Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas assembly - the glow in the dark baby

I created a powerpoint of this picture, focussing on different details of it (The adoration of the shepherds, by Gerard Van Honthorst) and cycled through it with some music playing as the children came in. (I used "How sweet is Love" by Michael Paget - I've taken the music out of the powerpoint here, for copyright reasons, but you can find something suitable of your own.) The children were remarkably transfixed by this, and reflected really well and with some sophistication on the image.

Look at this picture. (Show the whole picture on a powerpoint or OHP)
What can you see in it?

 Children talk about the things they see.

There is something in this picture which is very strange. What do you think it is.

The glow in the dark baby!

Have  you ever seen a glow in the dark baby?
Do you think Jesus really glowed in the dark?

Some children tend to answer yes... Explain that the Bible doesn't say this - he was an ordinary baby.

So why do you think this artist painted Jesus like this?

In the Bible Jesus is described as the Light of the World.  That’s not because he glowed in the dark but because when people met him as a grown up, if they were feeling dark and gloomy, he made them feel better.

There was once a woman whose back was all bent over.She couldn’t look anyone in the face and talk to them. It must have been very uncomfortable and upsetting. Jesus healed her and she could stand up straight. He lit up her life like a light coming on in a dark room. (Light a candle)

There was once a man who no one liked, called Zaccheus. Everyone thought he was a bad man. When Jesus came to his town he wanted to see him, but no one would let him through the crowd, so he had to climb up a tree. Jesus saw him there and told him that he wanted to come to his house for tea. Everyone was really surprised, but Jesus said he was Zaccheus’ friend too. Jesus lit up Zaccheus life..(light a candle)

There were once some children whose mothers brought them to see Jesus. Jesus’ friends said that he was FAR too busy and FAR too important to see a bunch of scruffy children, but Jesus was cross with his friends and said that the children were the most important of all. He lit up their lives – no one had said that to them before. (light a candle)

So lots of people who met the grown up Jesus thought of him as a light that had come on in their lives, helping them to know that they were loved.

Jesus didn’t glow in the dark really, not as a baby, and not as a grown up either, but people who knew him felt that he was a bright shining light, and that’s why he is often painted like that. 

But Jesus didn't just say in the Bible that he was the Light of the World, he also said that we are all lights of the world. You are a light of the world, and you, and you... The things we do can light up other people's lives.

As we watch the powerpoint presentation again and listen to the music, think about how you might light up other people's lives today.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Creation Assembly

Creation Assembly

The unfinished masterpiece
There was once an artist, who was very, very good, but very, very slow. One morning he woke up with a brilliant idea for a painting. He got out some paper, very, very slowly. He sharpened his pencils very, very slowly. He mixed his paint very, very slowly. He thought a bit, and thought a bit more. Finally he was ready to begin. He started to draw. But he had taken so long that it was lunchtime and just at that moment his wife said the food was ready. Paulo loved his food, so he put down his pencil and went downstairs. After a long, long lunch he had a little nap, but when he woke up he just couldn’t remember what it was he was going to paint. He couldn’t even remember which way up it was going to be. And all he had was this…
(Show sheet of paper with a circle somewhere on it – better if it is not right in the middle. Turn paper round , portrait and landscape, so that they can see that the circle could be at the top, side or bottom.)

I wonder what he was going to paint? Do you have any ideas what this circle was going to turn into?
Think about it, but don’t tell me. Give a few children who think they have an idea a copy of the “unfinished masterpiece” and let them sketch while you talk.

I know you’ve got lots of ideas, and I bet they are all different.  You are a very creative bunch of people – point out artwork in the hall.

The Bible tells us that God is creative too. In fact it starts off with stories about him making the world. They are only stories. They didn’t really mean us to think that it happened like this – but the stories tell us that they thought God was creative, just like we are.

