God With Us, Love With Us
Welcome to our Christmas Kaleidoscope!
We began by looking closely at a selection of pictures from story books and artworks… we shared what we noticed about the ways these pictures showed us something about Christmas…
There’s the first Christmas when Jesus was a baby.
Some have Mary and Joseph.
That’s a family being together at Christmas.
They all have some nature in them.
The pictures that show Mary and Joseph with Jesus as a baby are pictures about the story that first began the celebration of Christmas. On that first Christmas, something exceptional happened. God wanted to show that God is with us, that Love is with us. God coming into the world to be human like us was an amazing way to show us about love.
We have lots of ways that we celebrate Christmas. Some of the things people do at Christmas aren’t about love – they are about making money at the shops or ignoring things that matter. But many things people do ARE about the ways that love is with us.
When we show kindness to others, we are celebrating love.
When we remember to include people, who might feel left out or lonely at Christmas, we are celebrating love.
When we make special gifts for others, we are celebrating love.
When we are joyful and thankful for delicious food and generous presents, we are celebrating love.
When we do something thoughtful for someone we don’t even know, we are celebrating love.
At Christmas we remember that God is with us and so Love is with us. We can all look for the ways that we notice how love is with us.
Children shared ways in which they might receive love and offer love at Christmas time:
Giving presents and receiving presents
Giving everyone in my whole family a hug
Making cards for my friends
Spending time with my family
Cooking for others
Making special things for my teacher
Giving presents to people who need a hand
As we lit our candles, we remembered that at Christmas we often say that God brought light into the world…
Our first story today was Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle (by Glenda Millard & Stephen Michael King). This story is set in rural Australia, in an area damaged by drought and fire. The story shows ways in which friends and neighbours gather to make Christmas day special, by sharing the little they have with each other. The message is that Christmas comes from the heart.
Children made mini gift boxes with messages of unexpected gifts of love. In the story, people shared simple things – gifts in a shoe box, a fruit create for a cradle. In the same spirit, children decorated plain, little boxes to make them into something special.
Then children tucked notes inside their boxes – with messages of love or offers and kind offerings to do things for others…
Our next story was The ABC book of Christmas (by Mark Macleod). This book tells the traditional Christmas story but with each part illustrated by different Australian illustrators. The pictures add new dimensions to the words and paint a beautiful story.
Children then made all kinds of celebratory Christmas things; for their homes and families, for friends and for relatives:
Christmas shape decorations
Cards for friends and family
Our concluding story was God’s Dream (by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Douglas Abrams & LeUyen Pham). This story reminds us that God’s dream for people is that we welcome and love one another, that we share and forgive and care for each other, through the difficult times and the happy times.
We remembered together that the message of Christmas is that God is with us, Love is with us. God’s dream for people has always been about love – God created a beautiful world for people to live in, God created each person who has ever lived, God sent Jesus to show us more about living in loving ways and God still lives in our hearts helping us to feel loved, see love and show love.
Children shared the things they had made this afternoon and who they were for. We celebrated the the way this would show kindness to others, the way this celebrated love in our world.
To conclude, we paused and thought about the people we know who are sometimes tricky to get along with or lonely or in need of a helping hand. We quietly named them to ourselves. Then we held out our hands and imagined their names held in our hands. We committed to showing them some kindness this week, as a way of showing love in the world. Some children chose to share their intentions – and they were beautiful thoughts from their hearts:
I will include someone in a game.
I will play with the boy in my class who has no friends.
I will help the new student in my class who struggles.
I will give cards to everyone, not just my friends.
In such ways, love and hope are spread from us and into our small corner of the world.
May you know that God is with you, Love is with you, at Christmas and always.
To See with our Hearts
What does it mean to see with our hearts? Children had a beautiful sense of this – they knew that it meant we can feel things that are invisible, we can notice kindness and feel it in our hearts, that our hearts can feel warmed by some of our experiences or that we can recognise something good even when we can’t actually see it. We shared our thoughts about this, and our examples, such as noticing a new person and having a feeling that we will become friends, or feeling happy that classmates are doing surprise kind things for each other, and how it feels to be cared for and looked after by others.
We looked at the scene of the First Christmas and talked about what we knew about this story. We wondered together about what these people had noticed back then, how they had paid attention in special ways and learnt to look for love in an unexpected place.
We talked about all the things we tend to think about and do at Christmas… and then we thought about what it might be like to focus on ‘Seeing with our Hearts’ at Christmas. How might we discover love in unexpected places? How we might show love in new, simple ways?
We enjoyed the film clip ‘An Unexpected Christmas’ which shows one perspective on the Christmas story – where God’s idea of how to bring peace to the world and show people how to live with love was not what everyone expected! You can watch it here
Together we made necklaces with words and colours that symbolised what Christmas means to each of us.
