Sunday, November 27, 2011

Unexpected Gifts

An all age service for the first Sunday of Advent when we welcomed Brownies, Guides, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts and their families led by Richard Cleaves and Carolyn Tennant.

Welcome and
News of the Church Family

Call to worship -
Glory to God – a new song for Christmas
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
Congregational Reading: The Magnificat
Unexpected Gifts for Christmas Sunday 27th November Parade Service 1st Advent

The Unexpected Gift

At this time of year we start thinking seriously about our Christmas plans and this might include thinking about presents!
Each year there seem to be a few ‘top presents’ requested by children and sometimes this leads to all kinds of frantic searching in the shops and online as family and friends try to locate the elusive special, longed-for gift.

I investigated the league tables published on the internet;
Let’s see a thumbs up or thumbs down for the following present ideas…
(Powerpoint slides)

Cookie my playful pup
FurReal Go Go My walkin pup
Transformers dark of the Moon Optimus Prime
Barbie Fashionistas
Rock on Elmo
Lego Star Wars Millenium Falcon
Angry Birds Knock on Wood Board game
Singamajigs Musical Dolls

Some people like wrapping presents and others much prefer unwrapping them!
The new John Lewis advert has won a lot of Brownie points this year with its ‘Gifts you can’t wait to give’ campaign.

If you haven’t seen it, it involves a little boy waiting (not very patiently) for Christmas. On Christmas morning you expect him to rush to open his sack of gifts first, whereas the advert has a very unexpected ending; he dashes into his parents’ room unable to wait any longer to give them his presents.
Has me in tears every time!

We are going to play a well known game now.
It’s called ‘Pass the parcel’ and I fully expect that every person here of every age has enjoyed this game at some point in their lives!
There will be 6 parcels going round the church so keep awake for the next one on its way!
When the music starts, pass the parcel along and keep them all moving.
When the music stops, if you are holding a parcel, stop and open ONE layer.
Now, just to throw in an unexpected rule here, I want you to pass the unexpected gift you just revealed to the person next to you!
When we play ‘Pass the parcel’ we usually understand we won’t all get a present but in THAT game, lots of us got a present we probably hadn’t expected.

Chocolate is something we all like to get and maybe you are expecting to get some chocolate on a regular basis between now and Christmas; in your Advent Calendars!

We are going to tell a familiar story now in a fun way.

The Chocolate Nativity

The Christmas story is so well known that our minds can easily skim over it and we miss the surprise elements. To help you concentrate, listen out for your chocolate bar or sweets to be mentioned and hold them up high at the right time. You will be prompted by the pictures too. We can all join in because the Christmas story is something God wants everyone to know.

The story of the nativity is written in the bible and we have put this version together by reading Matthew and Luke.

A young girl named Mary heard a
from the angel Gabriel that she was chosen to be the mother of God’s son. Now, Mary wasn’t married yet to Joseph and so this awkward situation became a hot
of conversation among the locals. But Mary explained to Joseph that it was all part of God’s
plan. Joseph helped Joseph understand in a
and it all became as clear as a
Joseph had to return to his home town of Bethlehem to be counted in the Roman Census in order to
taxes. It was a
MARATHON (yes, we all know they are called SNICKERS now!)
journey for someone expecting a baby. 80 miles of walking over the stony hills which were

Under foot. They arrived in Bethlehem well
but having tried
there was no room for them to stay. It was certainly no
but one innkeeper said they could sleep in his stable. That night Jesus was born. There was no bed of
but Mary wrapped the baby in pieces of cloth and laid him in the manger. This baby was to show the full
of God. He was God’s own son, unique in the
Nearby in some fields, some shepherds were looking after their sheep. As they were gazing at the
went through the air and suddenly a
row of angels appeared in the sky. The glory of God shone all around them and the shepherds went
at the knees! But the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all people. Today your saviour was born. He is Christ the Lord.’ So, the shepherds went straight as an
to find the baby. They told everyone what the angels had said about the child. Mary treasured these things in her heart and thought about them a lot.
There was great cause for
The shepherds went off, praising God with many a
in their step! Meanwhile, in a far country, there were some
otherwise known as wise men or astrologers. Some people thought they were looking at
but they were serious scholars busy scanning the
and one night they saw a
Was it
No, it was a very bright star shining in the east which they realized signalled the birth of the baby born to be king of the Jews. So they took some
and travelled by camel to Jerusalem to investigate. The road was
and they stopped for a few
on the way. When they found the baby, they gave him their
gifts of gold for a king, incense for worship and myrrh for death. Unusual gifts for a baby? But this was an unusual baby. They bowed down to the child and worshipped him as they recognized who he was.
Jesus wants us to recognize who he is and accept his leading in our lives as a gift from God his father.

He is God’s gift to each of us; the whole
of us are included in God’s plan.
The bible says, ‘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.’
So, over the years there have been many
as people receive that gift of God’s love and a place in his kingdom, here on earth and forever.

Thank you for taking part.
Now, you are probably expecting me to say, ‘Put away your chocolate until after your lunch’.
But, unexpectedly, I’m not!
When we are given presents, we react in 2 ways; some of us get on and use or eat them straight away. (I can think of some family members who do that!) and others, like me, tend to keep things in their packaging, save things for later! The trouble with that is, as a child, I ended up with unused bubble bath that started to smell funny so I couldn’t ever use it! And I still have some writing paper sets that are way out of date because I was afraid to use them up! So, lovely gifts went unused.
If we don’t open our gifts we can’t use and enjoy them.
So, I give full permission to open these chocolates and eat them.
What I would like you children (and anyone else who wants to get up and move about) to do is to go and sit by someone new, preferably someone not your age, and have a chat while you eat.
Ask each other;
Have you ever received an unexpected gift?
What made it unexpected?
Who was it from?
Maybe you didn’t think you would get a gift
Or, the gift itself was not what you were expecting?