The story the Bible tells says that God made light and dark, heaven and earth and all that is in it, plants and animals. And after he had made each thing he looked at them and said “It is good!” He really loved the things he had made. He felt proud of them and enjoyed making them. And finally he made people. And the Bible said that he made them to be like himself – not that they looked like God, but that they were a bit like him in other ways. They could love like he loved. They could care for each other, like he cared for them. And they could make things too.
So when we make things we are being a bit like God – so long as we are making good things.

Look at pictures that the children have drawn – all different (In this instance I got a snowman, a girl on a bicycle, a portrait of one of the teachers, a drawing of an atom with spinning electrons, the London Eye, Big Ben clockface and the Earth) . It was up to you what you made of them - you all started with the same thing, but came up with something different. In the same way we can all make different things every day. We might make good things

I wonder what you are going to make today? It’s up to you. You can make a mess, or make trouble. You can make an enemy. Or you can make a friend, or make things better.


Here is a sort of version of that Creation story that we can all join in with. I include actions - gesturing to heaven and earth, making sun and moon shapes, growing as trees and flowers - you can make up your own, I am sure. Make them big and sweeping, so that the movement becomes a part of the praise. I encourage them to join in with the bits in bold type, but I tend to find that they rapidly get the idea and often say the whole thing along with me, or repeat bits after me spontaneously, in which case I go with the flow!)
In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth and he said 
They’re good, I like them!
He made the angels and the archangels and he said 
They’re good, I like them!
He made the sun and the moon and he said 
They’re good, I like them!
He made the hills and the valleys and he said 
They’re good, I like them!
He made the trees and the flowers and he said 
They’re good, I like them!
He made the whales and the worms and he said 
They’re good, I like them!
He made all the people, big and little and he said 
They’re good, I like them!

And the heavens and the earth                      
And the angels and the archangels
And the sun and the moon
And the hills and the valleys
And the trees and the flowers
And the whales and the worms
All said

Three cheers for God
Hip, hip, hooray
Hip, hip, hooray
Hip, hip, hooray!

And all the people said
Amen, Amen!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones - SEAL theme Changes

Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones
(Ezekiel 37)
Play “danse macabre” by Saint-Saens as children enter. I put up a powerpoint slide notice explaining that the music we were listening to was a dance done by skeletons and that if you listened carefully you could hear the bones rattling in the music (played by the xylophone).
I stook the school skeleton in hall. Yes, my local primary school has a school skeleton - full size, genuine article. It often seems to be in the YR classrooms. None of the children seem in the least bothered by it...
I don't know what those of you unlucky enough to be in skeletonless schools could do instead - a picture would have to do, I suppose. The skeleton isn't vital to the story, but he did rather bring it to life!

The Jewish people who wrote the Bible were once in deep trouble. An enemy army had come and destroyed their city of Jerusalem and taken then away as prisoners far away across the desert to a place called Babylon.

They thought they would never go home. They thought it was all over. They were very, very sad. There was no hope, and they might as well be dead.

The Bible says that God saw how sad they were and wanted to encourage them not to give up.

So he chose a man named Ezekiel, someone who would listen to what God said and tell everyone else.

One day Ezekiel had a sort of dream. You know how in a dream sometimes strange things happen…well that’s what happened to Ezekiel. He found himself in his dream far away from the city out on a deserted plain, flat and dusty, in the baking sunshine. But all around Ezekiel were bones, human bones. A lot of people had died here, thought Ezekiel. It was a place where a great battle had taken place, and the bodies had just been left. Now there was nothing but bones, dry bones, hundreds and hundreds of them. They were all scattered about and mixed up – a skull here and a leg bone there… What a muddle. And they were all as still as still could be, as dead as dead could be.

