Adult Object Lesson

Adult Object Lesson: Ascension Sunday

What Do We Do While We Are Waiting?

This week is Ascension Sunday. The time has come for Jesus to end his visit to earth and return to His Father (and ours) in heaven.

Read the lesson from Acts 1:1-11 and focus on verses 4 and 5 and the appearance of the angelic messengers at the end in verses 10 and 11.

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus is speaking to people who are accustomed to waiting. They’ve been waiting as a people for the promised Messiah for centuries. They are just getting used to the idea that the Messiah is with them. If they think the waiting is over, they have another think coming.

In this narrative, time takes on a new dimension for the disciples.

Things are different now. Jesus gives his final instructions to the disciples. Return to Jerusalem and wait. It won’t be long before they will be baptized anew—this time with the Holy Spirit.

The disciples respond with all the humanity they cannot escape. They want a timetable. Jesus tells them that some things are none of their business. His promise to return softens this rebuke. But he leaves no doubt. God is in charge.

And so the long-confused disciples add a new dimension to their faith. They have a short-term promise and a long-term promise. Both of them are somewhat vague.

We’ll discover the answer to the short-term promise in a couple of weeks — on Pentecost. What a relief this must have been to the disciples waiting in Jerusalem! It was fairly immediate proof that God keeps his promises.

The second promise shapes our relationship with God today.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The early apostles believed fervently that they would see this second coming in their lifetimes. Two thousand years later, we still live our faith in waiting.

What do we do while we wait?

Today’s object is an alarm clock. We’re going to use it to help us think about time and what it represents to our faith.

Let’s review the features of an average alarm clock.

First, there is the dial—digital or analog—doesn’t matter. Time stares us in the face even if it’s on a sundial. It reminds us that we have to be somewhere in ten minutes or that we forgot to make that call. It reminds us that in two hours dinner has to be on the table. That dial keeps us locked in the present.

Then there is the “set alarm” feature. Ah! We can plan. We can schedule. We can feel in control!

Then there is the alarm. That audio prod. That spur in our side. The daily “call to action.”

How do we react?

Modern man solved the confusion between our inner desires and the call to action.

The snooze button.

Put life on hold for ten more minutes, one press of a button after another.

God made a promise to us. He will come again. How many times do we have to press the snooze button?

That’s not for us to know. It’s for us to live with and work for!

All we have to do is wait and put that short-term promise — the fire of the Holy Spirit — to work while we wait for that second promise to be fulfilled. You believe, don’t you?

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Adult Object Lesson: John 20:19-31

sticky points

Today’s object is something sticky. A jar of glue or honey would work. It might have a prominent label.

Ask members of your congregation what they think you are holding. Go around, offer people a touch of what is sticky and gooey.

Ask them what they need in order to believe that what they are seeing is the real thing. Odds are that no one will want to touch the gooey stuff. But just in case—have some wipes ready. You never know what another person’s sticky point in believing might be!

Today’s Gospel lesson is the story that branded Thomas as “the Doubter” — the disciple who not only had to see Christ to believe in the Resurrection but boasted that he also had to touch his wounds. He had to know that it was really Jesus and not some impostor. The wounds were proof.

Retell the story. Hit the high points.

The disciples were now in the habit of meeting behind locked doors. Their lives were at stake.

Jesus appears. No knock on the door. No secret password for entry. He simply appears.

It is surely one of his first appearances. He will make others, but the two gatherings discussed in today’s Gospel are still “news.”

Thomas wasn’t there for the first gathering, but he heard about it—it was the hottest gossip in town.

Think about gossip for a minute. Some people who hear juicy gossip merge it with their own story, leading the next hearers to believe that the news is firsthand.

Thomas didn’t do this. Thomas wanted proof.

He lays it on the line. To be so memorable it must have been with some degree of machismo.

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

The next time the disciples are together—with Thomas among them—and Jesus appears, all eyes turn to Thomas.

Jesus is there to bring peace and fuel the disciples with the Spirit.

