Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lesson 13: For Unto Us a Child Is Born

I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas. We did--we went home to visit our families in West Virginia. JC's mom gave us some kind of Bible trivia game, which was pretty cute. We'll see if the kids like it. She also suggested creating a "red bag": For her Bible class (little kids, but she says it's worked with older kids too), she has a red bag with toys in it: a donkey, a king, a baby, a tiny basket, etc. When she has a little time left over at the end of class, she lets the kids reach into the bag, and they have to come up with a story or image from the Bible that has to do with the thing. So, if they pull out the baby, it could be Jesus, or Moses, or, for that matter, the baby of King David's that he had with Uriah's wife, which died. If the kid can't come up with anything, she opens the floor to the other kids. If no one can come up with anything, she tells them a story, and maybe they remember it for next time. Among my several New Year's resolutions is to make a bag like that for our class. I think our kids would like it.

Since last Sunday was Christmas Eve, we didn't have class (the church just had an extra-long service, which was just as well, since we were in WV). The Sunday before, we did a (fairly successful) class on Messianic prophecy. How's that for the nine-year-olds? :)

I opened by asking them, "Who is Jesus?"
"Our Savior," said Joshua.
"God's son," said Amanda.
"OK," I said. "How do you know?"
They looked at me like I was the dumbest person they'd dealt with all week--including their parents. "It's in the Bible," said Amanda. She was kind enough not to add, "Duh."
"How do you know that that's true?" I pushed a little further.
"Because," said David, "it's the Bible."
They couldn't prove anything, though, of course. I probably have no right saying things like this to other people's children, but brainless faith infuriates me. The curriculum that our church recommends (and usually requires) for its Sunday schools has a whole lot about spreading the message, being brave enough to talk to others about Jesus. It doesn't say anything about why we believe. It doesn't prepare them for the day when someone--and I *was* this person in elementary school, so I know this will happen to them--demands that they offer any modicum of proof that Jesus was anything more than a philosopher, more even than a prophet. I've done penance for the children whose faith I challenged when I was a child; now I challenge other children's faith to bolster it against similar attacks. Sometimes I fear that their mothers won't see it that way.

I set out to teach them a thing or two about Biblical proof. We didn't get to deep on the archeological record--for another time, that one. We dealt only with scripture, with expectation and fulfillment.

We have a system going now where they can earn points toward an unspecified prize. They can take notes during the service and report on anything that happens that relates to what we talked about in class. They can draw a picture during the week that relates to what we talked about in class (limit 1 per week), memorize scripture (1 point/verse), or, occasionally, win a game in class. We gave them the latter opportunity during this class.

JC read out scriptures and they flipped through their Bibles to find the verses. The kid who found it first got a point in the game. The winner of the game got a class point. After that, JC laid printed copies of the scriptures on the table, and gave a point to the kid who figured out what all the scriptures had in common. In this case, it was that they were "all about Jesus," as Amanda (the winner) put it. Or, as JC refrased it for her, they were all Messianic prophecies.
"How did you know?" I asked Amanda.
"Well, that one [Micah 5:2] says it's someone who would come from Bethlehem. And that one [Isaiah 7:14] said that the virgin would have a son."
"And the others?"
She shrugged. "I just knew it."
I dropped it there.
"So, all these are about Jesus. But they are from the Old Testament, which was written before Jesus was born. Imagine if somebody seven hundred years before you were born knew where you would be born, what you would do with your life, even how you would die."
Joshua's eyes got big. "I would just stay in bed and never leave my house!"
I laughed. "If someone knew about your life seven hundred years before you were born, they probably would know that you would stay in bed your whole life too, don't you think?"
So we began to explain to them about prophecy, how the prophets of the Old Testament wrote down messages from God about the coming Messiah. They were surprised to learn that there had been false Messiahs, men claiming to be the Lord's Annointed--but that the proof of Jesus as the Messiah is that he fulfilled every bit of the prophecy, sometimes in unexpected ways, and the other men didn't.
"So how do we know that Jesus is the son of God?" I asked as we wrapped up.
"Because people were looking for him a long time before, and they knew what to expect," said David. He's a smart kid, and when he pays attention, he can be at the top of the class.
Then I asked them the question one child--Ali, who wasn't there that day, unfortunately--had asked a few weeks before, prompting us to do this class: "Did Moses celebrate Christmas?"

That was a stumper. Dead silence, turning wheels. Finally defeat, a chorus of, "I don't know!"
"Why do we celebrate Christmas?" I asked.
"Because of Jesus' birthday," they said.
"Ok, and Jesus was born after Moses died, so Moses couldn't have celebrated His birthday, right?"
"But Jesus always existed," David said.
"Yes," JC tried. "But He only existed as a human for thirty-three years or so. He had a birthday, and we know when He died. He always existed, but He walked among us as one of us for only a short period of time. He always existed, He was always--and is always--part of God, just like the Holy Spirit. He just manifested on Earth for a little time."

Thank goodness, that's when the bell rang. I think "manifested" was the point at which JC utterly lost them.

And now, we're putting off our further discussion of the Old Testament for another week. An urgent lesson on the Trinity is slated for this Sunday.

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