The Nativity Season


Introduction (Ages 7-9)

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 7-9)

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Overview

It’s Hard To Wait - 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 child." They will consider the concept of "waiting" and preparing for something important. The birth of Christ, the "light of wisdom," is the most important event ever to have taken place.
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Objectives

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

  • Give examples of things you had to wait to have happen (or to receive)
  • Describe how you felt and whether or not the waiting was difficult
  • Compare waiting for special events in your life to the Church waiting for the birth of Jesus during the Nativity Fast
  • Describe the importance of the preparation for the birth (nativity) of Jesus Christ
  • Identify people and things in the icon of the Nativity of Our Lord
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Materials

  • Bowl of treats (have enough for each child to choose one from among several. If you choose to have edible treats, be aware of children's dietary restrictions, allergies etc. You may choose instead to have non-edible treats such as Christmas trinkets or small puzzles
  • Copies of the blank November and December page from My Advent Calendar (a Resource for this lesson) for each child
  • Recording of the Troparion for the Nativity of Christ, and a player to play it in class.
  • Four pieces of card stock or heavy paper. On one card, in large enough letters for the students to read in class, write the first 2 lines of the Nativity Troparion (beginning with Thy--or Your if that is the word used in your parish--and Has.) On the second card, write the next 2 lines, beginning For and Were. On the third card write the next 2 lines beginning The and And. On the fourth card write the entire last line: O Lord, glory to Thee (or You). 
  • Chart with all the words of the Nativity Troparion, large enough for students to read in class. Again, use "thee" or "you" according to the way it is sung in your parish.
  • Tape
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Pre-made Advent Calendars (in the Resources for this lesson)
  • Christmas Stickers

 

  • For the "Waiting Game" (see #2 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 (put 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?

(Correct answers are in #2 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 students stand.) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

{Have the icon of the Nativity displayed where students can see it. Also have the chart with all the words of the Nativity Troparion where students can clearly see it.) Play the recording of the Nativity Troparion through a few times. Then, next to the chart, put up the card with the first two lines, and practice just these two lines with the students a few times.

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

Waiting and Preparing: Discussion and Game

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.


3

Discussion: The Nativity Troparion

Talk about the words of the Nativity Troparion, referring to the words on the chart.

Ask students to define "nativity." To reinforce the fact that "nativity" means birth, ask each student to state the date of his or her day of nativity. The "Nativity Feast" is the Church's celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on earth.

Ask students what other name we often give this feast. The answer, of course, is "Christmas."

Referring to the words of the Troparion, ask students to find three ways that Jesus is described as light. (The phrases "light of wisdom", "sun of righteousness" and "orient from on high" all describe Him in this way.) The "Orient" is the guiding light that rises in the East.

Ask students to what other name is often used for "Magi." The magi or wise men were astronomers who paid attention to the stars in the night sky, looking to them to find out what might happen in the world. They were brought by a special star to the cave where the baby Jesus, the holy Son of God, was born. So the Troparion tells us that the magi who "worshipped the stars" were taught by the star they followed to adore the "Sun of Righteousness," who gives true wisdom that no star in the sky can give.

Read together the story "The Star and the WIse Men", in the Stories section of the Resources for this unit. It's the 4th story on the 5th page of the Stories section. Ask, "Why was Herod so worried about the birth of Jesus Christ?" (He didn't want another king. He could not understand that Jesus Christ was not looking for political power.)

Ask,"What did Herod 'wait and wait' for?" (He hoped the wise men would tell him where to find and kill Jesus Christ. Such evil waiting was not rewarded by God.)

Ask, "What did Joseph and Mary have to wait for?" (They had to wait to return from Egypt to their home until Herod had died and could no longer threaten Jesus Christ.)


4

Nativity Icon

 Have the Nativity icon displayed where all students can see it well.

Put out the bowl of treats, and tell students that you're going to have a brief experience of waiting. Everyone can choose a treat at the end of class, waiting till then to do so.

Put the words "Advent" and "Nativity Fast" on the chalkboard. During Advent or the Nativity Fast, we are waiting for something--the birth of God's Son, Jesus Christ..

Look together at the icon of the Nativity.  Help the children identify the various figures in the Nativity icon: Mary, Joseph, the animals, the shepherds, the magi, and especially the anticipated baby Jesus.

