For the last several years, our congregation has connected the traditional Christmas children's program to another program during Lent or Easter. Last year during Advent we used the series "Have You Seen the Angels?" (RW 37) along with a children's program. So our Easter program (see below) also focused on angels.
Our spring program involves all the four-year-olds through fourth graders who regularly leave part of morning worship for our Worship Centers. The readers are always fourth graders, who look forward to this leadership role before they "graduate" from the Children & Worship program. (You'll notice that we've included twenty-two "reader" parts in this program. If you have fewer children who can serve as readers, you can assign more than one part to some of them.) All of the children participate in singing the hymns.
Our service was held on Easter Sunday evening, but it would also be appropriate for any Sunday of Easter, or to end the Easter season on Ascension Sunday. Included here is the script for the dramatic reading, which we placed near the end of the service.
Reader 1: We welcome you to our program tonight. If you were with us in December for our Advent program, you'll remember that we listened to the angels together. We remembered the angel who guarded the Garden of Eden. We heard the words of the angels who brought special news to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. We listened to the angel who warned Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt with their baby.
[Roll manger to center stage.]
Reader 2: When we were all together in December, only fifteen weeks ago, we were looking forward to the celebration of the babe in Bethlehem. We thought of Emmanuel, God with us.
Hymn: "Emmanuel, Emmanuel" TWC 140
Reader 3: Truly, God himself, in the person of the Son, lived on this earth among us. He became like us. Jesus grew up in the town called Nazareth. We have heard stories about jesus' growing- up years:
Reader 4: How he scared his parents by disappearing in the city of Jerusalem when he was only twelve years old! And how surprised the great teachers of the temple were to hear Jesus answer their difficult questions.We also remember the story of Jesus' baptism and how the Spirit of God descended like a dove upon him.
Reader 5: Right after Jesus' baptism, the Spirit led him into the wilderness. And while he was there, Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights. He was hungry! Today we remember those forty days and nights during the period from Ash Wednesday through Saturday of Holy Week. Those forty days are called the season of Lent—a time when we think often about Jesus' suffering and death for our own sins.
Reader 6: Following those forty days in the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus. When Jesus wouldn't listen to Satan, Matthew tells us, "The devil left him, and angels came and attended him." How many angels were there? We do not know.
Reader 7: Throughout his ministry on earth, Jesus often went away on his own to a quiet place where he could talk to his Father alone in prayer. I wonder if angels surrounded Jesus during those times too ...
Reader 8: After he left the wilderness, Jesus began his public ministry of preaching, healing, and storytelling. We remember many stories about Jesus' life and ministry among us:
Reader 9: The wedding at Cana, the sermon on the mount, the Lord's Prayer!
Reader 10: Blind Bartimaeus was given sight, Jairus's daughter was brought back to life, and Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Five thousand people were fed from five loaves and two fish.
Reader 11: Remember Zacchaeus, the ten lepers, the keepers of the Law, and the parable of the sower.
Reader 12: And don't forget the paralyzed man lowered through the roof, the parable of the lost sheep, and the big parade on Palm Sunday.
Hymn: "The King of Glory Comes" PsH 370, SFL 156, TH 240, TWC 134
Reader 13: As Jesus' earthly ministry drew to a close and he prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Again, an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. "Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."
[Lights go very low and children carry a cross down the center aisle and attach it to the manger. One of the children pounds three nails into a block of wood, the sound echoing in the darkness.]
Reader 14: The world grew dark when the Son of God died for your sins and mine. Has the world ever seen such darkness since?
Reader 15: Jesus could have called a host of angels to rescue him from the cross. He could have listened to the criminal who hung beside him on a cross and taunted, "Save yourself and us!" But then the plan of salvation would not have been completed and our passage to heaven would not have been purchased.
Hymn: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" PsH 384, PH 100, 101, RL292, 293, SFL 166, TH 252, TWC 213
Reader 16: I was the sinner condemned to die.
Reader 17: I was considered worthy of the sacrifice of God's only Son. Jesus regarded me precious enough that he endured the pain and agony of the cross and shed his blood to give me life.
Reader 18: The nails did not hold him to the cross; it was his love for me!
Hymn: "What Wondrous Love Is This" PsH 379, PH 85, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212
[Three children dressed as the women who visited the tomb on that first Easter come down the center aisle during this songr one carrying a lit Christ candle. She sets the lit candle in manger.]
Reader 19: God sent an angel to the tomb on Easter morning and told the three women the glad news:
All: "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."
"He's Alive" SFL 174
Sing through altogether, then second time split into three groups
"Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" PsH 388, PH 113, RL 325, SFL 172, TH 277, TWC 234
[During the second stanza, second, third, and fourth graders each light a candle from the Christ candle and place it in the sand in the manger.]
Reader 20: That news burned in the hearts of Jesus' friends and followers as the light of the world glowed brightly. Look how the light grows! The darkness is pushed back!
"I Am the Light of the World" SFL 152
"This Is the Day" (Sleeth) SFL 175
Reader 21: When Jesus ascended into heaven, angels came once again to explain things to Jesus' followers. Two men, dressed in white, promised that Jesus will one day come back in the same way that he went into heaven.
Hymn: "Clap Your Hands" SFL 179
Reader 22: And so, dear family and friends, we return to being Advent people once again. We continue to live in his light and spread that light daily to others all around us. But we are waiting for his coming again to take us home to be with him forever! Are you watching? Are you ready?
Hymn: "Shine, Jesus, Shine" SFL 239, TWC 721