Year C: December 9, 2018
First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4
I’ll Wait Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
(Written for ages 3-5)
Comment: In this story, various animals ask Mr. Panda what he is making, and he instructs each one to wait. All of them decide that they cannot wait – except for a persistent (faithful?) penguin, whose refrain gives the book its name: “I’ll wait, Mr. Panda!” Many of the animals have guessed various items the Panda could be baking, but in the end, the reveal comes as a total surprise: a giant donut, bigger and more wonderful than any of them could’ve expected. In a similar way, the passage from the prophet Malachi plays with the expectations of those who would’ve originally heard it. The “Day of the Lord” was anticipated as a great event to be celebrated, but Malachi says it will not be what people expect. Instead, it will be a day of refining and purifying – something difficult to endure. But – surprise again! – it will also be a day pleasing to the Lord. Children will be able to engage with the idea of waiting for something, even when we don’t quite know what to expect.
Second Reading: Philippians 1:3-11
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: A bear sits alone in his cave, missing his friends. He wants to make a big dinner for them, but has nothing in his cupboards. As each of his friends comes to the house, they bring an item of food, and Bear says “Thanks!” Bear is upset that each of his friends has brought something, and he has nothing to offer. His friends affirm that he has stories to share, and they all enjoy time together. The letter to the church at Phillipi begins with Paul’s extreme gratitude for the people there. He has been through a lot, and he knows the people of Phillipi both hold him in prayer and continue his ministry by sharing the gospel. This story can help children to recognize that different people (or creatures!) can bring different gifts to the community of faith. A good activity to pair with this story and scripture lesson would be to name the different qualities we are thankful for in our friends and family, and perhaps even write a letter of thanks to them as Paul has done.
Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6
Everybody’s Welcome by Patricia Hegarty
(Written for ages 3-6)
Comment: The gospel message ends with an astonishing, centuries-old message that is at the heart of the Advent season: “…and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Zechariah’s message of repentance quotes the words of the prophet Isaiah – words of inclusiveness and love for all people. In Hegarty’s book, Frog is trying to build a new home after his pond has dried up. He meets a mouse who is also trying to build a house, and eventually they are joined by many other different animals. “Everybody’s welcome, no matter who they are, wherever they may come from, whether near or far.” The animals’ song of inclusion can spur conversations with children about how we are called to reach out – even to those who are different from us – to extend love, kindness, support, and solidarity. Conversations like these (and, more importantly, the actions that follow) may actually be a part of the way that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
We welcome back Union Presbyterian Seminary alumnus Joshua Andrzejewski as our Revised Common Lectionary Links writer for the next four weeks. Josh serves as chaplain for pediatrics and women’s health at VCU Health in Richmond, Virginia