The Nativity Season


Introduction (Ages 13-17)

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.)

Great Expectations (Ages 13-17)

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Overview

Our Expectations - Students will consider 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 discuss the concepts of expectation and preparation--especially preparing to “meet the Lord.”
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Objectives

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

  • Acknowledge that sometimes we must modify our expectations
  • Compare and contrast the Winter Pascha to Great Lent
  • Identify ways the services and hymns of the Nativity Fast help us to prepare for the Feast of the Nativity in a spiritually healthy way
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Materials

  • Resource handout: The Gift of the Magi (one per student)
  • Resource handout: The Winter Pascha (one per student)
  • Resource handout: He is Approaching, He is Coming (one per student)
  • 5 x 8 Index Cards (one per student--if you choose to do the optional activity)
  • 2 Gift-Wrapped boxes, 1 small and 1 large, i.e. a jewelry box and a shoe box. In the larger box have something heavy but not valuable (perhaps a rock with paper or packing material surrounding it so it won't move); in the small box a small icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Markers and colored pencils
  • Christmas stickers
  • Glitter, glue, or any small decorative materials to put on  the index cards if you choose to do the optional activity
  • Chart with the words of the Nativity Troparion, which is the Opening Prayer. (Note: On the OCA website in the Liturgical Music section you can find words and music for the Troparion.) For the chart and the prayer, use either Thee/Thou or You/Your according to the custom in your parish.) You may want to designate a certain area in the room, with icon and candle, as the place in which your class prays together.
  • Poster board for each group of 3-4 students to make posters
  • From magazines and/or on line, copies of various secular ads for Christmas. Choose those that show a commercialized view of the holiday. Have copies for each group of students.
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

(Have the icon of the Nativity of Christ displayed where students can see it. Have the chart with the words of the Nativity Troparion put up so students can review the words if they need to.)

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

Sing or say the Troparion 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: Again, 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

Discussion Starter

Show the class the two gift wrapped boxes you have prepared. Then:

  • Ask the class what they might expect to be inside each box. List their ideas on a chalkboard or chart. .
  • Ask: “Based on your expectations, which box would you choose as a gift?” Then those who wish to can tell you their expectations. Some might say that the large box, being rather heavy, is more likely to contain something good. Tell the class you will open the boxes at the end of the lesson.

   Invite any students who would like to to write on the board a situation or event about which they had high expectations (perhaps a holiday, a birthday, a visit to or from someone, a trip, a class with a certain teacher, a book or movie, etc.)

 


3

Discussion Questions

Ask students to look at the words they have put on the chalkboard. Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4, give each group paper and pencil, and have them each choose a person to record some general ideas from their discussion (not every word.) Ask them to do the following:

Have a few volunteers who wrote on the board describe the event or situation their words on the board refer to.

Ask: Were their expectations satisfied, or were they disappointed?

Ask: What happens to us when our expectations are met? What happens when our expectations are disappointed? How does satisfaction or disappointment affect our future behavior? (Does disappointment make us lower our expectations? Does satisfaction make us have higher expectations--that things will always get better and better?)


4

Short Story

Distribute copies of the short story, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. Read it together. (Students can stay in their groups.)

Talk about these questions together:

What were Jim and Della's expectations?

Were their expectations realistic?

Do you think they dealt well with their disappointed expectations?

What do you think they will do next?

What do you think they should do next?

Let students give their own answers. There may be an interesting  variety of opinions, which could make for an interesing discussion with no right or wrong answers.

 


5

Activity: Christmas Expectations

 

After reading "The Gift of the Magi" discuss the following:

  • What are some of the things you expect as Christmas draws near?
  • Do you think your expectations are realistic?
  • Are there things in our society that encourage unrealistic expectations? (Bring into the discussion such points as the efforts of advertisers to make us spend a lot, and to feel cheap if we don't; the sense in the media that Christmas is mostly about parties and fun; the absnece of any time for quiet reflection.)

Give each group several copies of the Christmas ads you have found. Have each group make a poster and create a title. The title can express the group's own feelings about Christmas, or about the way our societyviews it.

Plan to hang the posters in the classrom, or in a place where parishioners can see them.


6

The Winter Pascha

Distribute and read together the Resource handout The Winter Pascha.

Compare the verses that are listed side by side. Ask, "How are the Christmas verses similar to the Pascha (Easter) verses?" Bring into the discussion the point that the Christmas verses tell us of Jesus' divinity and at the same time His humility. For example, the verse, "God who in the beginning fashioned the heavens lies in a manger."