We wait through the weeks of the Nativity Fast, until Christmas Day when we celebrate the birthday of Christ. Not until the day of Christmas will we hear the priest exclaim, “Christ is Born!” And we will answer, “Glorify Him!”

But what does it mean to “glorify” Him? When we answer, “Glorify Him,” we thank God, like all those in the icon. We are joyful because Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, has been born so that He could be here in with us to help and save us.

Write the greeting and response on the chalkboard. Practice them with the class.


5

Advent Calendar

Give students their copies of the blank November and December pages from the Resource for this lesson, entitled My Advent Calendar. Have them put their names on both sheets.

Say, "We said that Advent is a time of waiting for the Nativity Feast. How do calendars help us wait and prepare?" (They mark the days, and we can put marks on them to remind us of how we need to prepare for things that are going to happen.)

Ask students what days are marked on calendars at home--birthdays, appointments, etc.

Have students choose stickers and mark November 15, the beginning of Advent or the Nativity Fast, and Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity, on December 25. The days in between are the period of the Fast, or Advent.

Ask students about some ways we can prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, such as prayer, fasting, and serving others by helping them, praying for them, and being kind to them.

Collect the calendar pages to use in an upcoming lesson.

Give students each pencil and paper, and ask them to write one way they will try to serve others during the time of Advent, as Jesus Christ served all of us when He came to be with us and save us.


6

Optional Activity

Students could create a paper chain, which they add to each week, of things they plan to do during Advent to help and serve others. They could also add links of a different color of things they have done during this time.


7

Wrap Up

As students are preparing for the Closing Prayer, ask:

  • How can the Advent calendar help you wait for the Birth of Christ? (Marking off the days can help us see them getting to be fewer.)
  • Sometimes, does waiting for something make it even better when it comes? (Students may have varying opinions.)

Next:

  • Review the meaning of the word "nativity" and the terms that apply to Jesus Christ in the Nativity Troparion.
  • Enjoy the treats together. Praise the students for waiting.

8

Closing Prayer

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

Repeat the procedure for the Opening Prayer. 

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 7-9)

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Overview

St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia - The life of St. Nicholas gives an outstanding example of helping others without seeking thanks or praise. We also can associate acts of charity with the real St. Nicholas and help students not to confuse him with the more familiar Santa Claus. 
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Objectives

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

  • Compare and contrast the acts of getting/giving.
  • Retell some generous acts of St. Nicholas
  • List ways we can imitate St. Nicholas and his acts of charity
  • Give a simple definition of the word "saint"
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Materials

  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ (use all throughout this unit)
  • Card stock in various colors for students to make thank you cards
  • Crayons, markers, pens,stickers to decorate thank you cards
  • Map showing the country of Turkey (can be a book page--just to point out Turkey on a map while telling the story of St. Nicholas' life)
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Have the Nativity icon displayed where students can see it, for this and all Opening Prayrs and Closing Prayers in the unit.

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

Follow the same procedure as in the previous lesson, but put up the card with the second set of lines (starting with "For" and "Were") and practice those. Then put up the card with the first two lines, and practice all four lines.


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

Giving and Receiving

Ask, "Have you ever received a gift without knowing who it was from?" Have students answer, and then ask, "Have you ever given a gift secretly, so that the person didn't know it was from you?" Talk about this, then ask, "Why would someone give a gift secretly?" Let students answer. (Possible answers: Not wanting to embarrass the recipient, feeling generous and not looking for thanks, etc.)

Read together Matthew 6: 2-4. Ask, "What is Jesus Christ saying here about the things we have talked about?" (Let students answer. Bring out the point that 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.)


3

The Life of St. Nicholas: Story and Icon

Have the icon displayed where students can easily see it. Say, "This is the icon of a saint. What is a saint?" (Let students answer. Bring out the point that a saint is a man or woman who loves God and tries hard to live the way He wants us all to live. If your church is named for a saint, mention that saint's name.)

Ask students, "What do you think are some things a saint might do?" (Let students answer. Mention, if they don't, such things as praying, being loving to others, not trying to pile up money or possessions for themselves.)

Tell the students you are going to read about a saint who was famous for giving gifts secretly, and ask them to give the saint's name if they can. Read them the following story of the life of St. Nicholas. You may want to gather them together to sit on a rug, in a circle of chairs, or in some other special way, 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 would wish 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 men on the ships to leave some wheat for his starving people. They refused, because they were worried that they would get in trouble if they arrived at Constantinople with less than full loads. But the bishop promised them that they would have no problem.

