Theme: He is Coming!
2 Peter chapter 3 verses 8-15a
If you have a copy readily available, use “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” from the musical “Godspell” for entry and exit to the hall . (There are versions on You Tube, but if you are using the film itself be aware that the 1973 fashions may cause amusement!) The song is based on Isaiah chp 40 vs 3, which is also one of this week’s readings.
Before the children arrive in the hall you need several large notices stuck up around the room or a rolling powerpoint of messages:
“He is coming!”
“It won’t be long before He is here!”
“We must get ready for His arrival”
“What a special day it is going to be!”
“Is He here yet?”
You will need the assistance of another adult to take notes.
Begin by telling the school there is to be a special visitor coming soon, and by asking the children who they think the notices might be about. Who would they like it to be? Whose coming to visit the school would get them excited? Collect a few names of famous visitors (remember the notices say “He” not “She”) and then ask what kinds of preparations you will have to make in school for the visitor’s arrival. (If asked to name the visitor, say only that you do not wish to spoil the surprise.) Ask for volunteers for the various tasks, and get one of the other staff to stand with you and make a list of volunteers and tasks in a notebook as you select them.
Thank the children for their suggestions and tell them that, in order to help them get ready for the special visitor, you are going to tell them a favourite old-fashioned story about a special visitor to see if that gives them additional ideas. In the story which follows, make sure you include all the suggestions the children have already made and comment as you go how “***” has already volunteered to do that etc.
Our story begins in a land far away and long ago. It was a happy, land ruled over by a wise and famous king who was much loved by his subjects, and whenever he left his palace to visit his kingdom, people flocked to see him and celebrate his coming. They all wanted to get near to him and speak to him, or to give him flowers. They put up decorations to welcome him, like big banners with his name on, or shining fairy lights. They organised concerts and plays to make him happy and keep him amused. They held parades and firework displays for him. They even painted all the houses he would see, so that as he passed, all the towns and villages looked clean and fresh and bright. And of course they made wonderful meals, and baked him cakes to take away with him. They did everything they could to make sure the king knew he was expected and welcome when he came to visit their town.
So it was that in the town of Lordship, when they heard the king was coming, they began to prepare at once. They had just a few days to bake cakes, paint decorations, organise parties and make up big bouquets of flowers. They marked out the king’s route through the town and erected a grand stage where the mayor would receive him and present him with the keys to the town.
At last the great day arrived and everyone was so excited that they were up hours earlier than usual. They dressed themselves in their best clothes, gathered together their picnics and their balloons and streamers and headed into the centre of the town, ready for the biggest party they had had for a very long time.
As the huge crowd waited by the roadside the band began to play stirring music. The people nodded approvingly – the king would be able to hear them from miles away, and would know how pleased they were to see him. They waited happily.
Two hours later they were still waiting. The road was empty, there was no army, no trumpeters, no coach and worst of all, no king. They stared at a small speck in the distance coming towards them with hopeful looks, but they soon realised it was only a shambling beggar wandering into town, and they turned their attention to their picnic lunches.
The mayor was not pleased to see the beggar, he made the place look messy and untidy. He ordered the constable to move the poor man out of the way where the king would not spot him. The beggar started to move around the crowd. He asked the rich and happy looking townsfolk for something to eat or something to drink. People laughed at him. A few folk threw some crusts to him when they had finished their sandwiches (they were not going to eat their crusts anyway so it didn’t matter if the beggar had them). Some people, who were swigging bottles of wine, pointed out to him the fountain where the horses drank so that he could drink some water. A group of children, who were getting a bit bored with the wait, started following the beggar around and calling him mocking names.
All day long the townsfolk waited. At last, as the sun began to set, the mayor told everyone to go home, and they trailed off carrying all the debris of the day and muttering about the king. The beggar looked around hopefully, but nobody cared where he went for the night, and so he turned his back on the town, and slowly walked away into the darkness, back the way he had come.
The next day a messenger arrived from the king. He went to the mayor and presented him with a proclamation, which he asked the mayor to have read out in the town square by the town crier. Excitedly the people ran to the square to hear what the king had to say. They were sure that he had simply been delayed the day before, and this new message would set a new date for his visit. Already they were looking forward to another day of celebrations and fun.
The message was short, but startling:
“The king sends his greetings to his good people of Lordship. The king came to your beautiful town yesterday to enjoy your celebrations. Remember the beggar.”
Remember the beggar! The people were horrified! They began to think of what they had said to the beggar, how they had turned their backs on him and mocked him, and all that time it had really been their king! How could they have known?
Next year the king came back to Lordship again, although this time he came in his great coach and with a parade of trumpeters and soldiers. When he reached the edge of the town he saw a large noticeboard. The notice said: “This town welcomes everyone. If you need help of any kind go straight to the house of the mayor. God save the king!”
Think about the story with the assembly: the story was about a king who came to his one of his own towns where he should have been welcomed, but was instead ignored and rejected. For Christians the story is like the story of Jesus who was born in poor surroundings and not recognised by the important people of the day as the special person (the Messiah / Christ) that they had been waiting for.
Now return to your notices. Who might they be about? They are there because all Christians are looking forward to the coming of Jesus; they are remembering his “secret” coming at Christmas, and looking forward to his return in glory.
Important: Look again at the list of suggestions and volunteers you prepared earlier; you could arrange for these children and their friends to fulfil their promises by creating Christmas decorations etc for the assembly hall to welcome the coming of the King. Make sure these are commented upon in a later assembly.
Pray that we remember the story of the disguised king, and treat everyone we meet with respect, as if they were a king – as if they were Jesus himself.
This week you could tell the assembly about some of the great Old Testament prophets who were “preparing the way for the Lord”. e.g. Isaiah chp 7 vs 14 – Emmanuel meaning “God with us”, Isaiah chp 9 vs 6 – for to us a child is born… Perhaps use music for this – what hymns are you learning for Christmas? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAiipFhH-j0