The Paschal verses lead Him from humility to actual suffering and death. He is "pierced with a sword" and "nailed to a cross." So Christmas is the beginning of His plan to come to us, teach us, suffer, and be crucified. The plan ends in victory when He rises from the dead and promises us eternal life, too.

So our real Christmas expectation can be eternal life--the greatest of all possible gifts--because of the plan that begins with the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


7

He is Approaching. He is Coming.

Distribute the Resource handout He is Approaching, He is Coming

Read the verse together, and ask what students think it means to call Jesus Christ "the expectation of the nations." Bring into the discussion the point that a Savior had been promised for many ages, in many cultures. Yet the true Savior, Jesus Christ, was different from what many people expected.

Read the Bible passages and discuss the mistaken expectations some people had of Jesus Christ as Savior:

  • Herod (Matthew 2: 7-16) Herod expected that the Savior would seek political power and would be a threat to Herod's own power.
  • The disciples (Acts 1:6) The disciples expected that Jesus would free Israel from Roman authority.
  • Peter (John 13: 5-8) Peter did not expect the Savior to do a very humble task like washing the feet of His own disciples.
  • The disciples (John 4: 27) The disciples did not expect Jesus to ignore the rules about a rabbi (a Jewish teacher) talking to a woman alone in public.

Remind students that we as Christians have a special expectation of Christmas: it is the beginning of God's plan to be with us, teach us, die and rise again to give us eternal life through the Resurrection.


8

Optional Activity

Have each student choose a verse from He is approaching, He is Coming and write it on a card. They can decorate it with stickers and glitter if they choose to, and take it home to keep close at hand. The card can serve as a reminder of what we anticipate and expect during the Nativity Fast, also called Advent--the time of waiting and preparation for Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.


9

Wrap-Up

As students are cleaning up and preparing for the Closing Prayer, open the two gift boxes and discuss the contents. Ask students whether the contents surprised them. The small box, containing the icon, is another reminder of the greatest gift Christmas can bring us--the birth of Christ, leading to His Resurrection and our promise of eternal life with Him.


10

Reflection

Ask students to think about how the period of preparation, the Nativity Fast or Advent, can help us to have good and realistic expectations of Christmas. Bring into the discussion that the Fast gives us:

Words of prayer, such as the ones we have talked about today, that can be the basis of our own prayer.

Church services which remind us of the real gift--eternal life.

Time--some weeks in which we are asked to slow down and really think about God and His gifts, as well as our families and loved ones. The Nativity season shouldn't be lost in a rush of buying and partying.

The fast itself. Fasting helps us become open to God's presence because our bodies (and souls) are not "weighed down" with rich food. Fasting also helps us really enjoy the feast when it comes. To emphasize this point, share a story about Archbishop Dmitri of blessed memory. He was a hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America:

At a parish coffee hour, a child asked Abp. Dmitri whether he preferred plain donuts or the ones with frosting and sprinkles. He answered that he preferred the donuts with frosting and sprinkles. He said, "Because we Orthodox fast, and give up fancy foods for certain periods of time, we should really feast when we feast. The fancy donuts--the ones with frosting and sprinkles--are good for feasting!"


11

Closing Prayer

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

Sing or say the Troparion 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!

You may wish to review words again, as follows:

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: Again, 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.


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Showing God's Love (Ages 13-17)

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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 the acts of charity with the real St. Nicholas, rather than the fictionalized character of Santa Claus so familiar in our world. Understanding the true nature of St. Nicholas in Myra and Lycia helps us to prepare for to meet the Lord. 
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Objectives

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

  • Retell the life and works of St. Nicholas
  • Distinguish the differences and/or similarities between St. Nicholas and popular ideas about Santa Claus
  • Recommend several ways in which you and other members of your parish can serve the needs of others, following the example of St. Nicholas
  • Select and commit yourselves, as a class, to a service projectin the parish. This might be cleaning the grounds or an area of the building; keeping in touch with shut-iins or older parishioners; planning events for the young children. Make plans with the parish priest and parish council, and get permission from your students' parents for whatever you decide.
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Materials

 

  • Resource handout: Troparian and Kontakion of St. Nicholas
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Icon of St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia
  • Map (easily found in a book, or on line) showing the country of Turkey
  • Copies of the following "Story of Saint Nicholas" for each student:

 

The Story of Saint Nicholas

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 raised him to love God and to care about other people. Nicholas had a great sadness early in life--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. And he could always be counted on to be in church on Saturday evening, Sunday, and any other day there was a service. So 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 had to face new problems after he was set free. He was one of the bishops who attended the Council of Nicaea, where clergy from all over the world gathered to ask the Holy Spirit to guide them in choosing the right words to express the Church's teachings. One person present at this Council was a man named Arius. He was clever, and able to speak well to a crowd of people.