The men trusted this bishop so famous for his goodness and mercy. They 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.


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 keep your boat from sinking.' 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 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.)


5

Thank You Cards


Ask each student to think of someone--a family member, a friend, or someone in the church community--to whom they would like to offer thanks for something. Have each student choose a piece of card paper or stock, fold it, write a message to the person, sign the card, and decorate it with markers, stickers, and any other materials you have brought.

Have the students think of ways they might be able to deliver the cards in secret, as Saint Nicholas delivered his bags of gold for the three girls and their father. (It may not be possible for some or all of them to do this in secret, and that is all right.)

Ask students to think, during the coming weeks, of helpful things they might do for others for which they may not be thanked. Remind them that God is always made joyful when we are kind and helpful.


6

Optional Activity: Shoes Filled with Treats

Some cultures leave shoes out so that St. Nicholas can fill them with treats. This could be done outside the classroom door during class for a wonderful surprise. Or you might consider holding a festival for the church school close to the saint's feast day on December 6. The students could leave shoes out at the beginning of the festival. During the festival, the children could make banners of St. Nicholas to be used for the Festal Liturgy in a procession of church school students before the Little Entrance.(See the Resources for this lesson for very simple directions on banner making, or look on line for ideas.)


7

Wrap Up

As students are cleaning up and preparing for closing prayer, put this line from the Troparion for St. Nicholas on the chalkboard:

Your poverty enriched you.

Ask, "What do you think this line means? How could poverty--which means having or owning very little--make a person rich?" (Let students answer. Help them see that by giving his time, energy and money to others, working for them, even saving them from starvation and death, St. Nicholas received blessings from God. Those are the real riches.)

Say, "Saint Nicholas was a bishop. We have a bishop, too. Who is our bishop?" (Let children answer; provide the name of your DIocesan bishop if they cannot, and show his picture.)


8

Closing Prayer

Follow the same procedure as in the Opening Prayer. putting up the card with the second set of lines (starting with "For" and "Were") and practicing those. Then put up the card with the first two lines, and practice all four lines.

(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.


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The Winter Saints (Ages 7-9)

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Overview

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

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

  • Tell basic facts about the lives of Saints Romanus, Barbara and Herman
  • Define in very basic terms the word "Kontakion"
  • Identify Saint Romanus as the composer of the Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ
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Materials

  • Resource Download: Kontakion, Nativity of Christ. In the Resources for this lesson is an MP3 file of the Kontakion which you can download and burn to a CD for use in class
  • Resource handout: St. Herman Handouts for each student
  • Icons of St. Romanus
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Icon of St. Barbara
  • Blue or gray crayons (any shades) for each student to have one
  • Picture of the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul/Constantinople (this is easily obtained in a book or on line)
  • A rolled-up paper, on which you have drawn lines and some musical notes, to represent the musical scroll used by Saint Romanus
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Have the Nativity icon displayed where students can see it.

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

Follow the same procedure as in the previous lessons, but put up the card with the third  set of lines (starting with "The" and "And") and practice those. Then put up the cards with the first two and second two lines, and practice all six lines.


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

Things We Want to Do

Ask students to name some things they would like to be able to do well, or be good at--perhaps music, drawing or writing, sports or other skills and arts. Put their answers on the chalkboard in a numbered list.

Go through the list and let students suggest ways in which a person could become good at each thing. Add their answers to the items on the chalkboard. They will probably mention such things as consistent practice, having the right equipment and finding good teachers.

Ask, "Can we ask God and His saints to help us become good at something we really want to do?" (Let students answer. Bring out the point that God has given us the talents and abilities we have. If we are willing to work hard, practice, and listen to teachers, God and the saints will be with us in our efforts.)

Say, "Let's learn about someone who had something he really wanted to do. He prayed for a saint's help, and also worked hard and practiced. His name is Saint Romanus."


3

The Life of Saint Romanus

Gather students in a circle, perhaps sitting on the carpet. Display an icon of Saint Romanus while you tell the following story.

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. (end)

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 church songs.)

The Resource section has several icons of Saint Romanus Look together at some of these. Ask students to note details that vary in the icons: the deacon's stole or orarion,  the censer that a deacon (or priest) uses to cense the church during the Divine Liturgy, the musical scroll.