But he is God and all-knowing. He knows the gossip, too. He turns to Thomas and offers his wounds to him.

Here is the interesting thing that almost all artists get wrong. The story of Thomas is depicted inaccurately so often that we tend to overlook an important part of this story. 

763px-Hendrick_ter_Brugghen_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_-_WGA22166Artist after artist shows Thomas poking a finger or two into Jesus’ still open wounds. It’s almost as if we can’t believe this story if we don’t see Thomas following through on his pledge. (Here is one work by Hendrick ter Brugghen).

But reread the story from the gospel. Thomas doesn’t poke his fingers into Jesus’ wounds. Thomas immediately confesses his creed, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas never follows through on his boastful pledge. Seeing was believing.

If your congregation uses projection, use 2×2’s weekly slide presentation to be published by Thursday as evidence.

You might close by giving poor Thomas his due. Sure, Thomas doubted, but from his doubt grew an incredible faith. Thomas is credited with carrying the message of Christ to India and establishing the first Christian church there. Some Indian families today proudly trace their Christian heritage to his ministry. (And with this you can tie in two verses from today’s psalm — Psalm 16: 5-6. 

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.

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Adult Object Lesson: Palm Sunday

bicycle manJesus Enters Jerusalem Riding A Colt

Matthew 11:1-11

Your object today is a model car or vehicle. Your choice should complement the slant of your message.

Today is Palm Sunday. There will be much talk about Jesus finally getting his due. He will be treated like royalty as he approaches Jerusalem.

Some spectators will sacrifice their garments to mark Jesus way.

Others will cut palm branches and use them to line the official route.

Word that Jesus is coming will precede his arrival. People will have eyes on the horizon. Some will climb towers or trees to get a better view.

Crowds will gather near the gate.

And then someone with a sharp eye and a good position will call out.

“Here he comes.”

The crowd is expecting the miracle worker who just raised Lazarus from death. Few will know him by sight. Most will be looking for some sign to set him apart.

Remember, Jesus looked like everyone else. When He is with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, it will take the betrayer’s kiss to identify him.

Really, he’s not unlike most rulers. If they didn’t wear crowns or robes, we wouldn’t know them from the peasantry. That’s what crowns and sceptres and all the accoutrements of royalty and power are for! Jesus didn’t need them.

So everyone looks to the horizon to see the powerful man who can cure the blind and bring the dead to life. If no one else has crowned him, they just might. And that’s what the crowd watching from the terraces of the government buildings are worried about.

There is a crowd with Jesus. Which one is the miracle worker?

It must be that man in the center who is riding a colt. Not a majestic steed. Not an armor-clad team towing a chariot. There are no body guards, no legions cutting a way for him through the crowd. Just Jesus on a colt—the only record we have of Jesus using anything but shoe leather express!

This Messiah, this anointed one, this Savior is coming to the city in humility.

Now turn to your object—the toy car or vehicle.

Ask your congregation to change the setting of today’s lesson to modern times. Have them describe what the scene might include today.

They might describe a scene like the Oscars, with red carpet, velvet ropes and security holding back the crowd. They might include the paparazzi, elbowing for the best angles. They might include reporters sticking microphones in Jesus face asking about Lazarus. They might describe the media vans parked near the city gate. They might have security shouting at the crowd on bullhorns. The truly imaginative might have a few helicopters hovering overhead.

Then ask them what kind of vehicle might a modern Jesus use to mark his arrival.

Let yout congregation decide. It might be any kind of vehicle—from a Rolls Royce to a limo to a smart car or beetle—or maybe even a bicycle or skateboard! Ask them what message their choice conveys.

If they think they are being asked to overthink this, point out that God had thought this through long ago.

Palm Sunday didn’t just happen. It was planned. Jesus choices were foreshadowed in the Old Testament. It was just as scripted as the Oscars, but scripted in humility.

Then ask them what the people might have thought when they saw Jesus riding a borrowed colt.