But Arius had some dangerous and false ideas. He was trying to convince everyone that Jesus Christ is not the divine Son of God, but just a man created by God like every man in the world. He talked and talked, with his smooth words and clever phrases.

Finally Nicholas couldn't stand any more lies from Arius. He stood up, went over to Arius, and slapped him in the face!

Of course Nicholas knew this wasn't the right thing to do, and the other bishops at the Council were shocked that a bishop would do such a thing. They even took away his rank as a bishop. But the Mother of God appeared to them all in a vision, and told them to give him back his rank. They did so.

Nicholas 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 been told 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.

Sometimes St. Nicholas, as bishop and guardian of his people, had to deal with government officials. He once heard about a governor who had condemned three men to death for terrible crimes. But the men were actually innocent--the governor had accepted a bribe, and was willing to execute them in exchange for a big sum of money. Nicholas went to the place where the men were to be put to death and ordered the executioner to stop. By a miracle, he did so and the men went free.

Then Nicholas went to the office of the governor and confronted him with the dishonest thing he had done, almost taking three lives for money. He convinced the man to repent, and prayed with him for God's forgiveneness.

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.  END

 

Note: The Resources section of this lesson contains several biographical and hagiographical materials about Saint Nicholas. You may want to add some details from these materials as you tell the story, or simply read them for your own edification.

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Have the icon of the Nativity displayed, as well as the chart with the words of the Nativity Troparion.

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

Sing or say 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!

You may wish to review some of the words, as you did last week.


2

Discussion Starter

Begin by asking the following:

  • What are all the things you can think of that you know about Santa Claus? (List students' comments on the chalkboard or butcher paper)
  • Where do you think most people get their information about Santa Claus if they are not regular churchgoers?
  • Do you think the information most people have about him is complete, or accurate? Why or why not?

Bring into the discussion that there is very little similarity between Santa Claus and the real St. Nicholas. Point out, for example, that "Mrs. Santa Claus" has now become a popular fictional figure, even though the real St. Nicholas was a celibate and a bishop. But any child who ever believed in Santa Claus will not be disappointed to find out that the real saint on whom the legend is based--St. Nicholas--was kind, courageous, and much loved.


3

The Story of St. Nicholas

Distribute copies of "The Story of Saint Nicholas." Tell the story, or have students (those who like to read out loud) take turns reading. (Note: As an optional activity outside of class, you may want to get and show the A & E Biography Film or Biography Channel Film "Santa Claus" about the life of St. Nicholas and the development of the character of Santa Claus.Many public libraries have this item. Its cover is shown in the Resources list for this lesson.).

Introduce the story by saying, "Let's find out more about the real Saint Nicholas.


4

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 steer your boat." 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.


5

Digging Deeper: Saint Nicholas

Hand out copies of the Troparion and Kontakion for St. Nicholas. Talk together about the phrases "your humility exalted you" and "your poverty enriched you." Ask students what they think these phrases mean. 

Ask, "How could these phrases apply to our lives?"  Ask whether these words apply to the way our society and culture encourage us to live. (Let students give their ideas. Bring forth the fact that we are encouraged to seek money, fame, enjoyment and self-satisfaction. Saint Nicholas sought none of these things--yet his life was more full and satisying than the lives of many people.)


6

Scripture and Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think St. Nicholas gave gifts anonymously?
  • Is it hard to be anonymous in doing good things? Would you be willing to do things that would help others, and that were costly to you in time, effort, and money, and never have anyone know that it was you who did those things? What are some reasons to be anonymous, and are there any reasons NOT to be anonymous?

Let students give their own answers.

Read together Matthew 6: 2-4. Ask, "What is Jesus Christ saying here about the things we have talked about?" (He is saying not to look for praise, or to do things with receiving praise in mind. Rather, do them because you love God and other people. Try to help students understand that when Jesus speaks about God rewarding us, He means that God responds to our love with His love, just as people respond to others' love with their own love. Jesus' words do not mean that God measures our love and then gives some tangible reward for it.)

