A Dad for Christmas

Christmas presents

When it comes to Christmas, it might be safe to assume children will ask Santa for an extensive list of toys, games and treats.  But a survey highlighted in The Telegraph of their typical lists for Father Christmas has shown many have more serious concerns, requesting “a dad” instead.

A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.  But despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”.

The survey, of consumers at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, found children aged three to 12 years also wanted a dog, chocolate and a stick of rock.  Traditional hopes for a white Christmas were represented by a wish for “snow” in ninth place, with sensible youngsters also requesting a “house”.

Of the top 50 festive requests, 17 related to pets and animals, with some imaginative children hoping for a donkey, chicken and elephant.

iPhones and iPads also appeared on the list, with some quirky children asking for the moon, a time machine, a pond cover and beetroot. One child asked for Eva Longoria and another wanted Harry Styles from One Direction.

A request for a “mum” reached number 23 on the list.

Assembly: Easter Foods

Fish Fingers

This is an assembly I did today for a local infants school, trying to find a good fun way to get them thinking about what Easter is all about:

Preparation and materials

  • You will need four eggs – two fresh and two hard-boiled (don’t forget to mark them so you can tell which is which!).  A large bowl to break the fresh eggs into.  A damp cloth to clean up any mess!  Apron (optional depending on how messy you’re prepared to get – don’t wear your best clothes!).
  • You will need some hot cross buns, a large Easter egg, and an empty packet of fish fingers.
  • Bible reading: John 21.1–14. You could ask a child to read this.

Assembly

Explain that this morning you have with you some different types of Easter food. Get the children to consider quietly what food they think you have brought.

Bring out the hot cross buns. Explain that buns like these have been eaten for hundreds of years, and were particularly popular during holidays like Christmas and Easter. The cross marked on them is a reminder of Jesus’ death on a cross, so eventually they became associated with Good Friday.

Bring out the big Easter egg. Talk about how much we all enjoy eating chocolate at Easter. Explain that in the past, eggs were considered a luxury food, so during Lent people used to give up eating them. (Remind the children, particularly if you have spoken to them about this during Lent, that on Shrove Tuesday eggs would have been used up in the pancakes.) Eggs also remind us of new life, and spring. Some people also say that the inside of a chocolate egg reminds us of Jesus’ empty tomb.

The last Easter food you have brought is … fish fingers! Bring out the empty fish finger packet. A strange choice – do we normally eat fish fingers on Easter Day?

No, but we do hear a lot about fish in the stories about Jesus, and one famous story about fish tells of something that happened after Jesus came back to life.

Read, or paraphrase, John 21.1–14.

1-3 After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”

3-4 The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him.

Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?”

They answered, “No.”

He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.

7-9 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!”

When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.

10-11 Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip.

12 Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master.

13-14 Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.

They were so excited that he was alive again.

End by talking about how at Easter, Jesus died and came back to life. Christians believe that Jesus is with us now as our friend, even though we can’t see him.

Then say you want to use some eggs to demonstrate something about the story of Easter. Put on your apron if you have one.

Pick up the fresh eggs and make a show of ‘accidentally’ breaking them in your hand (be prepared for the egg to go everywhere, which will add to the effect). Hopefully the children will laugh, at which point say, ‘If you think that’s funny, you do better – catch!’ and throw one of the hard-boiled eggs to one of the older children. For added fun you can throw another before the children have time to register that they are hard-boiled. (The usual health and safety warnings apply here: throw low and gently and preferably to a good catcher if you know one.)

Explain that you threw the eggs to demonstrate something about the Easter story. The Easter story is all about the unexpected, about a surprise.

Read or tell the story of how the women, Jesus’ friends, went to the tomb and found it open and empty. They were shocked and surprised to find the body not there.

Say that we have all been expecting Easter (we may have been looking at eggs in the shops). But the first Christians were not expecting Easter at all. They didn’t expect to see Jesus again. Ask the children to imagine that they were friends of Jesus.

Jesus was their friend, they loved him. Then they saw him get into trouble with the Roman authorities, and they saw him die. They were so sad that they cried and cried. They thought he had left them for ever. After a couple of days they decided to go to visit his grave. But the tomb was empty! What a huge, amazing, exciting surprise! More surprising and exciting than 100 Easter eggs, or 100 eggs thrown about in an assembly!

Explain that the Easter story shows us how when things seem at their worst, when everything has gone wrong, we can often find signs of new life and new hope – if we are open to being surprised.

Reflection:

Ask the children to sit quietly, close their eyes and think what it must have been like for Jesus to come back to life on Easter Sunday.

What was it like for his followers, the men and women who had been with him and seen him die a painful death?

What was it like for them after their special friend had died?

And then, what was it like when he came back to life, a special, new kind of life that he shared with them?

Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for hot cross buns and chocolate eggs at Easter.  Help us to remember their special meaning – that Jesus died on the cross and then was raised to life for all of us. Amen.

Easter Egg on Head assembly

Egg on head

Here’s my favourite assembly that I do each year – feel free to use and adapt:

Preparation: One egg, towel, plastic sheeting/black sack, chocolate Easter egg. Willing teacher and volunteer.

Introduction

Ask: ‘I wonder if anyone can tell me what love is?’  Field the various responses and say, ‘sometimes love is giving up something so that you can help someone else. For example, you may give up watching a TV programme so you can help your mum with the housework or dinner, to show her you love her. Or, you give some of your time and effort to raise money for people less fortunate than yourself because you care for them. (Red nose day)

Now, this kind of giving we call sacrifice which means ‘giving up something valuable for something else that’s really important.’

Illustration

Now to explain a bit more about sacrifice we’ve got a little quiz with a nice prize for the winner and a nasty forfeit for the loser.

Explain:

Winner will get chocolate, loser will get egged! (Get a teacher to volunteer and your partner in crime)

Ask them three questions each, easy ones to your volunteer  – they of course get the questions right. Ask the teacher difficult questions – they of course get the answers wrong! (Alternate question asking)

At the end, say you are going to egg the teacher as they clearly got all their questions wrong. Here’s where your volunteer steps in to take the egging in their place – break the egg on their head.

Talk

Sacrifice is a really important part of love. And (Chris) suffered a little there, he gave up his nice hairdo so your teacher didn’t have to take the punishment for getting all those questions wrong.

Now it’s easy to say you love someone, it’s easy to give someone a hug, and hugging is a part of showing someone you love him or her. But are we prepared to suffer to help others?

Next week is Easter, a time when Christians remember the death of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection.

Just as Chris stepped in to take the punishment for the wrong answers from your teacher, we believe that Jesus stepped in and was crucified to take the punishment for all the wrong we do, so that if we chose to follow Him we can be forgiven and one day have eternal life with him.

There is a verse in the Bible that says:

For God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Christians believe that this was the greatest sacrifice anyone has ever made, to lay down his life for the whole world.

You will hopefully never be in the place of having to give up your life for someone, but maybe you might think about some sacrifices you could make, to show someone you care or love them.

And when eating your chocolate eggs next week, perhaps you might remember the Christian message behind Easter, that of Jesus giving up His life for us all.

Questions:

For Chris

  1. What are Easter eggs made of?                                             Chocolate
  2. What colour is chocolate?                                                      Brown
  3. What day of the week is Easter Sunday on?                         Sunday

For teacher

  1. When was the first mass produced Easter egg made?         1873
  2. What is Chris’s favourite kind of chocolate?                          Twix
  3. What was the date of Easter Sunday in the 2000?                23rd April

(Ask questions alternatively)