Advent Week 2

Peace of the Priest

As we begin the second week of advent, here is a wonderful curriculum written by my daughter Grace Ladd McDonald with ideas on celebrating with your family.

Operation No More Tears
Or Read Isaiah 9 

Did you know that before there were pastors, there were priests? Today we can go to God when we are in distress, need a miracle or need forgiveness when we have done something wrong. We can come to God in our rooms, outside, in church or anywhere. The reason we are able to do that is because Jesus is our priest. Before Jesus, priests pleaded with God on behalf of people by offering sacrifices to God. Another reason we have all of the stories in the Old Testament is to show us that God is separate from humans. Though He loves and cares for each person, He is perfect. He does not fail and people do. How can a perfect God come together with non-perfect creatures? There has to be a go-between, “a priest.” Because of Jesus we no longer have to depend on any religious leader to atone for our sins. We can approach God as we are! Often when we think of peace, we think of times without war but peace is also what we experience when we no longer have to worry about separation from God. Perfect peace is found in communion, or being with God. 

Advent Activities
Nature Exploration
: The Bible has many examples of priests. Priests were the liaisons or “go-between” facilitators between God and people. One of the earliest examples of a priest in the bible is Aaron, Moses’ brother. He had a special staff that often did miraculous things for the people. God used Aaron’s staff to show the people his power. Throughout the Bible, Jesus is referred to as a “shepherd” and shepherds always have a staff to help guide their sheep. Staffs are in many ways a symbol of guidance. Priests in the Bible were spiritual guides. This week go on a nature exploration and find a large fallen branch that you can take as your staff for the week. Use it as you walk. Notice what you are inclined to do with your staff as you walk home. Why might a staff help guide sheep?

Home Discovery: Often priests wore special clothing such as robes that were so long they touched the ground, but in John 19 Jesus’ clothes are described in much more simple terms. Jesus’ clothes consisted of one piece of fabric. When I was a child, I dressed up in my mother’s old dresses and pretended to be a queen or princess. For this activity, ask your parent for a t-shirt and find some sandals. Perhaps it is too long and you need to tie it at the side. Wear them around the house for a little bit and notice what it feels like. Now imagine giving a sermon in the clothes you are wearing! Imagine if that was the sort of outfit you wore every day. Why do you think Jesus decided to wear the clothes he did?

Food to Share: Jesus referred to himself as the bread of life. On Sundays we often eat a bit of bread to remember what Christ’s body meant. Because of Christ, we no longer need a “go between” to sacrifice on our behalf. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus is the way to God and we can go to God directly by praying to him. To remind us of the body of Christ, we are going to make gingerbread men cookies this week. As you make these ginger bread bodies and eat them think about why God might have chosen bread to represent himself. Share these cookies with a neighbor and think about what Christ gave to the world through his human flesh. Link to gingerbread man recipe!

Art Exploration: Have you ever read a book with a pop-up in it? As humans, we instinctively want to see and know that which is hidden. Perhaps it is our sinful nature or perhaps it is an innate search for mystery. Either way, there is something about revealing that which is unknown that is deeply satisfying. In the Old Testament, each temple had a veil which prohibited people from entering the most holy places. This might sound kind of strange to us now since we can go directly to God through prayer. After Jesus came into the world and died, the veil in the temple was torn, revealing to God’s people that there was now nothing keeping people from God. For this week’s art activity, find a picture in a magazine that you find beautiful or special. Cut it out and glue in onto a sheet of paper. Then take a piece of construction paper, cutting it large enough to just cover the image and lightly crease at the tip top by folding it. Glue the tip flattened piece right above the image so that it is covering the image, making sure not to glue the flap onto your image. Invite your family members especially the babies in the family to flip the picture. Notice the sensation or revealing the hidden image.

Adventure Walk: When I think of a priest, I think of a bridge. Priests act like bridges between God and his people. Imagine needing to deliver something to a friend that lives across a bridge but not being able to cross it. Think of how it would feel to have to stop at the bridge before you could enter it, entrusting  someone else to walk across that bridge on your behalf. Now because of Jesus, we can walk on that bridge. We can experience God as father just as Jesus did. With Jesus as priest, we are able to walk across the bridge. This week, find a bridge and walk across. What is the journey like? Imagine if you were confined to only one side. What joy it is to know that bridges can connect us. What kinds of things are you able to experience because of that bridge?

Isaiah 11 by Rain for Roots
Once in Royal David’s City by Sufjan Stevens
Instrument of Peace by the Porter’s Gate

Further Reading and Discussion
Numbers 17:5-11
5 The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”
6 So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. 7 Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant law.
8 The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff.
10 The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” 11 Moses did just as the Lord commanded him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When wood is cut off from a tree, its food source is cut off and it is no longer able to grow flowers or produce fruit. Why do you think it is significant that Aaron’s staff produced blossoms?
  2. What do you think the Israelites were grumbling about and why do you think God wanted to put an end to the grumbling?

Psalm 23: 1-6
1The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2  He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
  through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
  in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Discussion Questions:

  1. What attributes of a shepherd are indicators of God’s kindness and care?
  2. Jesus came into the world in a miraculous way. Usually it takes a man and a woman to make a baby, but Mary became pregnant without a man. She became pregnant because God placed life inside of her. Is there anything you feel is impossible? Talk to God about those things that feel impossible.

 Isaiah 11:1-5
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever seen a ruler act justly? What does justice for the poor mean?
  2. Isaiah talks about the rod of his mouth, what do you think he is referring to here?

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