Give each student pencil and paper to write down something they will do anonymously for another person during the coming weeks. They can keep this confidential, not sharing it with you or anyone else in the class.


7

Service Project

Ask students to think of ways they might be of service to the parish. Some possibilities are listed in the Objectives for this lesson.

Put students' suggestions on the chalkboard, and list things you will need to do. Those would include making your plans with the pastor and the parish council, as well as parents. All these people need to be in agreement with your plans.

You may also need materials or tools, a schedule, and any other arrangements necessary for the project you choose.


8

Wrap-Up

Remind students to think about their private pledge to do an anonymous service, and about their corporate project.


9

Closing Prayer

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

Sing or say 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!


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The Winter Saints (Ages 13-17)

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Overview

Saints Are Special People Who Are Friends of God - Knowing about these winter saints helps students to know Christ, and prepare for His birth.
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Objectives

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

  • Describe the life and work of St. Romanus the Melodist
  • Identify some parts of St. Romanus'  Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ
  • Tell the basic story of the life of Saint Barbara the Greatmartyr 
  • Tell the basic story of the life of Saint  Herman of  Alaska

 

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Materials

  • Resource: Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ (text)
  • Resource download: MP3 file of the Kontakion which you can download and burn to a CD for use in class, with CD player
  • Resource: St. Herman Handouts
  • Icons of St. Romanus
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • For the "Fill in the Facts" Game (see Procedure #4) 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________.

f. I was a ________ for the faith.

 

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.

f. Unlike many male saints, I was never _________.

 

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 6 words:

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

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

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.

 

  • Copies for each student of the following story of the life of Saint Barbara:

Greatmartyr Barbara

In the early fourth century, a rich and well-respected widower 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. He built a tower for her to live in.

Her pagan teachers were allowed to visit Barbara, 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. The result was the worst thing that he could ever have imagined. Barbara 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 enlightened her heart and mind by telling 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.  END

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

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

The Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ

Play the prelude to the Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ.  Then, distribute copies of the text of the Kontakion. Have students find these parts of the Kontakion:

  • prelude
  • stanzas or oikoi (strophes)
  • refrain.
  • Have them check to see how many stanzas are in this kontakion.

Answers:

  • The prelude begins "Today the Virgin..." T
  • The first stanza begins "Bethlehem has opened..."
  • The refrain of each stanza is "a little child, God before the ages"
  • There are 24 stanzas

Read together the 22nd stanza. Ask, "What is the 'trinity of gifts' that the Mother of God asks her Son to accept?" (The gold, frankincense and myrrh brought to the baby Jesus are mentioned in the 21st stanza.) 

Ask, "What three gifts does the Mother ask her Son for?" (Temperate seasons, growth of fruits and crops, the well-being of all people. Note that all three gifts are for the benefit of every human being. The Mother of God is our loving, concerned mother as well.)

Look again at the Prelude. Ask students what they think the last words mean: "to us there has been born a little Child, God before the ages." ((Let students give their ideas. Bring forth the point that the words are telling us that we have received the greatest possible gift. God loves us enough to come and be one of us, to be born a little Child. But He is the eternal God, and His coming means we can have eternal life.)


3

The Life of Saint Romanus

(Display the icon of Saint Romanos as you tell 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 students you can still visit it, though unfortunately it is no longer a church.) 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. Every word he fumbled over echoed in the high, open space of the church. Several people laughed at him. Finally, another reader had to take his place.

Romanus was very unhappy. He wanted so much to be able to read in church, and to do it properly. But maybe he would never be able to. He knelt with his head in his hands and prayed before the icon of Mary, the Mother of God, and told her how sad and humiliated 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 students 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 not just to read prayers and Scripture properly--he could sing. He felt inspired to hymns, putting the words he loved to music. 

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 ..." (Make sure students know, as they probably do, 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. Of course, this didn't happen quickly. He had to practice, and spend many hours to get better at singing and writing church hymns. The Mother of God had given him a gift, but it was not magic. He still needed to work hard to get good at what he wanted to do.

By the time Romanus 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.

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

In the Resources section for this unit are several icons of Saint Romanus. Look at them together, and ask students to find details that show he was a deacon (censer, stole) and one that shows he composed music (scroll.)


4

Saint Barbara and Saint Herman: Fill in the Facts

Say, "Let's see how quickly 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 6 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."


5

The Life of Saint Barbara

Display the icon of Saint Barbara, and give each student a copy of the story of Saint Barbara's life. Read the story to the group, or have a student read or have students take turns reading.


