Year C: December 16, 2018
First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell
(Written for ages 4-7)
Comment: At the heart of Zephaniah’s poem is the concept of transformation – from fear to hope, from weakness to strength, from despair to celebration. These reversals are what we wait for in the Advent season; indeed, they give us hope to live throughout the year, despite difficult situations and painful realities. In Campoy & Howell’s book, based on the real-life story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, a child joins a muralist to bring color and hope to her drab, gray world. Children will enjoy imagining how they can make their neighborhood, school, home, or church more beautiful. After all, “The world is your canvas!”
Second Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
The Happy Owls by Celestino Piatti
(Written for ages 5-6)
Comment: This passage in Philippians highlights the importance of finding joy in life, giving thanks rather than worrying as we approach God in prayer. In Piatti’s story, various birds squabble and squawk at one another, struggling to find comfort. But they notice a pair of owls always seem to be at peace. A peacock asks them the secret of their contentedness, and the owls gather all the birds together to share their story. They describe the different ways (big and small) that they can find happiness throughout the four seasons – flowers awakening in spring, colorful butterflies flitting about in summer, the beauty of fallen leaves in autumn, the coziness of a warm home in winter. The other birds, ultimately, cannot comprehend the owls’ wisdom and “go on living as before.” But the owls rest assured that their simple life of gratitude has led them to a deeper peace than can be grasped by most. In a similar way, Paul’s message – that God’s peace comes to us when we are able to cease worrying and put our faith in Christ – is difficult to understand and accept. Still, the life of faith calls us to continue trying to understand.
Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6
One Good Deed by Terri Fields
(Written for ages 3-8)
Comment: The gospel message is focused on the idea of repentance – turning away from something bad to do something good. John calls people to turn away from hoarding goods, stealing money, and misusing power. In Jake’s neighborhood, “even on sunny days, Lancaster street seemed dark and gloomy,” because the neighbors don’t talk to each other or help each other. One day, a boy named Jake has “a thought he’d never thought before” (the refrain throughout the story) and decides to take his neighbor some mulberries. His action leads to a chain reaction of people having thoughts they’ve never had before and doing good deeds for others. The book illustrates, in practical ways (raking leaves, fixing a computer, giving away a bicycle) how doing good can transform a neighborhood. This transformation is at the heart of the gospel: God calls us to help our neighbors not so that we can get into heaven when we die, but because when we do so, we bring kingdom of heaven into earth here and now. Children will be able to see how actions, big and small, make the world a better place for everyone.
Thanks to Union Presbyterian Seminary alumnus Joshua Andrzejewski for writing the Revised Common Lectionary Links this week.