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Get messy for the Messiah

02 November 2012

Plenty of ideas here for children's work, says Dana Delap

"The apostle John was a prisoner on the island of Patmos. . .": an illustration for "John's Vision of Heaven", the 365th retold Bible story in The Candle Classic Bible, which provides chil­dren with some­thing easy to read for every day of the year, accom­panied with many colour illustra­tions in this style, and the references to the Bible texts each story is based on (Candle Books, £9.99 (£9); 978-1-85985-867-7)

"The apostle John was a prisoner on the island of Patmos. . .": an illustration for "John's Vision of Heaven", the 365th retold Bible story in The C...

Seasonal Activities for Christmas Festivities: Three five-week programmes exploring the true meaning of Christmas with 7-11s
Vicki Howie
Barnabas for Children (BRF) £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code CT951 )

Messy Christmas: 3 complete sessions and a treasure trove of craft ideas for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany
Lucy Moore and Jane Leadbetter
Messy Church (BRF) £5.99
Church Times Bookshop £5.40 (Use code CT951 )

Messy Nativity: How to run your very own Messy Nativity Advent project
Jane Leadbetter
Messy Church (BRF) £4.99
Church Times Bookshop £4.50 (Use code CT951 )
Family Fun for Christmas: 30 Advent and Christmas activities for families to share
Jane Butcher
Barnabas for Children (BRF) £4.99
Church Times Bookshop £4.50 (Use code CT951 )

RESOURCES to help us explore the incarnation season abound, and these new books from the Messy Church and Barnabas for Children imprints of the Bible Reading Fellowship are very good.

Seasonal Activities for Christmas Festivities offers three five-week programmes exploring Bible characters and what their attitude to God can teach us, what incarnation means through the history of the Bible, and how we might respond to Christmas through social action. The usual games, drama, discussion points, crafts, and prayer suggestions are included; but I was particularly impressed by the introduction to each session, which had theological depth and perception. Those leading Junior Church on Sunday morning can sometimes feel that they are missing out on the adult learning. These introductions mitigate that, and in fact could form the beginning of a sermon series to run alongside the children's learning.

Messy Christmas has three sessions for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, and numerous craft activities. As usual, web-based resources, including work sheets and further ideas, support the books. There are more good ideas than any church might need for any one year; so choosing what fits this year and what might be saved for a future date will be important.

Because these Christmas stories are so familiar to us, however, it is easy to forget the harsh reality of life in another culture and at another time. The suggestion of a "hide-and-seek from Herod" game in Messy Christmas seems inap­pro­priate. We need to remember, even in our work with children, that the incarnation is not all sweetness and light, and that Herod's hide-and-seek was in fact infanticide.

Messy Nativity narrates the story of a successful city-centre project to use the Christmas story evangel­istically. The book includes three possible projects that worked well together in Liverpool: a shop-window treasure hunt for knitted sheep; a nativity-set journey similar to Posada; and a street nativity. With good community links and enough enthusiasm, this could work in any town or city, and will draw different agencies and communities together.

No matter how much excellent work is done in church services and activities, unless that is followed up at home, most of our Christian message may be quickly forgotten. Jane Butcher's little book Family Fun for Christmas has 30 simple ideas for crafts, cooking, and games that connect the season with the Christian story. Some of the activities introduce Christmas traditions from other countries, which may be particularly appropriate for those who have family and friends living abroad.  For years, our family has used a similar but dated booklet, which links the Christian story with the secular festivities associated with Christmas. This book will engage a new generation of families who want to make the season come alive at home.

The Revd Dana Delap is Assistant Curate of St James and St Basil, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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