior will have deep insight, and real understanding of people, not being impressed by outward appearances.)

Go over the four "wonders" students have chosen. These will come from verses 6-9, and again students may make different choices.  Give students a chance to answer these questions: "Which of the wonders would you most like to see? Which do you think is most important?" 

The four passages from Isaiah should be easy to fill in, even if the wording in the Bible you use are slightly different from those on the page. This is a good way for students to see that slightly different wording can still have the same meaning.

When students have finished, review a few points:

Isaiah 7:14 What is the sign that God Himself gives us? (A young unmarried woman  bears a son who is to be named Emmanuel, which means '"God with us."

Isaiah 41:8-10 What is the final promise God makes in this passage? (He promises that He will uphold you--meaning all of us--with His victorious right hand. The word "victorious" here means that nothing and nobody can defeat Him. This is a promise for all of us to count on through our whole lives.)


4

The Jesse Tree

Ask students, "What is a family tree?" Let them tell you, or supply the information,  that it is a record of generations in a family--the ancestors, grandparents, parents, etc. Show them the example you have brought.

Say, "The Jesse Tree is a way of remembering the human ancestors of Jesus Christ--the people who make His family tree. They are the people in the Old Testament, coming down through the generations to Jesus Himself. We remember them during this period of Advent, as we prepare for His Nativity." 

Read Isaiah 11:1 together. Tell students that this verse is the basis of the "Jesse Tree." Ask them what they understand about it. Bring out these points: Isaiah's words gave the people assurance that even the bad times they were going through would end. A "shoot" would grow from the "stump" of the tree of Jesse. This was a rather mysterious reference to a Person who would come and fulfill God's promises to His people.

Jesse, Jesse's son David, and other Old Testament people would be the ancestors of the Person referred to as a shoot or branch. This Person would be the Savior--Jesus Christ.

  • Explain that you are going to make twelve ornaments with symbols of some of these people to hang on the branch, which will be your Jesse Tree. Have students stand the branch in the sand, or however you are going to have it stand.
  • Give each student card stock, and have Bibles, scissors, stickers and markers ready for everyone to share. (If you have fewer than 12 students, each can make more than one ornament.) Ask them to write down the name, symbol and Bible reference you are assigning. (Be ready to help with this. You may want to copy the list below for reference.)
  • Have students make the ornaments by drawing the symbol on one side and the name on the other. They can cut their card stock into a shape they choose, or leave it as is. They can decorate their ornaments with markers and stickers. Assure students that their drawing work can be very simple. You may want to use the symbol patterns included in the Resource section for this lesson. You can also find patterns on line.
  • Make sure they leave a spot at the top for the hole and string to hang the ornament.
  • Have them look up and read the Bible reference to the person whose symbol they are drawing.

 

Symbols and Names. ( If more than one symbol is suggested, students can choose.)

1. Adam and Eve.  Symbol: Apple or tree with apples. Genesis 3: 20-24

2. Noah.  Symbol: Rainbow, dove, or ark. Genesis 8:20-22

3. Abraham.  Symbol: Sky with stars. Genesis 15: 5-6

4. Moses.  Symbol: Tablets with writing (Ten Commandments) Exodus 20: 1-17

5. David.  Symbol: Harp or shepherd's crook. II Samuel 5: 1-5

6. Elijah.  Symbol: Altar of stones. I Kings 18: 30-32

7. Jeremiah.  Symbol: Tears. Jeremiah 9: 7-11

8. Branch with leafy shoot. Isaiah 11: 1

9. Nehemiah. Symbol: Wall. Nehemiah 2: 17-18

10. John the Baptizer. Symbol: Scroll with words Behold, the Lamb of God. John 1: 29.

11. Elizabeth. Symbol: House or dove. Luke 1: 39-45.

12. Jesus Christ our Lord. Symbol: Manger or crown. John 1: 1-18.

 

When students have completed their ornaments, have them stand, and give each one a copy of the twelve readings. They can read in turn, and hang their ornaments on the tree as they read. (If you are too short of time to do this today, you can begin next week's session with this as a review.)


5

Jesus' Ancestors in the Bible and in Art

Together, look through Matthew 1: 1-17. Ask, "What is a genealogy?" (A record of ancestors and generations.)

Have students find a few names that are familiar to them. They will probably know Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ruth, Jesse, David and Solomon in the first part. Joseph and Mary are at the end, closest to Jesus.

Ask, "What event that we mentioned in the Jesse Tree activity is part of this genealogy?" (The deportation to Babylon.)