And then Ezekiel dreamed that God spoke to him.. “Well, Ezekiel – do you think these dry bones could ever get up and walk about and live again?”
What a daft idea – of course they couldn’t. They were dry and dead.
But Ezekiel said “I don’t know – you are God – you tell me…”

“Ezekiel” said God “What I want you to do is this. Talk to the bones and tell them to come together and sort themselves out into bodies again…” It sounded silly, but Ezekiel did as he was told. “Come on bones – sort yourselves out” shouted Ezekiel, probably feeling a bit stupid. Of course nothing would happen, would it?
But then he started to here a noise. First a faint scritch-scratching, then a rattling, then a clattering – the bones were moving! As he watched they moved themselves about across the desert. A skull found a backbone, a backbone found some legs and arms, and pretty soon there were whole skeletons lying on the ground.

Of course that was just the inside of the people. We’ve all got bones inside us, but we aren’t just bones. We need muscles and things to join the bones together. As Ezekiel watched in his dream the skeletons grew muscles and ligaments and then skin. There they were, lying on the ground, whole bodies.

But then God said to him. “they look pretty good, but they aren’t alive – they aren’t breathing, so that’s no good. Now I want you to talk to the breath – call it to come from the four winds and make them live.”

“Come on breath,” shouted Ezekiel “Come and make these bodies live!”. And as he waited he felt a gentle breeze sweep over the bodies, and… they all took a deep breath in, and a deep breath out, and another deep breath in again…And they all stood up…full of life from the tips of their fingers to the tips of their toes.”

(get the children to breathe in and out, stretch, wriggle their fingers and toes.)

And Ezekiel woke up from his dream…What a strange thing. What did it mean?
Ezekiel thought and thought. And then he went to his people and he told them this.

We feel just as hopeless as a bundle of dry bones. As if nothing good will ever happen again. As if it is all over for us. But God has other ideas. He can take us back to our own land again. We can start again. We mustn’t give up. We must keep going… God is still with us and wants to help us.
And the people believed him. And they were right – they did eventually go home, and rebuild their city.

Sometimes we all feel like giving up – there’s no point trying, we think, it will never come right.
Perhaps when we do we could remember Ezekiel’s dreams. If we keep going and keep trying, with help from others and from God things can change.

Prayer: In silence think of something you find hard and feel like giving up on.
Ask God to help us when we feel like that so that we can keep trying, and thank him for all the people who encourage us in difficult times.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Pentecost - good news to share

Last time I came to school I told you about when Jesus went back to heaven. His friends felt sad. They missed him, and they wondered how they would manage without him. He had given them a big job to do, to tell other people that God loved them and wanted to help them, but they didn’t know how they would do it.
He had said that even if they couldn’t see him, God would still be close to them to help them through his Holy Spirit, but they didn’t know how. All they could see were the problems.

One day they all gathered together in a room in Jerusalem. It was the Day of Pentecost, a big Jewish time of celebration, but they didn’t feel much like a party. They were praying together. Lord, help us to tell others about you – we don’t know how we are going to do it.”

Choose four children to help –

Then, as they prayed, a strange thing happened. They could hear a sound, like the sound of a rushing wind…but there was no wind blowing.

(Give two of the children bunches of blue and white crepe paper streamers and let them wave them like wind. It is important to feel confident that you can stop the children when you need to, though, otherwise you will have a complete riot – they enjoy this bit!)

It felt good – very exciting. Suddenly the disciples started to feel that maybe God was with them,. They couldn’t see him but they felt like they had done when Jesus was around – as if everything would be all right. So this was the Holy Spirit – God close to you right where you were, right inside you!

Then they looked around at each other, and each one of them was shining with excitement. It was like flames were dancing on their heads.

(Give the other two children bunches of red and yellow streamers and get them to wave them.)

“Of course we can do it, “ they said. “We can do what God asked. In fact, how can we not tell other people – it is the most exciting thing in the world – God loves them and wants to help them. They can have a new start!”