4

Story Review

Display the icon of the Nativity, and play the recording (see Resources for this lesson) of the Kontakion for the Nativity of Christ, or Christmas Kontakion, a few times for the class. Tell students that this is the best-known church song of Saint Romanus. Say, "The words tell us that when Jesus Christ was born on in a cave, lying next to His Mother, the shepherds and magi or wise men came to worship Him. This newborn baby was also the Son of God. He came to be with us and to give us life with Him forever."

As a brief story review, have students stand. (Have the musical scroll near at hand.) Say, "Let's review the story of Saint Romanus. I will ask some questions. Rather than answer in words, you can act out something, or sing "la la la" if singing answers the question."

  • Say, "The first time Saint Romanus tried to sing and read in the great church of Hagia Sophia, how do you think it sounded to the people there?" (Let students have fun singing off key, putting their hands over their ears, talking so fast their words can't be understood, or whatever response they choose.)
  • Ask, "How did Saint Romanus feel then?" (Sad face.)
  • Ask, "What did Saint Romanus do next?" (Act out praying, perhaps with hands folded, or looking up, or both.)
  • Ask, "What did the Mother of God tell him to do?" (Act out eating a scroll.)
  • Say, "The next day Saint Romanus sang in church again. How do you think it sounded this time?" (Nice-sounding singing.)
  • Say (with the musical scroll clearly in children's view), "Point to something that tells us what Saint Romanus did after that." (Scroll--he wrote church songs or hymns.) Say, "Yes, he wrote many beautiful church songs or hymns that we still sing today. The most famous one is his Kontakion for the Nativity of Jesus Christ."
  • Say, "Saint Romanus was a deacon. We have deacons in many of our churches too. What is something a deacon does in church?" (Act out swinging a censer, or reading from the Bible.) If need be, remind students of the censer seen in the icon of Saint Romanus and tell them that deacons also read from the Bible and help the priest during the service in other ways. If you have a deacon serving regularly in your parish, ask students his name or tell them his name.)

Put the words Nativity, Hymn, and Kontakion on the chalkboard. Have students define them as well as they can. Supply definitions as needed:

  • Nativity: birth. (Ask, "Do each of you have a day of nativity?" Let students answer--they should remember from the first lesson that their day of nativity is their birthday.)
  • Hymn: a more formal word for a church song. It is a prayer we sing.
  • Kontakion: a special kind of hymn, like a poem with music.

Note: Just for your own interest, not to use in class, you may want to consult the Resource handout The Life of St. Romanus for more details. Also in the Resource section is the lengthy Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ. Though the children are too young to study this, you may be interested in looking it as an example of St. Romanus' writing. Note its many Biblical references and the way they are tied to our experience as Christians.


5

Saint Barbara

Say, "Let's find out about one of the saints who has her feast day during this period of the Nativity Fast. What's another name for the Nativity Fast?" (Let students answer: Advent. Supply the word if they have forgotten. Put "Nativity Fast" and "Advent" on the chalkboard.)

Gather the students, and read the story of Saint Barbara. Have the black and white icon of Saint Barbara (in the Resource section of this lesson) displayed as you read.

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

Barbara's pagan teachers were allowed to visit her. Pagans worship many gods, and Barbara's father wanted his daughter to learn to be a pagan as he was. 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. She wondered who made all these wonderful things.

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

Her father had other ideas. He wanted her to get married, 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."

Barbara's father decided that Barbara had been alone too much. He allowed her to go into the city. There she met Christians who could answer her questions about the Maker of all things. They taught her about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A priest who was visiting the city told her that Jesus Christ is the Savior. The priest baptized Barbara.

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

Her father, when he came 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 statues and would not worship them.

This made him so angry that he grabbed a sword and began beating her with it. She escaped and ran into the street, but her father found her. Unable to believe that his own daughter would disobey 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. People standing around could see that they were praying and thanking God. Their faces showed that they were not afraid. They were ready to go and be with God. --end--


6

Saint Herman

Give each student a set of the Resource entitled St. Herman handouts, and a gray or blue crayon. On the map showing Saint Herman's travels from Russia to Alaska, have students color the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea.

When they have finished coloring, ask, "What would the temperature be like on a ship coming over the northern waters you have colored in?" (Let students answer. Of course it would be very cold, and quite rough with the northern winds.)