Children then had another creative hour or so making Twiggy Trees:
… and making bookmarks and Christmas letters to give to others:
We concluded our afternoon by gathering in our circle and reflecting a little more together. Each of the children received a small gift of a star decoration for their tree and a card. Each child then chose a card and star to give to someone else as a surprise – someone who would not be expecting a gift from them. Some children wrote the card to a neighbour or a child in their class or a relative they don’t know so well.
We finished with the story ‘Peace is an Offering’ (by Annette LeBox and Stephanie Graegin) and wished each other peace at Christmas:
“May peace walk beside you
Wherever you are…”
Participating in Peace
In our final gathering for the year, we came together to celebrate some of the deep and special meanings of Christmas. We thought about how the message of Christmas is about having peace in our hearts and sharing this peace with our world. We listened to the story of the first Christmas, a story that is for every person, of every place and time. We talked about God’s amazing way of showing people how to live in peace – sending Jesus as a baby who grew up into a person who brought peace into the world and showed us how to live in ways that offer peace.
It can be hard to imagine how each one of us, especially children, can participate in peace. So we thought about Jesus’s example of being inclusive, caring, brave and loving. We shared ideas about what it looks like to be someone who offers peace to our world:
Being still in nature brings peace…
Being kind to our family and friends brings peace…
Including someone who is left out of a game brings peace…
Looking after a creature or a plant that needs help brings peace…
Helping around our homes bring peace…
Listening to others and caring about them brings peace…
Children had many examples of things they say and do that brings peace in these small but important ways.
A Christmas story ‘The Ox and the Donkey’ (Gunter Spang & Loek Koopmans) used the imagined thoughts and feelings of an ox and a donkey, to illustrate how friendships can grow, happiness can come to our hearts and peace can be made real, when we are open to loving and sharing, when we are open to noticing goodness arrive in our lives, when we are open to being changed by love.
Another book ‘Peace is an Offering’ (Annette LeBox & Stepahnie Graegin) uses simple rhyming text to show us all the delightful ways that peace can be offered – sharing food, caring for creatures, laughing with others, noticing little things, hearing one another’s stories, comforting each other and being together in kindness. The final sentence says:
‘May Peace walk beside you wherever you are.’
We used this sentence inside the cards we made for others. And we made some very decorative envelopes for our special letters!
Along with cards, children made many creative things throughout the afternoon. The theme of Peace was expressed simply in these activities through the use of the dove symbol of peace. We talked about words that help us understand peace and used these to decorate our craft – words like sharing, saying sorry, listening, helping, caring…
Children made twirly trees decorated with tiny golden doves:
Children made lanterns with candle-light to remember the light of God that is ever-present, even in the darkness:
Children made peace mobiles out of doves with messages about peace:
Children decorated beautiful river stones with the word PEACE, to take home as a reminder of the gift of peace, the importance of peace and the simplicity of how we can offer peace in our world.
Our concluding story today was ‘One World Together’ (Catherine & Laurence Anholt), a colourful, happy story about the joy of befriending one another, wherever we are all from around the world, and how we can enjoy the different ways we live and celebrate life!
Our parting gift, to celebrate Christmas, was for each child to choose two star candles- one to keep and one to give away. They delightedly shared their ideas about the people to whom they would give their candles, as a surprise for Christmas.
May we know peace and offer peace throughout our lives.
God’s Dream of Love
Our Gathering Circles always begin with Acknowledging Country, remembering the people who have lived here before us and the way their story connects with ours. Today we began also with another story, an even older story – the story of God’s dream for all people. When God made the earth and made humans to live here, God had a dream about how all people would live together in harmony. The story that captures, for children, something of what this dream might look like in action is Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s beautiful book ‘God’s Dream’.
We talked about how God wanted all people to live in a way that showed love, but that people got this a bit mixed up and forgot how to show love – we got angry and competitive and worried and selfish. We talked about how God decided to do something really amazing to show us just what it is like to live a life of love. To show us this, God sent Jesus to earth to be a human like us, but a special human who was both like us but also like God, because he was from God. People learned from Jesus what it looks like to love and love and love…
Today we celebrated advent. Advent is the time of year when we remember this story and celebrate the love that comes from God for each of us in our lives, and for our whole world. Advent is the word for the time that leads up to Christmas day – the day we remember the birth of Jesus. It is a time of looking forward to something special, a time of being expectant, a time of hoping.
We shared the lovely story ‘I Am Christmas’ (by Nancy White Carlstrom) that helped us to understand the different symbols we see around us at Christmas – like trees and stars and present. The book helped us to see the deeper meaning behind the ways we celebrate Christmas.
In our busy world full of factories and shops and advertising, we can start to think Christmas is about buying more things, getting more stuff, having lots of presents. The true meaning of Christmas is that in the birth of Jesus, God came to be with us. One of the names of Jesus in Emmanuel – which means God with us. Because we know that God is with us – we celebrate. We celebrate by giving gifts, decorating trees, lighting candles, having special food, gathering with friends and family. We talked about lots of ways to share love at Christmas and how all the things that we do in love help to share God’s love – a love that is for every person and creature.
May we know love and share love throughout our lives.