As I was writing, it occurred to me to add the idea that if we don't get on and open/use our gifts, we won't enjoy them/get anything out of them. Likewise, when considering the gift of Jesus, if we leave him 'wrapped up' (in the manger/in a story/as an idea) we won't get the benefit of him/won't enjoy him. (clumsy language, but you will get the idea!)You could pick up on this idea in your talk too?
The part of the Christmas story that makes me think of gifts is the part that tells of the Wise Men with the gifts they bring – gold, frankincense, myrrh – unexpected gifts, given by unexpected people. They knew just what to expect of a king – a fine palace. And they knew the palaces built by the King of the Jews Herod were among the finest in all the wolrd. No expense spared – a wonderful place to find a king.

But he wasn’t found there … found in a place where there had been no room – out in the squalor of a cattle shed. There they found the child.

The Christ child was the most unexpected of all presents.

A great present – but it’s easy just to leave the baby – wrapped up – in the manger, in a story, as an idea … but we need to unwrap the baby – see the way he grew to set out a way of living that can make a world of difference to anyone who tries it, who shares with us in the suffering of a troubled world, and goes through that suffering to resurrection victory, a victory to share.

But we have to do something … in return.

The greatest most unexpected of all gifts …

John 3:16

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

1 John 4:7-12

The greatest gift is one we need to respond to – it is the gift of God’s love, and the love we can give to each other and to other people too.

7-10My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.
11-12My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other.

A new song for Christmas – Presents

I want to light the first of our Advent candles and think about the Unexpected Gift – and the gift that we can give – the cubs have put some prayers together … and then get a couple of the Brownies to light the candle.

So through prayer … commitment to others … love for other people – the Cubs prayers …

Green Six

Last night I saw a lady across the street
So I went to meet
her and said, ”do you need help?”

One of my friends was ill;
had to resort to a pill.
So I sent him a Get Well card

These are acts of kindness and love
As pure as a dove.

If we care for other people that means being helpful ourselves – and so the prayer from Yellow Six

Yellow Six

Dear God,
We will cut the grass
Wash up,
Help other people by making breakfast,
Walking the dog,
Wash the car,
And make lunch.

And then we need to be concerned for other people, and to help others at Christmas especially ...

Blue Six
Dear Lord,
Please help us to share with others and think of others before ourselves, be thankful for what we have got because poor people would love to have it.

Red Six
Dear God,
Please help us help charities and help the elderly across the road and to keep people safe and sound.

The Brownies light the first of the Advent Candles.

A prayer for our first Advent Candle

Unexpected Gifts
We light our first candle
And think of unexpected gifts
Gifts we receive
Gifts we give
The greatest gift of all:
A love that knows no bounds
A love that shines in the face of Jesus
A love that is ours to share with each other
Ours to share with everyone around.
Through unexpected gifts of love
May your light shine in the darkness.

County Community Projects
Food Share and Education Centre

We will be having a special Christmas Collection for County Community Projects – through December and for our Christmas Day collection – CCP – and we will be hearing more about the work of CCP … gifts of money – but more than that – gifts for the Food Share programme.

We are fortunate in having the opportunity of showing our real commitment to love in action through our close relationship with CCP. As you can see from their ‘Thank You’ letter below, our involvement is really valued. They mention the opportunities to give food and we will put some of the money we raise towards the Food Share scheme as well as aiming to make a generous donation of food.
In the past I have had some professional involvement with the CCP Education Centre and can assure you that they do valuable and challenging work. It makes sense to let them explain what they do so I have taken this from their website,
“The aim with all our learners is to involve them in positive activities which are tailored to meet their individual needs and address the issues which have led to their exclusion from school. We give each child what is often their first positive learning experience, and help to build their motivation to take part and succeed. This raises their self-esteem, which in turn raises performance and aspirations.
Using subjects such as art, sport, exercise, cooking and conservation, we help young people understand that education can be fun and rewarding. We undertake work with them on anger management, communication, group working and rights and responsibilities. We prepare them for a return to full time school education or a progression to higher education.
The Education Centre is located in a purpose-converted building in Grove Street, Cheltenham. It offers a selection of learning environments, a well equipped woodwork room, IT and Multimedia learning facilities, a full kitchen and a leisure area with a TV, video and a selection of board and video games.”
To further improve their environment we hope to collect enough money to be able to buy some garden furniture

Dear All at Highbury Church
CCP would like to thank you for your donations to the CCP FoodShare - the emergency food distribution service for Gloucestershire people and families in times of crisis, which relies on donations from members of the public, churches, schools and businesses, and distributes over 500 emergency food parcels every year.
In the run up to Christmas, CCP FoodShare is extended to become the CCP Hamper Scamper, a food and gift distribution scheme.
Many disadvantaged people in Gloucestershire cannot afford the basic festive goodies which most people take for granted, including food and Christmas presents for their loved ones. The pressure on them to provide such gifts leads to many getting further into debt, which can last for years to come and only acts to make their lives even harder. This is the stark reality for many families every year.
The Hamper Scamper campaign aspires to bring the spirit of Christmas to hundreds of children, young people, families and vulnerable adults, including those who are homeless. This is not just by providing them with Christmas food items and gifts, but to help in the longer term to reduce or wipe out the debt that can accrue through the pressure of the festive season, culminating in year round misery.
If you would like to take part in this year’s Hamper Scamper, or want to find out more, please see our website

To lead us into our time prayer …

Prayers of Concern

Offering and Dedication

At this time of giving

Words of Blessing

No comments:

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light