Look together at the icons and artistic representations in the Resources for this lesson. Then look together at the Nativity icon, and have students find the Jesse tree. (It is at the bottom center of the icon.)


6

Wrap Up

Practice together the greeting and response for the Nativity of Christ:

Christ is Born!   Glorify Him!

Ask, "What does 'glorify Him' mean?" (Let students give their ideas. Bring out the point that we praise and thank Christ for what He has willingly done for us. We acknowledge that He is the only One who could do this, because He is God.


7

Closing Prayer

Have students stand. Have the word chart mounted where students can see it.)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sing or say the words of the Prelude from the Nativity Kontakion together.

Today the virgin gives birth to the transcendent one,
And the earth offers a cave to the unapproachable one.
Angels give glory with the shepherds,
The magi journey with the star,
As for our sake He is born as a new child, He who from eternity is God


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God is with us (Ages 10-12)

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Overview

The Birth of Jesus Christ - God became man and lived among us - that is the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus.
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Objectives

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

  • Define the word "incarnation"by breaking it down into parts so as to understand and then combine the meaning of each part
  • Note some aspects of two Biblical accounts (Matthew and Luke) of the Nativity of Christ
  • Identify figures from the Old Testament and New Testament who are ancestors of Jesus Christ
  • Consider their personal efforts of  prayer, service, and help to others as gifts that they can offer to the incarnate Lord during the season of His Nativity that we celebrate

 

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Materials

  • Icon of the Nativity
  • Word chart for the Nativity Troparion, mounted so students can see it easily
  • Poster materials: For each group of 3 or 4, have a piece of poster board (any size you choose), markers/crayons in various colors, stickers, glue, and any small decorative items you like
  • Christmas stickers
  • Copies for each student of the Resource handout What Shall We Offer You, O Christ
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Procedure

1

Closing Prayer

(Have students stand.) Give each student a copy of  What Shall We Offer You, O Christ. Read it together as your Closing Prayer.

Ask students to take their copy home and think, over the days of the Nativity Season, about what they will offer Jesus Christ as their gifts.

Prayer, witnessing to Jesus Christ as Lord, service and help to others, donations of time or energy or money could be their gifts.

Encouarage students to consider the saints you have talked about in this unit of study as examples.

Remind students again to offer the Nativity greeting and response to others.

 

 


2

Opening Prayer

(Have students stand.) Have the icon of the Nativity and the word chart displayed so students can easily see them.

Sing or say the Nativity Troparion together.

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!


3

Review: The Jesse Tree

If you have saved the Jesse Tree reading activity for this week, you can do it now. Otherwise, review the Jesse Tree material by giving each student a copy of the twelve readings. Have them take turns reading a numbered item, and finding the corresponding ornament on the Jesse Tree you made at the last session.

Ask them to explain the meaning of the symbol on their ornament. (You may want to review the Bible passages to reinforce the meanings of the symbols.)


4

Review: The Nativity Icon and Troparion

Look at the icon together, and let students consult the word chart as needed. Review a few points from an earlier lesson:

  • What three phrases in the Troparion tell us Jesus Christ enlightens the world with truth? (Light of Wisdom, Sun of Righteousness, Orient from on high)
  • What does "Orient from on high" mean? (It refers to the place in the East where the light rises and comes from)
  • Where is Christ in the icon? (Lying, wrapped in white, near His mother. He is also shown being bathed--He was a real baby, cared for by others and needing to be bathed)
  • Who are the two male figures near the bottom of the icon? (One is Joseph, and the other is the devil, trying to convince Joseph that this baby is not really God's divine Son. The devil is depicted in various ways in Nativity icons--usually as a very unappealing figure.)
  • Have students find the Jesse Tree in the icon. There are often several trees or plants in the Nativity icon, with the Jesse Tree prominent among them, but not always easy to distinguish. The important thing for students to know is that the Jesse Tree, representing Isaiah's prophecy, is in the icon.

5

Poster

Put the following words on the chalkboard, in the order shown. Tell students the words are from the Nativity Troparion. Make sure everyone has pencil and paper, and as a fun challenge see who can quickly put the words in the correct order. (Students can consult the word chart.)

 adore  who  those  star  by  taught  a  worshipped  Thee  stars  to  were  the

(Correct order: those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to adore Thee)

Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4, and give each group poster materials. Have them use the words and the icon to create their poster, using their creativity to depict something that the words tell us.

The groups may come up with different ideas of what to put on their posters. They can design and decorate their posters as they wish to.

Plan to display the posters where parishioners can see them.


6

The Bible Record

Say, "The New Testament gives us two descriptions of the birth of Jesus Christ. Let's look at a few facts about each one."