Say, "Let's read the story of Saint Herman, who made that trip so that he could tell the native people of Alaska about Jesus Christ." Read the story together, and look together at the iconographic picture of Saint Herman. Your group may also want to sing the folk hymn about the saint.


7

Advent Calendar

Give students their December pages for the Advent calendar, and have them each choose two stickers. They can mark the feast of Saint Barbara (the 4th) and the feast of Saint Herman (the 13th.)

Collect the calendar pages to use in the fifth and final class session of the unit.


8

Wrap Up: The Nativity Greeting and "Friends of God"

Practice the Nativity greeting and response:

            Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Review the meaning of "Glorify" from the first lesson.

If you wish, you may send home copies of the black and white icon of Saint Barbara (in the Resource section) with students, to color at home.

Ask students, "Why do you think some people refer to saints as 'friends of God'?" (Let them give their ideas. Bring out the point that by trying to live as God wants us to, not lying or being fake, saints are friends to God because He never lies and is always the same. The saints also want to be close to Him, so they pray. A friend is someone we want to be close to. Students may come up with many more ideas.)


9

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 Ancestors of Christ (Ages 7-9)

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Overview

We Are All God's Family - We are members of God's family. Like Jesus, we have ancestors.
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Objectives

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

  • Recognize that grandparents and earlier relatives are our ancestors: those family members who came before us
  • Identify some ancestors of Jesus Christ
  • State that we all are members of God's family, whom He loves
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Materials

  • Icon  of Joachim and Anna
  • Icon of the Nativity of Christ
  • Inflated beach ball or other object for "Four Saints" review (see the Materials list in the first lesson of the unit for suggestions of items to use)
  • Copies, for each student, of the stories "Isaac and His Sons Jacob and Esau" and "A Happy Reunion." To find these, go to the home page of the Department of Christian Education, and find Teacher Resources. In the "Stories" section, the first story on page 1 is "A Happy Reunion." The 6th story on page 3 is "Isaac and His Sons Jacob and Esau."
  • Chart with the words of  Saint Romanus' Kontakion on the Nativity, to display so students can see the words
  • Recording of the Kontakion to play, and player (as for Lesson 3)

For the "Flowers for My Family" activity:

  • Basket-type coffee filters (have plenty; two per flower and enough for students to make flowers for the members of their families)
  • Watercolor paints in various colors (have a good supply of red, since students may want to make red flowers for the Christmas season)
  • Brushes to paint
  • Green chenille stems, one per flower (these are available in craft stores--similar to pipe cleaners but longer--usually 12 inches)
  • Cups for water to rinse brushes in
  • Ribbon to tie bouquets of finished flowers together
  • Scissors--strong enough to cut stems, and enough pairs for students to share
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Resources


Optional Resources
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Have the Nativity icon displayed where students can see it.

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

Follow the same procedure as in the previous lessons, but put up the card with the last line of the hymn ("O Lord, glory to Thee") and practice it a few times. Then put up all the cards and practice the whole hymn.Say or sing 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!


2

Review: Four Saints

Say, "Over the past few weeks we have talked about four saints. Can you tell me their names?" (Let students answer, then supply any names they can't come up with.  Put the four names on the chalkboard: Saint Nicholas, Saint Barbara, Saint Romanus, Saint Herman.)

Have students stand in two lines, about three feet apart. Tell them that you are going to read sentences that tell something about each of the four saints. The person who has the ball should name the saint.

Throw the ball to a student, and read the first sentence. The student with the ball answers and throws the ball to someone on the opposite side. (If the student answers incorrectly, make a note of it but have the student throw the ball anyway.)

Read through all the sentences one by one, having the students throw the ball back and forth between the two lines. Then go back and repeat any that were answered incorrectly. If students seem very unsure of some answers, review more details. (For example, ask: "Why did Barbara's father kill her?" Because she would not worship his gods that were only statues.)