They were so excited that they all rushed out of the house and started talking to people. Even the people in the crowd who had come from far away, who spoke a different language understood what they were saying.
And from that beginning they took their good news out all across the world, showing people how to live as Jesus had taught them, loving one another, and when they felt down they remembered that God was with them and the day that he had come to them like wind and flames. (Shake the streamers)

  • Can you tell me about a time when you had some really good news to share – something really exciting that you couldn’t wait to tell your friends? (could pass around the streamers for children to shake as they share their good news, though I didn’t as I was starting to run out of  time.) The children shared various things – new friends they’d made, a new baby on the way, a new puppy, a set of times tables finally mastered…
  • It is often easier to think of things to grumble about – but if we love and care for each other, we will find that there is always good news to get excited about, and that will encourage us to feel we can do things that are difficult

Prayer – thank you that you are always close to us through your Holy Spirit. Thank you for all the things that make us feel happy and excited. Help us to see the good news in the world and be ready to share it.

 The point of this was really to convey the sense of excitement the disciples felt on the day of Pentecost, and how this helped them to share their good news. They knew that God was with them. The children were dead keen to shake the streamers, and there was lots of laughter, and when asked to share their own good news, they were very keen to do so, so it seemed to work!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Tower of Babel – SEAL theme: Going for Goals. Making choices – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

This story comes from the Old Testament of the Bible. It’s a story people told to help them think about what they did.

A long, long time ago, when the world was new, there weren’t many people around. But gradually people had children and they grew up and had more children, and they grew up and had more children, and soon there were people everywhere. And some of those people came together into a great city called Babel. And they were very clever and very powerful, and they knew it. They learned to do lots of things.  They all spoke the same language, and that meant that they could understand each other and teach each other what they had learned.

Now that would have been great if all the things they said to one another were good things, if all the ideas they shared were good ideas, ideas that would help people. But they weren’t. What they mostly talked about was how powerful they were, and how to make sure everyone knew it.

“We can do anything !”  they said to each other – “ so we will!”

One day someone had an idea. “Let’s build a tower, the biggest tower in the world, a tower that will reach far up in the sky.
Everyone will think we are really important, really clever, really powerful. No one will ever dare to argue with us, because they will see how strong we are. Not even God will dare to argue with us…”

So they started to build. They weren’t building a place to live, or a place to work – they were just building. Taller and taller and taller the tower grew. (The children joined in with some building actions with enthusiasm) Higher and higher and higher into the sky it went…

But God saw what they were doing, and he wasn’t very pleased at all. “They are just building so that they can impress others, so that others will be frightened of them – never mind how much it costs, or what a waste of time and effort it is… I can’t let this go on …”

And God had an idea. All of a sudden, the next day, while they were all busy building their tower, God made them all speak different languages, languages they didn’t understand. One person would be talking to a friend, and suddenly he found that he was talking in French, but his friend was talking in Spanish. Another would be talking in Arabic, while her friend was talking in Polish. And no one could understand anyone.
They tried to carry on building, but no one knew whether the other one was saying “up a bit” or “down a bit”, no one knew if their mate was asking for more bricks, or whether it was time for dinner yet. You can’t build much like that, and pretty soon they had to stop, and there stood the tower, half-finished while they all babbled away at each other…

And the Bible says that the place where all this happened was called Babel – which sounds a bit like babble, because that’s where different languages started.

The people of Babel learned that just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean to say you should. We’ve got lots of power, but we have to think carefully about how we use it. The people of Babel also learned that often words are the most powerful things we’ve got. Just because we can say something, it doesn’t mean we should.
 We can do almost anything with words – have an argument, make up after an argument, persuade someone to something they shouldn’t, or encourage them to do something they should.

Hand out strips of OHP acetate with the following statements on them.
“Thank you”
“Would you like to play with me?”
“You can’t share it, it’s mine”
“Let’s all gang up on her”
“He looks really stupid – pass it on…”
“I’m sorry I hurt you.”

Get the children to read them out, and then say whether they think they are kind or unkind – words that we should say or words that we shouldn’t…

Arrange on an OHP sheet with Kind and Unkind printed on it. This could just as well be done using cards and a large sheet to stick them on.

The people of Babel learned that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. We need to think carefully before we do something or say something and ask ourselves whether it is kind or unkind, whether it will build something good or bad.

