For the Second Sunday of Advent I bring you a children’s sermon on Matthew 3:1-12. (You can find my regular Monday Meditation on this text through this link.)
The lectionary gospel readings always take us on a backward journey to Bethlehem. I mean, we all know this is about preparing for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. But the Church, through its lectionary, tries to help us keep the much bigger picture in mind.
If we just focused on the baby in the manger, it could all be too sweet, and Christmas might be simply cute. And in the culture surrounding us, Christmas is often just an opportunity for warm cozy feelings. Christians need to remember that it’s all about the coming of God into the world to bring us new and everlasting life.
So on Advent 1 we started from our present moment, looking with expectation to the second coming of Jesus, at the end of the age.
This week, on Advent 2, we take a step back, to John the Baptist waiting for the beginning of Jesus ministry as a grown up. That too is Advent, waiting, for the coming of Jesus.
John the Baptist is the focus here. And, sorry to say, John sounds a little ornery for a children’s sermon. But we hear that orneriness partly because he uses one loaded word: “repent.”
That word is so laden with associations we hardly hear its meaning. It conjures up fiery preachers, in pulpits or on street corners, telling all the listers that they’re guilty of a bunch of stuff and they’d better “repent” — or else. “Turn, or burn” was how we used to caricature it.
Those associations are not necessary to the word itself, though this story does have plenty of brimstone if one wants to focus on it. I’m hoping that my children’s sermon on Matthew 3:1-12 can avoid the orneriness by exploring the actual meaning of the word.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 3:1-12
Good morning kids! I’m so glad to see you here today in worship. Thanks for coming up for the children’s sermon.
Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas. In Advent, we get ready to celebrate that Jesus was born.
The fact that Jesus came to be with us in the world is so special, so amazing, so wonderful, that we need to take four whole weeks just to be ready for the celebration.
When our story from the gospel starts this week, Jesus was already grown up. But he still hadn’t started doing all the things he did to help people — teaching and healing and helping.
Everyone was still waiting for God to send the Messiah. They didn’t know yet that the Messiah was Jesus.
But one person knew. Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist knew. And John the Baptist was working hard to help people get ready for Jesus to come.
John the Baptist
John liked to talk to people about getting ready for Jesus. He didn’t just tell people in the Temple, where they were worshipping God already. He went outside and found people who were far away from the Temple. Maybe those people needed to hear the message even more.
When John found a lot of people, he would call out to them.
“Hey! Listen! I want to tell you: The Messiah is coming really soon! Get ready!”
They would ask him, “How should we get ready?”
And John would tell them this: “You need to learn to think in new ways!”
Think in New Ways
“We need to think in new ways?” someone asked. “Why do we need to think differently?”
John the Baptist would say, “Because you’ve always thought about life in an earthly kingdom. When the Messiah comes, he’s bringing the kingdom of heaven.”
Thinking about the King
“What kinds of things do we need to think differently about?” someone asked.
“First, you need to think about who your king is. You might think some earthly king or ruler is most important — like Caesar, or Pilate, or Herod. But in the kingdom of heaven, the Messiah is king. You need to think in new ways about your rulers.”
Thinking about Ourselves
“What else do we need to think differently about?” someone asked.
“You also need to think about yourselves in new ways,” said John.
“About ourselves?” they asked. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” said John, “how do you think of yourselves now?”
“We’re from a very important family!” someone said. “We are the descendants of Abraham and Sarah.”
John said, “That’s no big deal. You need to learn to think in a whole new way!”
“What?” asked someone. “But God loves us because we are Abraham and Sarah’s children! That’s why God is sending the Messiah to us.”
“No,” said John. “Actually God is sending the Messiah to everybody — the whole world. God loves everybody. God loves all kinds of people, from all kinds of families. You need to think in a whole new way.”
Thinking about Leaders
Then someone said, “John, we like the stuff you talk about. We’re going to follow you around and do everything you say.”
“That’s not a good idea,” said John. “You need to think about me in a different way too.”
“What?” they asked. “How can following you not be good? You are the most important person we’ve ever met! You’re teaching us how to get ready and live the way God wants us to live. What could be more important than that?”
“Well,” said John, “When the Messiah comes, he’s going to be WAY more important than me. I don’t want you to follow me. I want you to follow him. I’m not even important enough to tie his shoes for him.”
- I wonder how those people felt when John said they had to learn to think in whole new ways?
- I wonder whether it’s harder to think new ways about God or about ourselves?
- I wonder how you and I might need to think in new ways to be really ready for Jesus to come?
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But, if you use it, please do one (or more!) of the following.
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