Sentences with correct answers:

1. A tower was my home (Barbara)

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

3. I helped a father who needed money for his daughters (Nicholas)

4. You hear my songs in church (Romanus)

5. I made the long journey from Russia to Alaska (Herman)

6. I was a bishop (Nicholas)

7. The Mother of God cured me of a disease (Herman)

8. I asked for three windows instread of two, to show God's light (Barbara)

9. I was the first American saint in the Orthodox Church (Herman)

10. My own father had me killed (Barbara)

11. I was a deacon (Romanus)

12. Sailors on ships prayed that I would guide them (Nicholas)


3

This is Your Family

On the chalkboard, write the following words as shown:                                        

                                                   ANCESTORS

Grandmother and Grandfather                           Grandmother and Grandfather

                                            Mother and Father

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

                                                        YOU

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

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

Say, "You and I, all people have ancestors." Circle the word "ancestors."  Ask students to name a few of their ancestors--grandparents and perhaps great-grandparents.They might also tell of a way they are like an ancestor--perhaps a physical resemblance, or a character trait. You could share some of your own ancestry too, if you wish to.


4

Jesus’ Family and Ancestors

Ask, "Did Jesus Christ have a family?" (Students should know that Mary is Jesus' mother. Though He is God's Son, Joseph took care of Him during His growing up like a father.) Put Jesus' name under "Mother and Father" on the chalkboard.

Ask, "Who were Jesus' grandparents?" (Let students supply the names Joachim and Anna, or tell them if they don't know.)  Put the names on the chalkboard near "Grandmother and Grandfather." These are Mary's parents. Look together at the icon of Joachim and Anna.

Ask, "When do we hear the names of Jesus' grandparents, Joachim and Anna, in church?" (Let them answer, or tell them, that these two are remembered as part of the dismissal prayers at the end of the Divine Liturgy.)

Ask, "Did Jesus have human ancestors?" (Let students answer. They may know that we find two records of Jesus' ancestors in Matthew 1: 1-16 and Luke 3: 23-38.) Look together at Matthhew 1: 1-2.  Ask, "Who are the first ancestors mentioned?" (David, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.)

Now look together at Luke 3: 23-38. Have students skim through the names and find Abraham, Isaac and Jacob here. (They are in verse 34.) Ask, "How is the listing different here from the way it is in Matthew's Gospel?"  (It goes "backwards" from Jacob to Isaac to Abraham, rather than "forward" From Abraham to Isaac to Jacob.)

Ask students to find David's name in Luke's list. (It is in verse 31.)

Say, "All these names tell us that Jesus really did come to be with us, and to share our life. He had ancestors and a family, just as we do."


5

Going Deeper: Jacob and His Brother

Give each student a copy of the story "Isaac and His Sons Jacob and Esau" (see Materials for this lesson.) You may choose to read the story yourself to the class, or to have students who like to read take turns reading.

When you finish the story ask the class, "Do you think Jacob is a wonderful person?" (Let students give opinions. Of course Jacob is far from perfect--students may say they don't even like him very much. Point out that God has a plan for everyone, including people like Jacob, who need to change a lot.)

Say, "Let's find out how this story of the two brothers turns out." Hand out copies of "A Happy Reunion" and read it together.

Ask, "How does Esau's forgiveness help Jacob?" (Let students give opinions. Sometimes when we are forgiven rather than condemned by the person we hav sinned against, it helps us to become better people. We want to be more like the person who forgave us.)


6

Flowers for My Family

Say to the class, "Having a family is important--Jesus shows us that, because He had a family and loved His family. For some of us, our families are our parents and brothers and sisters. Others have people who love and care for them--they are not parents, but they are still our family."

Tell the class you are going to pass out materials so each student can make a flower for each member of his or her family. (Be aware of those children who may not be cared for by parents--these children can make flowers for those who care for them, or who are close to them.)

Cover the work surface, and pass out coffee filters (2 per flower), scissors, paint,  brushes, and cups of water for rinsing brushes. Have the green chenille stems ready at hand.

Directions:

  • 1. Flatten coffee filters.
  • 2. Have children choose colors (one or more--they may wish to use red shades for the Christmas season) and paint one side of the filters, varying the shades by thinning some paint with water, and leaving some paint unthinned.
  • 3. Cut 2 inches off each stem, and set aside both pieces of each.
  • 4. Blow-dry the painted filters so they are thoroughly dry.
  • 5. Fringe the ends of the filters by cutting into them with scissors,  leaving the center intact.
  • 6. For each flower, put two painted filters together so the painted sides are on the outside and the unpainted ones are on the inside.
  • 7. Insert the larger piece of chenille into the center of the joined filters, about 1 1/2 inches. Hold onto the small end of the stem, and turn the flower upside down so the long end is sticking up.
  • 8. Grasp the center of the filters and gather it around the small end of the chenille stem.
  • 9. Twist the smaller piece of chenille around the gathered filter to secure the flower in place.
  • 10. Turn the flower back over and fluff the petals as needed. You may also want to bend the short end of the chenille into a ball in the center of the flower.
  • 11. Tie the flower stems together with ribbon to make a bouquet.
  • 12. Tag or mark each bouquet with the student's name.