6

The Life of Saint Herman

Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4, and give each group a set of the Saint Herman handouts (life story, icon-style picture, and map of his travels.) Have them read the story together (taking turns, or choosing one person to read), and ask them to look at the map and picture. Ask each group to write down three things they find most significant in his story.

When everyone has finished, each group can share their choices of significant things with the rest of the class. 


7

Looking Deeper: Saint Herman

Note the long journey traced on the map of Saint Herman's travels.

Ask, "What would conditions have been like in Saint Herman's day for a journey like that?" (Conditions were difficult, and travel was slow. So the lengthy trip was a huge physical effort. In addition, he left all that was familiar in Russia to go to a vast, unknown land.)

Saint Herman did all of this to bring the Gospel to people whose culture was completely different from his own. Encourage students to think about the enormity of this saint's effort and sacrifice.


8

The Poetry of a Kontakion

Give students an opportunity to look more closely at the poetry of Saint Romanus'  Kontakion.

Look together at Oikos 13, and ask students to find six references to light and fire.     Answers:

  • Shining One
  • lamps
  • spark
  • Persian fire
  • all-devouring fire
  • fire which brings dew

Next, ask students to think about how these words and phrases describe light in different ways. Suggested answers:

 Mary is the "Shining One" who obeys God and is honored as the mother of HIs Son.

The wise men or magi are "lamps" because they have been enlightened by learning   that Jesus Christ, not the gods of their Eastern empires, is the true God.

The newborn Jesus Christ is a "spark"--a small light which can still enlighten the world.

"Persian fire" refers to the fireworshipping people of  Persia. (The Chaldeans, Persians and Babylonians are all related peoples.)

"all-devouring fire" describes false worship, the worship of fire, which can only destroy the worshipper.

"fire which brings dew" describes the worship of the true God. He is like light and fire, but His fire does not destroy. It is like dew, like a blessing, for the one who loves and worships Him. Look together at the reference, Daniel 3:46-50.

This kind of poetry, in which the same thing is described in different ways, is common in the worship texts of the Church. Ask students to listen for examples in the hymns and prayers they hear during the Divine Liturgy and other services.


9

Wrap Up

As students are preparing for the Closing Prayer, review the meaning of the word Kontakion.

Remind students that after his humiliating failure to read and sing in church on Christmas Eve, Saint Romanus did not give up.

Encourage them to ask for God's help when they are trying to do something difficult.


10

Closing Prayer

(Have students stand.)

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

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

Note: You may want to check that students understand the meaning of both "tranzcendent" and "unapproachable" here. "Transcendent"  means that Jesus Christ is divine and glorious, beyond any thing or being on earth.

"Unapproachable" means unmatchable or unequaled. We can always approach God in prayer, with proper respect and awe. He is not "unapproachable" for us in the sense of not allowing us to be in communion with Him.


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Members of God's Family (Ages 13-17)

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Overview

God's Family - By learning about the genealogy of Jesus, we are reminded that He truly became man and shared our life so as to show us the path to salvation.
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Objectives

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

  • Identify some of the human ancestors of Jesus Christ
  • State that God's plan for salvation began in the Old Testament and was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as shown by the Jesse Tree
  • Relate Jesus' human ancestry to our own ancestry
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Materials

Icon of the Nativity

Bibles, enough for every or every other student to use

Butcher paper

Thin and thick markers in various colors, small stickers, scissors, tape for students to share

Card stock for students to have 5" by 5" pieces to make ornaments (enough for at least 16 pieces, plus extras)

Copies of the list of readings below

 

 

SIXTEEN READINGS FOR THE JESSE TREE

1. Adam and Eve lived in harmony with God in the Garden He gave them. Even when they disobeyed Him, so that it was no longer possible for them to stay in 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. Through Isaac, the son of Abraham, God rewarded Abraham's trust. Having told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, God also told him that his line would continue through Isaac (Genesis 21: 12). So God provided a ram for sacrifice.

4. Jacob, Isaac's son, also received a promise from God. He saw a ladder reaching to heaven and heard God say, "I am with you and will keep you wherever you go."

5. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers because he was a braggart, and very much his father Jacob's favorite. But he rose to prominence in Egypt, and greatly helped the people. His brothers later met him and asked his forgiveness. Like Jesus Christ, Joseph gave his forgiveness to those who had mistreated him.

6. 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.