They might not have realized at the time that they had already seen the trailer (but Jesus did?)

Zechariah 9:9
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” So as king, Jesus requisitioned the donkey and its mother to carry him into the city.

Gentle and humble. Nothing to suggest power and might.

A true lesson in leadership!

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2x2virtualchurch adds a slideshow and object lesson to our library each week. There are nearly 100 in our collection. If you like our easy, interactive approach to teaching adult learners, please consider subscribing.

You will receive a weekly slideshow (which you can use on your church website or during worship), an object lesson and many other church planning ideas—all geared for small church use.

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Adult Object Lesson: Transfiguration


Matthew 17:1-9  •  Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2  •  2 Peter 1:16-21

Mountaintop Experiences for Valley-Dwellers

You know the old philosophical question: Is the glass half empty or half full? The answer determines, for some, whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.


Artists would ask: Are you looking at the positive space—the water—or negative space—the air? Artists know that both work together to create great things!


It’s with this question in mind that we are going to ponder a bowl and how it might help us think of The Transfiguration.


Use a simple kitchen bowl. Nothing fancy. A glass half-filled with water will also be a useful prop. You might fill the glass from the baptismal font as you start your lesson.


Today’s lectionary lessons refer to and compare the Bible’s great mountaintop experiences.


In the Old Testament, Moses climbs Mount Sinai to spend 40 days and nights closer to God. In the New Testament, Jesus goes on a little hike with a few select disciples. For all they know they are just taking another stroll with Jesus. If he stops to pray, it will be nothing new. They are accustomed to His ways and are totally comfortable using Jesus’ prayer time to nod off, just as they will do in Gethsemane. Praying is something Jesus tends to do alone.


Both mountaintop experiences are beyond memorable. They are highlights of our collective relationship with God—foundational stories of our faith.


As you talk about mountaintop experiences display your bowl upside down. It will be like a little mountain. With the bowl inverted, talk about the two biblical mountaintop experiences. Explain that they are like the bowl turned upside down—out of the ordinary—not the usual way we view a bowl.


Mountaintop experiences are exhilarating. Having reached the top, we feel a personal sense of accomplishment. We feel closer to God. With the world laid at our feet, we may even feel a little more like God.


Allow your learners to think about their own mountaintop experiences. When you’ve talked about the amazing events that occur on mountaintops, slide your fingers down the side of the bowl (mountain) to remind them that both Moses and the disciples came down from the mountain. And so must we.


Do we leave God behind? Does God remain in the clouds, waiting for us to return? Now turn the bowl around. The bowl becomes a valley. Valleys in the Bible are a symbol of the depths of despair.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.”

God is with us on the mountaintop in spectacular glory. But he is also with us in the valleys—the everyday trials and troubles of life—our personal and collective depths of despair.


At this point you might want to pour the water from that half-filled glass into the bowl. Water seeks the valleys. Our baptismal waters, like the River Jordan, flow through the valleys of our life.


We need occasional mountaintop experiences to catch the view, to help our spirits soar. But most of us spend more time in the valleys. God is with us there, too.


Is the glass half full or half empty? Is your bowl a mountain or a valley? Regardless, God is with us.


With that thought we end the season of Epiphany and begin our journey into the valley we call Lent.

Related posts

Teaching the Transfiguration Through Art

Slideshow: (The images of this slideshow can be used for bulletins and web sites.)

Last year’s Object Lesson on the Transfiguration


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Adult Object Lesson: Keeping the Law

cageMathew 5: 21-37  •  Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 119: 1-8  •   1 Corinthians 3:1-9

What Are the Consequences
of Breaking the Law?

Each of the lectionary readings for February 16, 2014, or the sixth Sunday in Epiphany, has to do with keeping the law.


The Gospel keeps us in the Sermon on the Mount where we’ve spent the last few weeks. Today’s passage is just one part of Jesus’s longest (but still short) sermons. He is talking to people who take the law seriously. The people gathered around Jesus on the hill live under the law of the land (Roman rule). They must also keep the law of their religion, which has consequences that are more dire than today. And then there is tradition—perhaps the hardest task-master of all.