Prayer – that we should remember that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. That God would help us to think about the things we say to make sure they are kind and not unkind.

Following the assembly, the deputy head said to the children that she hoped during the day that children would come to her to tell her the kind words other children had said to them (which some did straight after the assembly. One little boy came up to me to tell me that it was a good story, which was kind of him, so I told him so!)
We also had a very remarkable question from one Y1 child who asked, and I quote, “Where was the city of Babel located…?”  I explained that we didn’t know whether there ever was a city of Babel, or whether it was just an imaginary city, and that people might have been thinking of the city of Babylon, because it was very big and powerful. I also explained that the stories in the Bible weren’t all things that actually happened, but that some were just told to help people think about important things. It was an extraordinarily perceptive and intelligent question from a child of 6! I hope he was satisfied with the answer…

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The wise and foolish builders SEAL theme: going for goals. Making choices and making mistakes

wooden building blocks, 
tray with glass nuggets or pebbles stuck to it (or some other way of creating an uneven surface).

Choose three children. Ask one to build a tower with wooden bricks on a firm surface, another on a tray of pebbles or glass nuggets (stuck down, so they can’t build between them), a third on the palm of someone’s hand. Which do they think they will build the tallest tower on? What actually happens? 
Then swap and try it the other way. (In retrospect, it might have been better to have chosen one child and let them do each activity in turn – it would have been a bit clearer and less frenetic…!)

Why was it better to build on the firm, level surface? The bricks were the same. The builders were just as good as each other. The children all got the idea that it was the surface that made the difference and that it was really pretty impossible to build on uneven or shaky surfaces.

Jesus told a story…

There were once two men  who each wanted to build a house. The first one came along and looked around for a good place to put it. He found a nice level spot beside a river. The soil was fine and sandy, it was nice and smooth and level. He would’t have to do anything to it at all. He could just get building. Now there were a few people who said to him…Ahem, do you think its wise to build there. Wise? Why not? It’s very easy to build here. I can just get right on with it. “Well,” they said. It is right by the river, and the reason why that sand so smooth and level is that he river washes over it during storms and smooths out all the sand…” But the man didn’t take any notice. Storms – what storms? He said.
 He got the very best building materials he could. The best strong wood. Marble floors. Gold taps… What ever you could think of, he had. He started to build. And he built and built. Then he sat in his house and thought – what a fine house this is! And it was.

The second man, meanwhile, was also busy building and he had found another spot by the river. His house wasn’t nearly finished yet, though, because he had started not by building upwards but by digging downwards. He knew that the best and strongest houses have deep, firm foundations. The first man had seen him doing this – what a fool, he thought! Why dig downwards when you could build upwards? What a waste of time.
It was hard going too, because the second man had chosen to build his house not on the soft sand, but on hard rock, so he had to dig with a pickaxe. He’s making life very hard for himself, thought the first man.
But eventually, long after the first man had finished, he finished too. And his house was a very fine house as well.

And he only just finished in time, because that night, the rain began to fall. And it rained, and rained and rained and rained. And the wind got up. And it blew and blew and blew and blew. The rain ran down the hillside and into the river that ran past the two houses. The river started to fill up, but still it rained. It got right to the top of the river bank, and still it rained. It lapped at the doorsteps of the houses, and still it rained. And little by little it began to wash away the sand under the first man’s house, just like it does at the beach when the tide comes in. And eventually the house started to lean a bit, then it started to topple over, then it washed away completely and broke into pieces…

But the house on the rock stood firm. No amount of water could wash away the rock it was built on and it had firm deep foundations. And when the storm ended, the second man’s house was still there, but the first man’s house was nowhere to be seen, and he had to start all over again…

  • What do you think the story tells us? (The children talked about “starting properly)

When we do something it is important to make plans – (we talked about writing a story or drawing a picture) – and take advice too.
Jesus said to his disciples, if you listen to God’s words and do what they say you will be building on good foundations and when something bad happens you will be able to cope much better.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Manna in the wilderness (SEAL theme: Going for Goals. Patience and Persistence)