7. War, conquest, and corruption were all part of the life of the Israelites over many years. There were leaders among them, though, such as Deborah. She judged, or governed, Israel while sitting "under the plam tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill counry of Ephraim; and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment" (Judges 4:

8. God's blessings were not only for the people of Israel. The Old Testament tells us about Ruth, a woman of Moab, who was faithful and loving, and who adopted the true God of her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth married a good man named Boaz. They were the parents of Jesse.

9. God gave His people He also gave them great leaders like David, the grandson of Ruth and Boaz, and son of Jesse. David was a soldier, poet, musician and king.

10. But the people continued to sin, and forgot God. They 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.

11. 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.

12. 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, and then King David, would be the ancestors of this "shoot" and "branch"--God's promised Savior.

13. God did not abandon 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.

14. 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."

15. 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."

16. 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

 

 

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Resources


Required Resources Optional Resources
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Display the Nativity icon and, if necessary, the word chart.

(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!


2

Ancestors

Ask, "Do you or another family member have an interest in genealogy--the record of your generations of ancestors?" (Let students answer.)

Ask, "What do you know that's especially interesting about one of your ancestors--perhaps a distant one, or a closer one like a grandparent?" (Let students share interesting things about their family members.)

Ask, "Where do we find a record of the human ancestors of Jesus Christ?" (Let students answer, or supply the answer: there are two genealogies in the Gospels, in Matthew 1: 1-17 and in Luke 3: 23-38.)


3

Jesus Christ's Human Ancestors

Have students read through Matthew's genealogy and find familiar names. Students will recognize Ruth, David and Solomon, and possibly others.

Ask, "Why does Matthew begin his genealogy with David and Abraham?" (Matthew is addressing his Gospel especially to fellow Jews. He wants to make the point that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and promises that they know well.)

Glance together at 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. So Jesus Christ is the Savior for all people. Luke is a Gentile and wants to stress this to fellow Gentiles.)

Finally, reread Matthew 1: 3-6. 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 realize that the answer is no. Tell them they are right--the inclusion of 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 of the time would usually only include men.)

Ask, "Is there anything else that Tamar, Ruth, Rahab and Bathsheba have in common besides being women?"  (Let students answer, or supply the information that they were Gentiles, not members of the people of Israel. This again shows us that Jesus' salvation is for everyone.)


4

The Jesse Tree

Ask students, "What is the Jesse Tree?"  Let them explain, or explain to them, that it is a traditional way of showing how God's promise of salvation came down through the people of the Old Testament and was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Read together Isaiah 11:1. This is the basis of the Jesse Tree. Ask students, "What do you think the stump and the shoot refer to?" Let them explain, or explain to them, that this prophecy of Isaiah came at a bad time for Israel. The people had strayed far from God and had been conquered by foreign enemies. They were like a mere "stump" of what had once been a tree lovingly planted by God.

But in this bad time, Isaiah prophecies that there will be a "shoot" and "branch" that will grow from this "stump of Jesse."

. The Church sees this as a prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ the Savior. Jesse, the father of King David, will be one of His ancestors.


5

Creating a Jesse Tree

Have students begin by drawing, outlining, or coloring a large Christmas tree shape on the butcher paper. (The tree should be large enough to have 16 "ornaments" of the size described in the Materials list fit on it, or around it. It need not be formal-looking. The shape can be as simple as a large triangle with a block for a stem, or it can be more elaborate if students wish.) Mount the tree shape on a wall.

  • Explain that you are going to make sixteen "ornaments" with symbols of some of these people to attach to the hang on the poster board tree,  which will be your Jesse Tree.
  • Give each student card stock, and have Bibles, scissors, stickers and markers ready for everyone to share. Then assign the 16 symbols to students. Have them write down their assigned symbol, plus the name and Bible reference. (You might also copy the list below, for reference.)
  • Divide the assignment of the 16 ornaments according to the size of your class. Each student can make 2, or several if your class is small.
  • Have students make the ornaments by drawing the symbol on the card stock, which they can either cut into a shape they choose, or leave as is. They can decorate their ornaments with markers and stickers. Assure students that their drawing work can be very simple. In the Resources for this lesson there are patterns for some of the symbols, and others are available on line.
  • Be sure students look up and read the Bible reference to the person whose symbol they are drawing. 
  • When everyone has finished making ornaments, have the class stand. Give each person a copy of the 16 Readings, and have each person read the piece that goes with his or her ornament, and then attach the ornament to the tree with a small loop of tape.

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. Isaac.  Symbol: Ram. Genesis 22: 1-14.