Consequences of breaking any of these laws were swift and harsh.


In walks Jesus, with a new message. Let’s not dwell so much on things like murder and adultery and the trouble they bring.


Let’s talk about how we live our lives before we reach extremes.

Today’s object is a cage. It can be a bird or pet cage.


The cage is a symbol of consequences for failing to follow law.


Harm, steal, murder and expect to go to jail.


Today’s lesson suggests that there is a lot going on inside our heads and heart before we ever get to crimes that call for such drastic intervention by society.


They are crimes against God’s intent for us. They are laid out early in the Ten Commandments—before we get to murder, theft, lying, adultery and coveting.

  • Love God. Treat God with respect.
  • Honor mom and dad—the foundation of societal structure.
  • and coming up in Matthew 22 but hinted at here: Love your neighbor as yourself.


Disobeying these laws today will not put you in jail.


Disobeying the later commandments might get you there.


Today’s message reinforces these early commandments. If we set standards for our lives that honor God’s intent, the consequences are freeing.

  • Don’t insult one another.
  • Work harder at making peace than strife.
  • Respect the relationships of others and the boundaries that come with them.


Do these things because you love and honor God.


These are rules for happy living—rules that set us free.


You might use your cage in this way.


Write down on separate index cards each of the infractions listed in any of today’s lessons.




As you talk about each, toss its card into the cage, repeatedly locking the door.


As you near the end of the list, pick up the cage, unlock the door and allow the cards to fall out.


Following God’s rules sets us free to do good and honor God. We’ll have our place in the kingdom—close to God.

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc


Consider Subscribing to 2×2

2x2virtualchurch adds a new object lesson to our library each week. There are nearly 100 in our collection. If you like our easy, interactive approach to preaching and teaching adult learners, please consider subscribing.

You will receive a weekly slideshow (which you can use on your church website or during worship), an object lesson and many other church planning ideas—all geared for small church use. Thank you.

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Adult Object Lesson: Light of the World

bushelThis Little Light of Mine . . . 

Matthew 5: 14-16
“You are the light of the world.
A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket,
but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
 In the same way, let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.


We once had a church organist who was technically very capable but had no church background. I asked him to play “This Little Light of Mine” one Sunday. Although easy enough to play by ear, I found printed music for him.


He balked. “This is unsingable,” he said. “The rhythms are too difficult.”


The pastor was by my side smiling as I responded.


“Every three-year-old who has been to Sunday School knows this song. Play it.”


Start today’s lesson by singing This Little Light of Mine together.


It is fun to sing. It is not just for children. Gospel singers like it, too.


It builds on a concept, straight from the Bible, that we often don’t think about today.


What is a bushel? How would you put a light under a bushel?


Having grown up in a house on a lot carved out of a cornfield, I knew from a young age that a bushel was a measure. My brothers and I gleaned corn from the field, shucked it, filled bushel baskets, and sold the corn to a granary—my first job!

Our bushel “baskets” were metal. I never really thought about putting a candle under one.


A bushel basket is about the size of a small wash basket. If you have one a bushel basket, use it. If you don’t, use a small wash basket.


You might use a small candle. A tea light would be perfect.


Keep in mind that the bushel in Jesus’ time was probably a woven basket. Because of the size and airiness of the bushel basket, covering it would not deprive the flame of enough oxygen to extinguish the light, but the light would not shine so brightly or so far.


The analogy is more about impediment. The song leaves the snuffing out to Satan.


Our lot is to keep the light shining as brightly as we can.


Today’s adult object lesson leads us to ponder how we create impediments that keep our lights from shining—and in doing so tempt Satan to finish the job.


Ask your adult learners what stops them from doing their best. How are they shading their lights?


And then sing the song!

This little light of mine.
I’m going to let it shine.

 Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m going to let it shine.


(At this point you could add some verses written by your adult learners. For example: Won’t let time get in my way. I’m going to let it shine.)

Don’t let Satan blow it out.
I’m going to let it shine.

All around the neighborhood
I’m going to let it shine.

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Adult Object Lesson: The Beatitudes

Think outside the boxJesus Thinks “Outside the Box”

Today’s object is a box. We tend to like our world so that everything is sorted out and kept where we know things are. This applies to our ideas as well as our canned goods, garden tools, and clothing.


Today’s scripture is one of the more difficult scriptures to understand. Unlike some of the tougher scriptures, the passage from Matthew, known as The Beatitudes, is one of the better-known scriptures.


It was among the verses we memorized as children back when children were expected to memorize key scriptures. The Ten Commandments, The Creation, Psalm 23 and then The Beatitudes.


We memorize verses that are part of the arsenal of our faith. We know the day will come when they’ll need them.

  • “Love one another.”
  • “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • “Though shalt not bear false witness.”
  • “Honor they father and thy mother.”
  • “Yea, though I walk through the valley . . . ”


The Beatitudes aren’t like that.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you.


Huh? Why do these verses resonate with us?


None of us as children had a clue what the words we were regurgitating meant! And yet, we felt a sense of comfort.


But, who hasn’t felt meek and persecuted?


It’s nice of God to notice!


We are still in the season of Epiphany. Epiphany includes the scriptures that reveal the nature of God. That’s what the Beatitudes are all about.  The Beatitudes belong here.


Jesus is teaching his favorite subject. Most of the parables are stories that teach about the kingdom of God.  The Beatitudes are, perhaps, the broadest discourse on the topic that has survived to reach our ears today.


Each of the eight beatitudes tells us something about heaven. Jesus is encouraging us to think beyond our earthly experience and expectations.

“Think outside the box, people. The kingdom of God is not like an earthly kingdom. The knights of this roundtable will not be quite so sure of themselves as they vie for favored status. Mark my words, folks. In God’s Kingdom, there is room for those that would never stand in honor before an earthly throne.”


In God’s kingdom, there is room for those with doubts. There is room for those who are weak with grief. You wallflowers over there—there is room for you, too. Seekers, there is room at the table for you. There is room for those who don’t know it all and for those who have power but choose to show mercy. There is room for those who can turn away from the temptations of a popular, comfortable and self-centered life. There is room for those who might go out on a limb to stop the misuse of power. Blessed are those who suffer because they fought for what they believe when they were the only ones who believed it.  There is room in heaven for those who take the fall.


The ways of heaven are not the ways of powermongers on earth. Those who achieve earthly power would take advantage of the weak and persecuted. Many would watch while others are mistreated—even in the Church.


But here we are, stuck for the moment on earth.  While we are stuck we can practice thinking outside our earthly expectations. The Beatitudes help us do just that.


Think outside that box! Make it a habit.

photo credit: Ben K Adams via photopin cc

Adult Object Lesson: Follow Me

pulltoy2Matthew 4:12-23

Follow Me!: Appreciating Discipleship

In today’s gospel. Jesus calls his first disciples.


What does it mean to follow Jesus?


Today’s object is a pull toy. Any pull toy would work, but one with some extra duckies or cars would be best. Have a youngster pull the toys as you talk. Some mishaps are likely and that can weave into your message.


Pull toys are among the first toys we give our children. They become leaders as soon as they take their first steps.


Here’s the analogy. The person pulling the toy is the leader. The puller can be God/Christ with people connected by a tether of faith, supported by the Word.


But the analogy can expand. The followers can be a succession of the faithful. But following is rarely a straight line. The cars or duckies can topple and make life more difficult for those following. The tether can become tangled. Oh my!


The role of follower or modern disciple is not easy. It never was. We have the Bible to follow. Then comes doctrine. There are constitutions (tons of them). There are professional church leaders. There are lay leaders of various sorts. There is tradition.


