Before Santa, God’s Agent – A Christmas Children’s Chat

Before Santa Claus became “Santa”, he was Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was a real person, and a bishop a long time ago.[1] A bishop is like a pastor, but instead of relating only to one congregation as a pastor does, a bishop relates to many congregations—and many people covering a large area.

Saint Nicholas indeed cared for many people in the part of the world known today as the country of Turkey. As a Christian he was very active in his faith by helping people who were poor, giving gifts and money to those who needed food, and rescued people who were in prison. In short, he helped people who were in trouble. All his life Saint Nicholas showed people how to love God and care for each other.

You could say he was “God’s Agent”. Yes, many of the things he did to help people he did them in secret. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself, because it was the kindness that he showed that was the important thing.

But he wasn’t God’s agent in the sense of being like a spy from the movies. Spies will sometimes deceive and trick people on purpose. No, Saint Nicholas was God’s Agent in the sense of doing things out of faithfulness to God, being active to do God’s will and show God’s love to all people. Even if he had to take some risks.

And that’s what we are all called to do as well. Like Saint Nicholas, we too are God’s Agents of love for other people. This Christmas I pray we can all find little ways, and maybe some big ways, to be God’s Agents, and like Saint Nicholas show God’s love for all people.

There are many stories about Saint Nicholas. I would like to read you one of them about a special animal—the Pine Marten—who was Saint Nicholas’ good friend; and, who helped him on a very special mission as “God’s Agent” …

Invite the children to sit with you gathered around the Christmas Tree.

Read Terri Reinhart, illustrated by Patrick Reinhart, “The Fiercest Little Animal in The Forest” (Colorado: St Patrick’s Press, 2nd Printing, 2019).

Let us pray:

God of joy and cheer,
    we thank you for your servant,
    the good bishop Nicholas.
In loving the poor,
    he showed us your kindness;
in caring for your children,
    he revealed your love.
Make us thoughtful
    without need of reward
    so that we, too, may be good followers of Jesus.[2] Amen.

At the end, hand out a Saint Nicholas treat to each child …

[1] traditionally 15 March 270 – 6 December 343 A.D.

[2] B. Batchelder, illustrated by Barbara Knutson, All Through the Day, All Through the Year: Family Prayers and Celebrations (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000).

Pumpkins and God – a children’s sermon

This weekend is thanksgiving. And we’re seeing a lot of pumpkins around these days. You also may be collecting pumpkins to carve out jack-o-lanterns for later this month on Hallowed Eve.

I want to show you how you can think about God when you see and work with pumpkins at this time of year. How God relates to us, what God thinks of us, and how God lives in us can all be told by a pumpkin.

First, where do pumpkins grow? In fields. But because they grow in different sizes and shapes, it’s hard to harvest them altogether. Before machines were used pumpkin farmers had to go into the field themselves to hand-pick the pumpkins.

God is like that with us. Because no two human beings are exactly alike—each of us is uniquely created, some large some small some young some old—God comes into our world in Jesus and picks us, for a special purpose.

Now, before we know the purpose God has for each of us, we must grow up a little bit and mature. What do you do with a pumpkin to get it ready for whatever reason you got in the first place? If you want to bake it or cook it, what do you have to do? If you want to carve a jack-o-lantern, what do you first have to do?

Yeah! You must get your hands in there and remove what’s inside. And what is inside a pumpkin? There are seeds. And there is all this stringy, yucky stuff that you want to throw out—it’s not good for much, I would think. But the seeds are good—for eating after you bake them, and for making more pumpkins if you plant them!

There’s good and there’s bad inside—all mixed together. It’s hard to separate the seeds from the stringy stuff perfectly. And it’s almost impossible to clean it out completely. In fact, I usually leave some of the mix of seeds and gunk inside.

As we grow up and older, we learn more about what’s inside of us. Some of it’s not good. Kind of like the yucky, stringy stuff in pumpkins, we just want to get rid of. When we say hurtful things to our friends, for example. What are some other things inside of us we don’t like very much? 

But there’s also a lot of good stuff inside, abilities and values and seeds for our own growth to do good in the world, like loving other people. What are other things inside of us we like, that are good?

Finally, if you are making a jack-o-lantern, what do you put inside after you’ve cleaned it out a bit? A candle, or flashlight. What is the point of the light? Well, it’s usually dark outside already when you want people to see your jack-o-lantern and whatever you’ve carved into the side of it.

God’s puts His Spirit and light inside of us. In fact, it was already there when you were born. It may be a small light. But we call it the light of Christ Jesus that shines in and through us. And the purpose we have is to let the light of God shine so that others will see it in our own lives. Maybe in this season of pumpkins you can think about how you want others to see the good that is in you?

Thank you, Jesus, for shining your light in my heart. Help me to let your light shine in the world today. Amen.