Read together Matthew 1: 22-23, and then Isaiah 7:14. Ask, "Why did Matthew make reference to Isaiah's prophecy?" (Let students give their ideas. Bring forth the point that Matthew, a Jew, was especially addressing his Gospel to his fellow Jews. He wanted them to see that everything Jesus Christ did fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies that the Jews knew well.)

To reinforce the point, read Matthew 2: 14 and then Micah 5:2.

Read together Luke 2: 8-17. Say, "Shepherds were very low in the social order. Their job was dirty, poorly paid and not at all glamorous. Why do you think Saint Luke features shepherds as witnesses to Christ's birth?" (Again, let students give their ideas. Bring forth the fact that the inclusion of the shepherds reminds us that the salvation of God is for all people. He makes no distinctions.)

Glance together Luke's genealogy in 3: 23-38. Don't try to read through all the names, but do read together verse 38. Ask, "How does this verse show us that Jesus Christ's salvation is for all people?" (It calls Jesus the "son of Adam." Every person--not just those of one nation or people--is descended from Adam.)

Finally, read Matthew 1: 3-6. You have looked at these verses before, but this time ask, "Do you think it was usual in Matthew's time to include women in a genealogy?" (From the way you have asked the question, students will probably guess that the answer is no. Tell them they are right--the inclusion of women (Tamar, Ruth, Rahab and "her who had been the wife of Uriah", meaning Bathsheba) is another way we are being shown that God's plan of salvation is for everyone. Genealogies in the time of Matthew would usually include only men.)

The Resources for this lesson include the full accounts from Matthew and Luke, if you wish to use them in class.

 


7

Add Them Up!

As a review of the unit, write the following names and numbers on the chalkboard:

  • Romanus 6
  • Barbara 8
  • Herod 2
  • Nicholas 5
  • Elizabeth 1
  • Jesse 3
  • Abraham 4
  • Isaiah 6
  • Moses 3
  • Herman 7
  • Noah 2
  • David 4

Have the groups that worked  on posters continue together, and have each group quickly choose a team name. (If they dawdle, assign names.) Tell students you will read descriptions of people that end, "Who am I?" They should write down the the name and number of the correct person, for example "Moses 3."

Read the following four descriptions. (Correct answers are provided, but don't read them.)

a. God said I would be the father of many nations. Who am I? (Abraham 4)

b. My son was named David. Who am I? (Jesse 3)

c. I feared the newborn Jesus as a rival king. Who am I? (Herod 2)

d. I loved the Holy Trinity, but my father didn't. Who am I? (Barbara 8)

--Stop here, and have a representative from each team come up to the chalkboard, write the team's name, and below that write the total of their team's 4 answers.. When all the numbers are written, you can announce with a dramatic flourish, "The correct total is...17 !"

Continue with the next set of four:

e. My son was John the Baptizer. Who am I? (Elizabeth 1)

f. God gave me the Ten Commandments for His people. Who am I? (Moses 3)

g. I was a secret giver and a bishop. Who am I? (Nicholas 5)

h. I taught the Alaskan people about Jesus Christ. Who am I? (Herman 7)

--Call up a representative of each team again, and have them write their totals. Announce the correct total: 16.

Go on to the final four:

i. God showed me a rainbow as a sign. Who am I? (Noah 2)

j. I prophesied about the Savior. Who am I? (Isaiah 6)

k. I composed many Orthodox church songs. Who am I? (Romanus 6)

l. I was a poet, a soldier, and a king. Who am I? (David 4)

--Have the representatives write their numbers and announce the total: 18

              Go over the answers together. If some teams did especially well, acknowledge their work, or if all did equally well, commend everyone.


8

Nativity Season Greeting and Calendar

Practice the Nativity greeting and response:

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Encouage students to share the greeting and response with their families, parishioners, and others during the Nativity season.

Give students their December pages from the My Advent Calendar resource, and have them choose a sticker. They can mark the 16th for Saint Matthew the Evangelist (Gospel writer.)

Students can take their calendar pages home. Encourage them to note important events, or things they are doing to prepare for the Feast of the Nativity, on their pages.


9

Wrap Up

As students are  preparing for the Closing Prayer, put the word incarnation on the chalkboard. Ask students to define it. Say, "This is the word we use to describe what happened when Christ was born. God became Man."

Break the word down for them:

IN, when used before other words, means into or becoming

CARN means flesh

ATION means something that takes place.

So INCARNATION means that God comes into flesh, or becomes Man. He is at the same time always God. This is not easy to understand, but it is basic to our faith.


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