7

Wrap Up

As students are cleaning up and preparing for the Closing Prayer:

  • Review the meaning of the word "ancestors."
  • Practice the Nativity greeting and response, and encourage students to share it during the feast: Christ is Born!   Glorify Him!
  • Give students their bouquets to take home.


8

Closing Prayer

(Have students stand.)

Display the chart with the words of the Christmas Kontakion and play the recording so students can hear it and see the words at the same time.

Ask, "What words in this hymn tell us that we are part of God's family, that He loves us as His own family members?" (Let students answer. Bring out the words "for our sake"--everything Jesus did was for our salvation. Everything was done so we could have eternal life with Him. That is how much God loves all of us--we belong to His family.

Close by saying or singing the words of the Kontakion together.

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, and the magi journey with a 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 7-9)

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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:

  • Identify the main characters present at the birth of Jesus
  • Review important words from the lessons of the unit
  • Recite the Nativity greeting and response: Christ is born! Glorify Him!
  • Describe in simple terms the events of the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple

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Materials

  • Small icon of the Nativity of Christ for each student – laminated as a gift
  • Copies of the Resource sheet "What shall we offer Thee, O Christ" for each student
  • 6 pieces of card stock, about 4" by 8", for each group of 3-4 students
  • Markers, thick and thin, and crayons for students to share
  • Christmas stickers plus others (stars, dots, moons, shapes, etc.) Have enough for students to mark 2 days on their Advent calendars and also some to take home
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Display the icon of the Nativity, as well as the word chart. Say or sing the whole Troparion together.

(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

The Icon and the Troparion

Have the class look together at the Nativity icon. Go over these points and questions:

Why is Jesus shown twice? (He is shown next to His Mother, and also is shown being bathed, which reminds us that He came as a real baby needing to be cared for.)

Where is Joseph, and who is with him? (He is on the left lower part of the icon. With him is a figure representing the devil, trying to convince him to believe that this newborn Baby is not really the Son of God.)

Where are the shepherds, wise men, and angels? (Have students point these out.)

Read together Isaiah 1: 3, a vision that the prophet Isaiah had. Ask, "Where do you think these words are reflected in the icon?"  (The animals, the ox and ass or donkey, are shown next to Jesus' crib, the manger. They know Him to be the Master.)

Next, have students look at the words of the Troparion on the chart, and review the three places where Jesus Christ is compared to light.

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.

Say, "Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, was born just the way we are. She had a mother and a father, just as we do. Mary's parents were quite old when she was born--they had to wait a long time to have a baby. (Pause for a moment.) We said the names of Mary's  parents when we were talking about the ancestors of Jesus Christ. What were their names?" (Students may not remember the names. Put "Joachim" and "Anna" on the chalkboard, and look together at the icon of Joachim and Anna.)

Say, "Let's hear a story about Mary's growing up, and the special thing she did when she was still a little girl. We remember this special thing she did on a day in December--it is one of the winter feast days of the Church." Read the story that follows.


3

A Winter Feast Day

The Entance of the Theotokos in the Temple

You remember that Joachim and Anna waited a long time to have a baby. They prayed for many years that God would grant them the gift of a child. When Mary was born, they were quite old. How glad they were that God had finally answered their prayers!

Joachim and Anna knew that Mary was meant to serve God in a special way. How did they know this? An angel visited them and told them that God had planned long ago what this little girl would do when she grew up.

Anna and Joachim knew that Mary would have to be carefully prepared for such special service to God. So they promised Him that they would bring Mary to the Temple to live. There, every day, she could be with holy people who loved her. They would show her how to serve God, and how to pray. She would be prepared to be the Theotokos, the Mother of God. And later she would give birth to Jesus Christ our Lord.

Her parents thought and thought about the best way to take Mary to the Temple. Joachim wanted to take her when she was two years old, but Anna felt that they should wait a bit longer so she would not miss them so much. So when Mary was three, her parents walked with her to the Temple. Many relatives and friends came along, too. They carried lighted candles and sang as they walked along, so that Mary would not feel afraid or worried.