4. Jacob. Symbol: Ladder. Genesis 28: 10-15.

5. Joseph. Symbol: Multicolored coat. Genesis 45: 4-8.

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

7. Deborah. Symbol: Palm Tree. Judges 4: 4-5.

8. Ruth. Symbol: Bundle of straw. Ruth 2: 1-9.

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

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

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

12. Isaiah. Branch with leafy shoot. Isaiah 11: 1

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

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

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

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


6

Review: Saints Romanus, Barbara and Herman

Divide the class into two teams, and have the teams stand about 3 feet apart. Tell them you are going to read statements about the three saints Romanus, Barbara and Herman. Tell them you'll start by throwing the beach ball to someone and reading a statement. The person holding the beach ball will say whether the statement is true or false.

Give a point for a correct answer, or no point for an incorrect answer. (Keep score as you go.)

The person with the ball then throws to someone on the other team, and you read the next statement. Try to see that everyone gets at least one turn, and make sure that the two teams get the same number of turns.(If your class is very large, you could do half the statements with part of the class in teams, and then do the second half with the rest of the class in teams.)

Statements and Answers:

  1. Saint Barbara was th daughter of a Christian priest (False, a pagan)
  2. Saint Herman was Russian by birth (True)
  3. Saint Romanus was embarrassed by his inability to paint icons well (False; by his inability to sing and read well in church)
  4. Saint Herman did miracles (True)
  5. Saint Barbara discovered the true God by reading books her mother gave her (False; she discovered God when she met and talked with Christians. Her father was probably widowed)
  6. Saint Romanus served in the great church at Constantinople (True)
  7. Saint Herman was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 60 (False; he was never ordained)
  8. Saint Barbara asked her father not to pressure her about getting married (True)
  9. Saint Herman made his own pillow and blanket from the down of a goose he fed each day (False; he had no bed, pillow or blanket--only boards to sleep on)
  10. Saint Romanus was a deacon but did not become a priest (True)
  11. Saint Barbara had builders tear down a wall to let light in as a way of honoring the Holy Trinity (False; she had them build a third window on a wall to let light in and honor the Holy Trinity)
  12. Saint Herman often had wild animals nearby because they trusted him (True)
  13. Saint Romanus is best known for his Kontakion on the Transfiguration of Christ (False; he is best known for his Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ)
  14. Saint Romanus asked the Mother of God to help him (True)
  15. Saint Barbara was a martyr for the faith (True)
  16. Saint Herman worked to bring the faith to the native people of Arizona (False; Alaska)

           Go over the answers together.


7

Wrap Up

 

Ask, "Why do you think the Church emphasizes the fact that Jesus' Christ had human ancestors?" (Let students answer. Bring out these points: The long generations of Jesus' ancestors show us that God has had the plan of our salvation being worked out for a very long time. Also, these ancestors show that the Incarnation is real--God truly did become Man for us.)


8

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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God is with us! (Ages 13-17)

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Overview

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

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

  • Explain the meaning of the word "incarnation"
  • Examine the significance of gold, frankincense and myrrh in the Bible
  • Review the symbols and names on the Jesse Tree
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Materials

Note cards with envelopes for each student (note cards should be the kind that fold over)

Thin and thick markers in various colors

Christmas stickers as well as other stickers (stars, moons, dots and other shapes, etc.)

 

 

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Display the icon of the Nativity.

(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!

After saying or singing the Troparion together, review words as you did in previous lessons, if you feel it is necessary or would be helpful to students.


2

Review: The Jesse Tree

Have at hand the names and Biblical references of the figures whose symbols are on the Jesse Tree.

Taking the symbols one by one, ask students to identify the person associated with each,  and what the symbol means.

Ask students to think about the variety of people who are Jesus Christ's human ancestors. Give a few examples of people who might surprise us:

  • Jacob was a trickster who deceived his own father to get the blessing that rightly belonged to his brother Esau.
  • Ruth was a foreigner, and came from one of Israel's real enemies: the Moabites.
  • Joseph was such an annoying braggart that some of his brothers, jealous of him as the favorite of their father, were ready to kill him.

Encourage students to consider that God never abandoned or gave up on these people. We are the "modern" members of Jesus Christ's family, and He will never abandon or give up on us, either.

 

 


3

The Wise Men's Gifts

Say to the class, "We know the three gifts that the wise men, or magi, brought to the newly born Jesus." (Let students name gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then read together Matthew 2: 11.Note with students that gold is a sign of royalty and Christ is the King; frankincense shows us that Christ is the High Priest because incense is related to worship; myrrh was used to anoint the dead and Christ gives His life for us.)

