Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Infancy Narratives

Advent is the perfect time to introduce (or re-introduce) children to the person of Jesus.  In addition to geography works and prophecies, we spend a lot of time in Advent exploring the infancy narratives - the scripture that tells of the events surrounding Jesus' birth.  We aren't just telling cute baby stories or even just recalling historical events with the children. Instead we want to encourage the children to wonder at the mystery of incarnation - God loves humanity so much that God chose to become human and live as one of us. The infancy narratives teach us a lot about who Jesus is, and about how God works in the world.

Over the first three years in the Good Shepherd Atrium the children become familiar with the Angel Gabriel's visit to Mary to tell her she will be mother to Jesus, Mary's visit to Elizabeth, the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Shepherds, Jesus' presentation at the Temple when he meets Simeon and Anna, and the visit of the Wise Men. We have many beautiful materials to help even the youngest children extend their meditation on these rich narratives - each includes 3-D figures and a simple environment to explore.  Often an adult (or another child) will read the scripture while the child moves the figures.

This week in the True Vine Atrium we celebrated the coming of Christmas by looking at the infancy narratives as a whole.  It was a beautiful experience, as the children brought together all that they have learned over their years in the atrium, and meditated once again on these beloved stories. We focused on the theme of the light of Christ and noticed how it spread - first to Mary, then to Elizabeth and John, to the shepherds, and to even to the wise men who traveled from so far away. I was amazed at the children's ability to sit in quiet joy and contemplate scripture, particularly at this exciting time of year!

As we grow close to Christmas, I wish you joy in quiet moments with your family.  Be alert for the light of Christ as the news of Jesus' birth spreads to you and yours this holiday season!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Prophecies in the Atrium

In Advent we spend time exploring prophecies from Hebrew Scripture. It seems quite appropriate as we prepare for Christmas to listen to the words that comforted and challenged those who watched and waited for the Messiah before Jesus was born.  In atrium we learn that prophets are those who listen very closely to God, and share God's plans with the people.  (It isn't too early to wonder if we might be prophets too!)  The prophecies are a marvelous way to discover more about Jesus.  The prophecy above is the first one that we learn, and it is always remembered and loved by the children.  The image of Jesus as the light is one that we hear often in the atrium, and one that resonates with the children.

There are five prophecies in all that we meditate upon in the Good Shepherd Atrium. In the True Vine Atrium we hear three more, and we spend time looking at the prophecies the children know from Level One as a whole. We wonder, what themes are woven through the prophecies? One of my favorites is the the theme of something great coming from something small: God coming to earth, not as a great warrior, but as a little baby. Tiny and unimportant Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus. A helpless baby named Everlasting Father and Mighty God!  This dichotomy of great and small is a delight to the children, and a concept we encounter throughout the year. God seems to love small things, perhaps small people most of all!

Children often extend their meditation by copying and illustrating the prophecies themselves. Older children like to find the prophecies in their Bibles.  

This Sunday is the third Sunday in Advent!  Light your pink candle and enjoy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Just before the season of Advent begins, we introduce geography works to the children in the Good Shepherd and the True Vine Atria. Through the geography works, we establish the foundational understanding that Jesus was a real person who lived in a specific place in the world. Our goal is not the accumulation of facts, but to help the children enjoy discovering the real places where Jesus was born, lived his ministry, died, and rose again.

Beginning with three year olds in the Good Shepherd Atrium, we locate the land of Israel on a globe and, using a raised surface map, focus on the three principle cities that were so important in the life of Jesus - Nazareth (where Mary lived, and where the Angel told her that she would be the mother of Jesus), Bethlehem (where Jesus was born) and Jerusalem (the city that Jesus loved, where he died and rose again). Later older children in the Good Shepherd Atrium work with a puzzle map of the regions and waterways of the land of Israel.

In the True Vine Atrium we begin to explore the land of Israel in depth with pin maps.  The regions, mountains, waterways, and cities that we learn about in the Christian Scriptures are located and marked.

Booklets extend this work, exploring the geographical features of the region and the cities in more detail, and include Bible references so the children can read more about the places they are discovering.

Not surprisingly, the maps become a reference point for many works in the room year round.  This begins in Advent, as children explore the scriptures that tell of the birth of Jesus.  We love our maps!

Tomorrow is the second Sunday in Advent!  If you have an Advent wreath, you can light the second blue candle tomorrow!  Enjoy some quiet time with your family.