This candlemas assembly idea is an assembly based on the notion of sharing, and how very few things that can be shared become more as you do so. Details of the assembly or short talk/sermon for candlemas are below. I have also provided images at the foot of the page which link to larger versions and can be downloaded and used free of charge in a powerpoint. If you find this idea useful, please forward the link on to others by twitter or facebook, or even common or garden email! And why not join the rss/email feed so that you don’t miss a future idea?
Candlemas is the celebration of Jesus’ presentation at the temple (Luke 2.21-38), traditionally a time when candles were blessed, this is one of the oldest and important feasts of the church’s liturgical year after the fixed times of Easter/advent etc., referred to in “the study of liturgy” (published by SPCK) as a dependent feast (1992,p.469): dependent in this case on the place of Christmas.
Initially it was a thanksgiving for the end of a plague on 2Feb 542AD. Candlemas procession was first recorded at Constantinople from 602, and accepted at Rome shortly afterwards.
Presumably the context rests on the hymn of Simeon in Luke 2:32
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
I am indebted to my Tutor, Rev Peter Shepherd, who got my brain whirring on this one. [square brackets] indicate [stage directions and comments].
20 clear plastic cups, 10 upright candles, preferably with little circles of card around the lower part to protect from wax drips, lighter. And permission from the teacher leading the assembly to allow 10 year 6 children to hold the candles and light them from one another. A jug of water – I used a plastic milk bottle. Optional: a slide or powerpoint with an adapted version of John 3.16
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his Son, Jesus, so that everyone who believed in him would live with God for ever.’*
[As usual I ham the introduction up a lot, playing parts and changing voices. I have provided the bare bones so that you can use your own style.] Introduce the assembly by explaining that when you were small you were always told to share. Share your sweets, though you never wanted to (you would then have less). Share your crisps…share your toys with your brother or sister. Sharing toys actually means not playing with them yourself unless you break them up into little pieces!
Doing maths in school you often have to do ‘divide by sums.’ When my mum was at school it used to be called ‘shared by,’ which was very confusing for me. But it’s true, you share the numbers out. So 9 shared by 3 is? 12 shared by 4 is? But when it comes to 10 shared by 3, er, well….You put that in a calculator and you get 3.33333333…ERROR. Even calculators don’t like sharing sometimes…
But there are two things that can be shared which, as you share them, get more. Or at least don’t get less.
[give the children a moment or two to discuss what it might be]
Ok, let’s have a competition.
[bring to the front two teams of 10 children, have them stand on the left and right of the hall at the front in two lines, running across so they can all be seen. Give each of them a plastic cup. Explain the following instructions]
In a moment I am going to half fill the cup at one end of the line. You then pass the water in the cup along the line to the other end. However, you must make sure that you have enough water left in your own cup to be able to swill it around a bit – just a tiny drop isn’t enough. The winning team is either the team who gets the water to go furthest down the line, or the team with the most in the end cup. If however someone earlier in the line has an empty cup because they gave all their contents away the whole team is disqualified. You have one minute to play the game…go!
[after a minute choose the winning team, losing team sits down]
[Ask the rest of the children if they have worked out what can be shared yet? I was given the answer love – it gets more as you share it around (not strictly true as you cannot quantify it, but it certainly doesn’t get less!)]
[Give the winning team the 10 candles and light the first one and tell them to pass the light along, you have until all the candles have been lit to explain the following – about 2 minutes or so. Don’t worry that the children are watching the candles being lit not you, they are still listening.]
Notice how just one candle gives some light, but as the light is passed along it gets more, not less. Candlemas is a time in the church’s year when we remember Jesus being brought to the temple so that Mary and Joseph could thank God for him. At that time there was an old man there called Simeon, and when he saw Jesus he lifted him up high and said thank you to God for him because he would bring light to the world, showing the way to God, just like if you had a torch on a dark night on a road the light from the torch shows you the way.
And in the same way that you can share light, God shared his love with the world by giving us his only son Jesus so that we could get to know how much God loves us, and then to share that love with other people.
[Read together the words from the optional powerpoint if you want to]
[Finish by thanking God for sharing his love with us, for giving us the light of Jesus so that we can get to know Father God, and ask him to help us to share with others what we have when they ask.]
Additional resources and ideas.
I produce colour cartoons and colour illustrations on a regular basis. A while back I produced a series of images for Scripture Union which I can now share with you. Please do feel free to download and use them in powerpoints or whatever. If you do make use of them, please let me know, and perhaps consider joining the email list for assembly-ideas (link at the top of the screen). There is no charge to use the pictures.
An idea I suggested to Peter was to use the pictures by printing them all off together onto half an A4 page – so two sets of small pictures per page. Cut them up into individual pictures, and put each set into an envelope, and have enough sets for one set to about 6 children/adults in your congregation or assembly. Use colour printing if you can. Tell the story more thoroughly than I have
detailed here, and when you have finished, or perhaps at another moment in the service, give out the envelopes and have everyone retell the story to one another using the pictures provided. This will secure the story in their heads and make it their own. You could even provide a copy of Simeon’s hymn too.
For a song use ‘this little light of mine’ jazzed up – it’s miserable if played slowly!
*to explain the ‘would not die, but have eternal life’ would take far too long to explain in this context!