  • Have you ever been on a long journey?
  • Where have you been?
  • Did you get fed up? (Children told me about plane flights where there were delays, car journeys where they got lost etc… Many children came to me as I sat in the school Quiet Garden during playtime after assembly with other stories of long journeys)
  • Did you ask “are we nearly there yet?” (almost every hand went up…!)
  • What do you do on journeys to help pass the time? (looking out of the window, playing games of various sorts…)

I’m going to tell you a story about people on a long journey

This is a story about Moses. Moses was a great leader, a great hero. All his people, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. They had to do just what the king – the Pharaoh – told them. They had to work hard all the time for nothing, and if they complained then their masters beat them.
They were miserable, and they wanted to be free. But they couldn’t see how that would happen.

Then along came Moses. God had told him that he should go to Pharaoh and demand that he set the people free. Let my people go, said Moses. No! said Pharaoh. Again and again he said no. He said no even though God sent a plague of locusts – flying insects to eat all the plants in the land. He said no even though God turned all the rivers red so no one could drink the water. He said no even though God sent a plague of frogs…He just kept saying no. Moses could have given up, but he didn’t. Finally, though, Pharaoh had had enough, and just for a moment, he said yes. Moses gathered up the people and they got out as soon as they could. Only just in time, because Pharaoh changed his mind… No! he said again, and sent his soldiers after them. They chased them but they didn’t catch them.
Phew! Finally the people were free. They’d never been free before. They danced and they sang, and they were really happy. Free at last!

But now what? Moses told them that God would lead them to a new country where they could live, a really good place, full of good food for them, milk and honey. It sounded really good, but when would they get there?

They walked all day, and the next day and the next day…They kept on walking, and walking, and walking. Where was this Promised Land?
They started to grumble.
Grumble, grumble, grumble.
“Are we nearly there yet?” When are we going to get there? Do you even know where you are going? We’re too hot. We’re too cold. We’re thirsty. We’re hungry. Why did we even come anyway? At least when we were slaves we had food to eat. It might not have been much, but it was food. We’re probably going to starve to death out here. We might as well have stayed behind.
Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Oh, for heaven’s sake! Said Moses. Aren’t you glad to be free?

Grumble, grumble, grumble….

So Moses prayed to God.
God, these people are driving me nuts. What can I do with them? I don’t know where to get food for them. What are we going to do?
And God said to Moses, don’t worry, just give them the message I am going to give you…And God told Moses what to do, and Moses spoke to the people.

Listen up! I know we can’t see any food anywhere, but God is going to feed us. Go to bed, and in the morning we’ll see what we can see. Well, they didn’t think anything was going to come of it, but they went to bed anyway.
And in the morning, when they came out of their tents they looked around. The ground was covered with…something. It was a bit like a wafer, and it tasted like…honey! It was good. But what is it? they said to each other. What is it? In their language, the word for “What is it?” was manna, and so that’s what it was known as – the “what is it?” Now, said Moses, God says that you can gather up as much as you like. Some people worked really quickly , some people could only gather a little at a time, but when each of them came to measure out what they had they found it was just enough – no more. If they tried to save any for the next day it would go all horrible and filled with worms… They just had enough for everyone for each day …

They wandered on for years and years, but always there was manna to eat, until the day they finally came to that land God had promised to them, then they never saw it again.

The manna kept them going through the wilderness. I wonder what keeps you going when you have to do something that takes a while – learning something new…? There was a long silence at this point as the children thought… clearly the idea of having strategies to keep themselves going was a new idea. I asked the football team, whose success we had celebrated earlier what kept them going when they were losing matches, and one said – the thought of winning one day… which triggered a few other contributions like “telling yourself you mustn’t give up”. One child said that God could help us.
I suggested that friends, teachers, knowing our goals etc. might help us.

Prayer: silence to think about the times we struggle and how we keep going. Prayer for help at these times.