Continue, "These things are referred to in the Bible at other times, too. Let's look at some of these references."

Divide the class into three teams, giving each team a Bible, paper and pencil or pen.

  • Exodus 30: 34-38
  • Isaiah 59: 20-60:6
  • Psalm 141 (140): 2
  • John 19: 38-40
  • Exodus 30: 7-8

Next, write these questions on the chalkboard:

1. When is Aaron to offer incense?

2. Where do we read that myrrh is used for the dead?

3. What should people not do with incense offered to God?

4. Where do we read of incense and personal prayer together?

5. Where do we read of nations coming with gifts to Zion?

Have each team work together to find the answers to these questions from the Bible passages on the board, and write their answers. See which team can finish first, with the best or most complete answers.

Discuss the following correct answers:

1. Aaron is to offer incense in the morning and the evening. (Exodus 30: 7-8.)

2. We read this in the passage from John (19: 38-40.) When the wise men brought myrrh as one of their gifts, it told the world that part of God's plan was that Jesus would die and be buried with myrrh. Read together Mark 14: 3-9 to see Jesus' own words about this.

3. In Exodus 30: 34-38 we read that they should not make perfume for themselves. What we offer to God should be a real offering, not something from which we take a benefit for ourselves. Anything offered to God should be treated as holy. We should not casually use it for our own adornment.

4. Psalm 141 (140): 2 speaks of incense and prayer together.The Bible frequently associates incense with prayer, so we do the same in our churches today by burning incense at times of prayer.

5. Isaiah describes the nations bringing gifts to Zion, the new Jerusalem. The "new Jerusalem" for Christians is the Church, with Jesus Christ as its head.

 


4

Digging Deeper: Isaiah

Look again at Isaiah 59:20-60:6. Ask, "These verses are seen by the Church as a prophecy of the time when Jesus Christ will come to save the world." Do the words remind you of anything we talked about when we discussed the Old Testament people whose symbols are on the Jesse Tree?" Here are some points for discussion:

These verses mention several places. The people in those places are different from each other--they are of various tribes and countries. Yet they will all will welcome in the New Jerusalem.

The ancestors of Jesus Christ were different from each other, too. Some were more virtuous than others. Some were from tribes and countries that weren't friendly to Israel. Yet God included them in the human family tree of His Son. In a similar way, all the various lands and people mentioned in Isaiah will be welcome, and will become one, in God's Church, the New Jerusalem, which Jesus Christ established by His coming.

Ask students, "SInce we are part of God's Church established by Jesus Christ, what responsibility do we have?" (We are called to welcome others, including those not like ourselves, as God has welcomed people who are different from each other, in His Son's family tree and in the Church that His Son established.)

 


5

Digging Deeper: The Psalm

Look again at Psalm 141 (140) verses 1-4. Ask, "Does this psalm tell us that when we offer incense and our prayer to the Lord, we have done all we need to?"

Let students answer. Points to discuss: The speaker, King David, prays that God will help him do more than just offer incense. Ask, "What does the speaker want to avoid doing?" (He wants to avoid doing wicked things, or being in the company of those who do. In asking God to "set a guard" over his mouth, he also is asking God to help him avoid saying bad things, gossiping, etc. Try to get students to give these answers, or answers similar to these.)

Ask, "Why do you think these verses were chosen to be sung during our Presanctified Liturgy, the Liturgy that is done during Great Lent?" Let students answer. Bring out these points: During Great Lent we are making a special effort to avoid doing the things that are not good for us, not good for our relationship with God. So these verses are especially appropriate--they describe things we will try not to do.

Give each student a note card and envelope. Remind them that in an earlier lesson they each made a private pledge to do a service to someone else. Ask them, this time, to write about something they will try not to do--something they will try to avoid doing-- during this Nativity Lent.

After they have written their plan in their closed note, have them share the materials you have brought to decorate an envelope. They should make it bright and attractive enough to call their attention to it, and to remind them of what is inside. Nobody else needs to see what they have written, but they will have the note to look at.


6

The Incarnation

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 together by asking students what each syllable means:

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. The Feast of the Nativity celebrates the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.


7

Wrap Up

Practice the Christmas/Nativity greeting and response:

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Encourage students to use and exchange the greeting during the season of the Nativity.


8

Closing Prayer

(Have students stand.)

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

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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