Tuesday, 16 November 2010

What's Christmas about?

It's that time of year again. Out come the nativity play costumes. Who's going to be Mary? What new slant can we take on the story this time...?

I can't answer those questions, but I recently did a staff training session at my local school on the meaning of the Christmas story to Christians. It is easy to find that the Christmas story becomes stale and trivialised, no more than a nice story to give us a bit of sparkle in the darkness of winter. But what did it mean to those who first told it (or rather "them, since there are two distinctly different stories in Matthew and Luke's Gospel - and none in Mark or John). And what does it mean to the grown-up Christians who cherish it still.

I produced a handout to go with the session I led - if it is any use to you, please use it.
It's called "Beyond the tea towels and the tinsel", and that is where I hope it will take us.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

“You are the body of Christ” 1 Cor 13

N.B. This assembly is about the whole body working together. Be aware of the fact that some children in your assembly might have disabilities. Parts of their bodies might not work, or not work well. Be sensitive in the way you talk about what the body can do.

Song – I’ve got a body.

There was once a group of people who all wanted to live the way Jesus had taught them. They were Christians, some of the very first Christians, and they lived in a city called Corinth, in Greece. They had learned about Jesus because St Paul had travelled to Corinth and told them about him. They liked hearing stories about Jesus and they had each decided that they wanted to be Christians, so they came together to be one of the very first Christian churches – there wasn’t a building, but they all got together in each others homes, to eat together, pray together and help each other.

But there was a problem. They were all different from each other. Some of them were rich; some of them were poor. Some of them were men; some of them were women. Some of them were old; some of them were young. Some of them were slaves, who had to do what their bosses told them; some of them were the bosses and had slaves under them. Some of them had grown up, like Jesus and Paul, in Jewish families, hearing the stories of the Jewish people – Moses and Abraham and Joseph – and worshipping in Jewish ways with Jewish prayers. Others had grown up worshipping Greek and Roman gods and hearing stories about them.

They all had different ideas about the right way to live and the right thing to do, and they all thought that their way was the only way.

So they were always arguing. They could only see the world from their point of view – they were right and everyone else was wrong. They couldn’t work together on anything, because there would always be arguments. Instead of being friends, they were turning into enemies.

The leaders of the church were worried. What could they do? So they wrote a letter to St Paul and told him about it.

St Paul thought and thought. What could he write that would help them. Then he had an idea.

And this is what he wrote – we still have the letter – it’s in the Bible.

“Think about your body”, he said. “It’s got all sorts of different parts. It’s got feet. Feet are good.”
What can you do with feet?
It’s got hands. Hands are good.
What can you do with hands?
It’s got eyes…
A nose…

Just imagine, said Paul – and this is a bit silly – that your body was just a foot on its own. You were just one big foot. What use would that be? You could hop to places, but you couldn’t see where you were going or do anything when you got there.
Or just imagine an eye on its own – you could see everything, but you couldn’t go anywhere.
Imagine you were just a hand, or just a nose – wouldn’t that be silly?
(The children did indeed think this was very silly – “but if you were just an eye you would be rolling around all over the place…” they said. I think we miss the fun of St Paul sometimes…)

All the bits of our body do different things, but they are all important,. It’s no good the hand saying to the foot “you’re not as important as me.” They are just different, doing different jobs. If one bit of our body hurts – if our foot hurts, say - we feel sad all over.

So, said Paul. In your church you are all like a big body working together – the body of Jesus. Some of you might be like the eyes – you are good at noticing people. You see when someone is upset. Some of you might be like the feet or the hands – you are good at going out and doing something to help the people that the eyes have noticed. You all need each other BECAUSE you are different. If you were all the same, you wouldn’t be able to do all the things you need to.”

Paul wrote all that down in a letter, and he sent it off to Corinth. And the next time the people in that church got together the leaders read out the letter. And I wonder what happened. We don’t know the answer to that, because we haven’t got the letter they wrote back, but I hope they all looked at each other and realised that it was silly to fight over who was best, and who was right. I hope that they saw that each of them was important in a different way.

It’s the same in school isn’t it? Miss Smith is good at being the head teacher. Mr Wooding is good at mending things in the school. The cooks are good at making the dinners. You are good at learning things. I like coming in and telling you stories. If everyone does what they are good at, the school works well – but just imagine, if everyone tried to do everyone else’s job. I don’t know how good Miss Smith is at mending things, or cooking dinners… I might like coming in to tell you stories, but I wouldn’t want Miss Smith’s job – I don’t think I would be very good at it.

I wonder what you are good at. I wonder what your job is in school.
If we all do our job, and value the jobs that others do, we will have a happy school.

Let’s think about that for a while in silence. What are you good at and how can you use that to help others?

Prayer: Lord, help us to do the jobs we have to do in school and to notice the things others do and be grateful for them.