And then there is conscience. What place does this have?


The water is murky for us modern disciples.


Suggest this: A good follower is also a good leader. Each of us is tethered to others. This gives us responsibility.


Too often church leaders think of followers as help that works sacrificially at the grunt jobs for an occasional earthly attaboy or attagirl and the promise of a seat at the heavenly table.


To some, a good church follower doesn’t question and contributes healthily to the expenses of the church.


A good follower is a repetitive church statistic—the one you can count on over and over. If your monthly attendance is 1000, that probably includes 200 counted four times!


In today’s Gospel, the first disciples gather around Jesus. Some show up on their own, encouraged by friends.


The first step in discipleship is showing interest.


Look around your congregation and ask how many qualify so far.


The second job is to accept the invitation. The disciples had to agree to leave wife, parents, and their source of income.


Ask how many in the congregation are still “in.”


This should bring a chuckle. To do so today would be an extreme gesture of devotion. It was in Jesus’ day, too! Does anyone expect this measure of devotion today?


A brief review of the ups and downs of the biblical disciples is in order. They questioned. They  made mistakes—huge mistakes. They took ridicule — sometimes even from Jesus. They suffered. They kept coming back. In the process, they became leaders.


So what do we expect of today’s followers? Serious answers to this question could be  revealing.

  • We expect monetary support.
  • We expect attendance.
  • We expect baptism. Why isn’t the baptism of the disciples memorialized in today’s gospel?
  • We expect some form of labor. How’s the plea for volunteers going in your church?
  • We expect followers to be hungry to learn.  Why is adult education so poorly attended?
  • We expect participation in church government. What barriers do we set up to control participation?
  • Do we expect innovation? Do we allow for missteps along the way?
  • Do we expect questions to lead to thought leadership?
  • Are we more interested in bringing people to Christ or bringing them to the Church?
  • Which of these questions is most important?


There are many possible questions! Let them flow.


What is expected of followers of Christ?


Are we a simple pull toy? Or are there multiple tethers at work? (If your group is small, you might ask them to draw how they might illustrate their church structure as a pull toy.)

photo credit: D. Bjorn, Catchin’ Up via photopin cc


Adult Object Lesson: John 1

medium_4197768871Also Psalm 147:1-20; Jeremiah 31:7-14; Ephesians 3:1-14

The Crèche Without A Fence

The twelfth day of Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. This Sunday, January 5th, is the second Sunday of the Christmas season. It is also the last Sunday of the Christmas season.

Time to move on?

Today’s object is a crèche scene.

A typical crèche scene includes the Holy Family, a few animals, shepherds and interloping wise men. They arrive a bit later in the Christmas story, but they add color!

The gospel lesson today is John’s account of the Christmas story. John likes to get to the point. Forget the earthly drama. Get to the God part of the story. Shepherds, sheep, donkeys, angels, Mary and Joseph—that’s for other evangelists to tell.

John is in a hurry.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The birth of Jesus with all the details are less important to John. He had personal ties to the Holy Family, but he just refused to get distracted. Jesus was always with God from the beginning.

John makes it clear from the start, that when Jesus came into the world, he came for all people. The rest of the book of John builds on this. It is a favorite book of missionaries. It is also the focus of modern Messianic Jews.

While you talk about the Christmas story as told by John you can be putting away the figures of a crèche scene. As you wrap each figure in tissue and place it in a box, you might address how each one is missing in the John account.

There is one thing missing in both the typical crèche scene AND the book of John.

A fence.

The stable with its typical cast is too confining for John. John has no need to corral the characters of the Christmas Story. In John’s view, focusing on all of this is missing the point.

John’s focus is on relationship.

His life is the light of all people.

Tie in the other lectionary readings.

You might switch the Psalm reading and the Old Testament reading today for the dramatic build. First was God’s relationship with the “chosen” and then his continued relationship through history.

Psalm 147 talks about God’s love for the chosen people.

Jeremiah talks about the return of the scattered people of Israel. God will bless them.