Even though she was so very young, Mary walked up the Temple steps by herself. At the top the priest Zechariah met her, wearing his colorful robes. She walked to him, and she wasn’t afraid. She didn’t cry for her parents to take her home.

Then something happened that surprised everyone. One part of the Temple is called the "Holy of Holies." People were very respectful of this place. In fact, nobody ever entered it except the High Priest, and he only did it once a year. So Zechariah shocked everybody by taking Mary, this little girl, right into the Holy of Holies!

People whispered to each other. They said, "How can she be going into that special place? What is a little girl doing there?" But Zechariah understood that Mary had an important part in God's plan. He knew that God wanted her to be prepared in the Temple. He knew that one day she would give birth to Jesus Christ.

Mary stayed in the Temple for twelve years. The holy people there taught her how to pray and how to live a life that would please God. Then, as she grew into a young woman, she was engaged to Joseph. Later, Joseph would take care of her and of the divine Son, Jesus Christ.

After you finish the story, give students their November pages from "My Advent Calendar" and let them choose two Christmas stickers. They can mark the feast day, Novermbr 21st. Put the name of the feast day on the chalkboard: "The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple." (Ask students what "Theotokos" means, and if they are not sure, tell them it means "the one who gave birth to God.")

Then say, "When we talked about the ancestors of Jesus Christ, we read the words of two New Testament books telling who His ancestors were. One book was written by Saint Luke. Who wrote the other book? (Let students supply the name, or tell them, and write "Saint Matthew" on the chalkboard. Read together Matthew 1:16. Then let students mark November 16, feast day of Saint Matthew the Apostle, on their calendars with a sticker.)


4

Word Review

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.

Review these other words, asking students to supply the definition of providing it if they cannot

Advent: another name for the Nativity Fast, the period of preparation for the Feast of the Nativity or Birth of Jesus Christ.

Prophet: a person who speaks for God, or tells God's people what He wants them to do.

Ancestors: Our family members who came before us; grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.


5

Our Gifts

Have the Nativity icon displayed.

Give each student a copy of the Resource "What Shall We Offer You, O Christ." Go through the "givers" and "gifts." Most are easy to point out in the icon.The "wilderness" which offers the "manger" refers to the fact that Jesus Christ was born in a relatively unprotected and "wild" place, rather than a warm, clean and familiar home.

Ask, "What does it mean to say that we offer Christ His Virgin Mother?" (Let students answer. Mary is one of us, a human being born just as we are. Therefore she is offered by the whole human race--she says "yes" to God's plan for all of us.)

Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4. Give each group 6 pieces of card stock, markers, crayons, and stickers. Have them write one of the "gift" words on each of their pieces. They can also add a simple illustration of the gift, if possible. ("Wonder" and perhaps "cave" might be difficult to illustrate, but encourage them to use their imaginations and do so if they wish to!) Depending on how long your class session is, put a reasonable time limit on the time they have to draw. 

Collect the "What Shall We Offer You" papers, so that students will be working from memory rather than looking at their papers. Then read the "givers" one by one, and tell the groups to have one member stand and hold up the matching card for each one.

Finally, ask: "What do we, all the people in the world, offer?" (Let students supply the answer, a Virgin Mother.)

Write the word "pre-eternal" on the chalkboard. Students will probably not be able to define it. You can tell them that it means that Jesus Chirst, who came as a baby, was also the Divine Son of God. Obviously this is not something these children (or any adult) can fully understand, but it is good to let them hear this basic truth of our faith at an early age.


6

Wrap Up

Practice the Nativity greeting and response: Christ is Born!  Glorify Him! Encourage students to use it during the season.

Give students their Advent Calendar pages and a few stickers to take home. Encourage them to add events, notes, or markings for special days as the Feast of the Nativity approaches.

Give them the "What Shall We Offer You, O Christ" pages to take home. Remind them that it speaks about the gifts the world offers to God. We, too, should offer Him gifts. (Ask students to name some possible gifts. Suggest such things as prayer, kindness to others, and sharing the good news of His Birth with everyone we can.)

Give students their laminated icons to take home.


7

Closing Prayer

Display the icon of the Nativity, as well as the word chart. Say or sing the whole Troparion together.

(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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