In Ephesians. Paul makes it clear that all people are part of the redemption story. They, too, will be blessed.

John will quickly leave the birth of Christ and introduce us to the cast of characters that proves that Christ came for all people—the wedding guests in Cana, the woman at the well, the priestly Nicodemus, the blind man, and even dead Lazarus and his family. The book of John will cover a lot of bases.

As you put away the manger, mention that crèche scenes never include a fence. Jesus was born into a free-range farmyard.

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Adult Object Lesson: Matthew 2: 13-23

medium_10061727925Where is God when bad things are happening?

Your objects today are toy cars.

It is the first Sunday after Christmas. The hoopla is over. We Lutherans had our one night of Christmas music. We’ll sing a few more carols this morning but our heart for Christmas wore out a couple of days ago. Most churches will have their poorest attendance of the year. We’ll feel a bit awkward singing the tunes the radio stations have mothballed already.

Few Christians hear the tough part of the Christmas story. An angry king didn’t like that his plan for the Holy Family was foiled. He let his pride get the best of him.

Wasn’t the first time the powerful lost their way. Won’t be the last.

The people Herod tried to use for his own purposes caught on to his true intent. They refused to cooperate. Embarrassed, the king went after every baby boy. Scorch the earth. Kill the innocent. Feel better about failing.

Hundreds of mothers wept at the slaughter.

God’s behavior is puzzling. He knew what was going to happen. He had the power to stop it. Everyone could have just gone on with their lives content to leave the tough stuff to God.

God let things play out. He warned Joseph and Mary to get out while the getting is good.

Mary and Joseph wrapped their toddler in blankets and headed to Egypt in fear of their lives.

Where was God? Why was He so hands off?

This is the problem Christianity tackles this morning while many Christians sleep in.  It’s a tough problem.

Many Christians worship the God of benevolence. The parking lot god. The rabbit’s foot god.

Here is where the toy cars come in. Illustrate the following story as you tell it. (It’s word for word from a Bible study I attended.)

“I was late for my appointment. I was worried that I wouldn’t find a parking spot and I would be hopelessly late. I prayed to Jesus. ‘Find me a parking spot.’ Just as I neared my destination, a car pulled out and left an open space right in front of me. And there was time left on the meter! God heard my prayer. God is good!”

Most people face far more difficult life problems at some point if not every day. The God of the parking lot seems to be too busy to hear their prayers.

If God can find us a parking spot, why can’t He stop a car crash? (Use your cars to illustrate this!)

  • Why did God send a hurricane or tsunami?
  • Why can’t God just heal my child?
  • If God made me with special talents, why can’t I find a job?
  • Why does God allow terrorists to prosper at the cost of innocent lives?
  • Why is anyone poor?

It is not unusual to question God’s choices in allowing difficult circumstances to develop and continue to grow. This question is the root of doubt.

When we are feeling desperate for intervention, we can remember the lives of the Holy Family.

We find Mary and Joseph in a similar state this morning. God warned them to get out! Flee! Bad things are coming.

  • Why didn’t God strike down the wicked king? After all, He is God!
  • Why didn’t God warn the mothers of ALL the baby boys destined to be slaughtered?
  • Why was everything so hard?

The answers are wrapped up in our own expectations of what God should be.

If I were God, I would . . . .

It may be that God has plans for His creation that we do not understand.

It may be that God trusts His children enough to follow directions.

Who knows the mind of God?

What we know is that Mary and Joseph followed God’s advice. For sure, it was hard. But in the end, the family returned. Even that wasn’t easy. But the family was reestablished in Galilee long before we hear the next story about the boy Jesus.

Surely, they prayed just as we pray. Surely they asked the same questions we ask when life is tough.

Things worked out just in time. God’s time. God’s way. It isn’t what most people want to hear. Most people never hear this morning’s story.

They’ll be home remembering the newborn baby asleep in the hay.

He is a baby that will have to grow up. Fast.

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