CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups


December 2017


In honor of the many winter holidays, our curriculum this month will depart from our usual format in favor of celebrating some of these holidays.

Week One – December 3rd



Supplies Needed: Depends on method chosen for making advent wreath, but will include three purple and one rose/pink candles. See project section for details. Green construction paper, scissors. Optional: construction paper, stamps or markers, scissors, glue sticks.

Chalice Lighting:

In this time of the longest night,

We offer up our little light.

May hope and peace and joy be found,

And love be felt the whole world round.




We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)


Or, for older kids:


In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.


Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.



Sit in silence looking at the light from the chalice candle. Imagine that light spreading so that it fills your whole body. Now imagine that light filling the whole room. In your mind’s eye see the light spreading to fill the building, then the city, the country and the whole world – a world filled with the light of hope and peace and joy and love. Place your hands flat on the ground, and imagine that light going back into the earth, becoming part of the molten core of our planet.



How do you feel about waiting? (Get answers)

For most people, waiting is just something you struggle to get through until you reach the good part—whatever it is you were waiting for. Which is why it seems kind of surprising that this season brings us a month-long holiday which is all about waiting. It’s called Advent, and in the Christian church, especially the Roman Catholic church, Advent is celebrated as the time of waiting for Christmas.

Weird, right? Why would you have a holiday about waiting for a holiday? Especially when people really hate waiting? I think to understand Advent, you have to think about waiting in a different kind of way. Usually we think about waiting as being like waiting in line for a roller coaster at the amusement park. You inch forward, trying to look up ahead to see when you’re going to get there and what it’s going to be like, feeling a little bit excited and a little bit scared and maybe a lot bored. But I think the waiting that is celebrated during Advent is more like waiting for a baby to be born—which makes sense, since Advent is about looking toward the birth of the baby Jesus at Christmas.

When a family is waiting for a baby to be born, they know there is no way to rush the process—if all goes well, a baby is going to take about nine months to be ready to come out, and that’s just what you expect. And you don’t necessarily want to rush the process, because there’s so much to do to get ready. You might get a special room prepared for the baby, with a crib and decorations that a little one would enjoy. You would want to get diapers, and baby clothes, and a baby bath and a car seat and a stroller and baby toys and…well, there seems to be a lot of stuff that goes with babies. But at the same time that you’re getting all the things ready, there’s a lot of getting ready inside yourself that goes on. You might spend a lot of time daydreaming, imagining what it’s going to be like to be a parent or a brother or sister. You might need time to talk about ways that you are afraid that things are going to change, and to imagine the fun things you’ll do together as the baby grows up. You might even start thinking about big stuff like what kind of world this baby is going to be born into, and how you could make it a safer or kinder or more beautiful place for this new person to live in.

The waiting that is the Advent holiday is that kind of waiting—a kind of paying attention, a kind of getting ready for the baby Jesus who grew up to teach people about love and generosity and forgiveness and justice. Which is why, like many Christian families this time of year, we’re going to try the practice of lighting the candles of the Advent wreath. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas—today--and each of those Sundays has a special candle that sits inside a wreath of greenery. There are three purple candles, and one rose (or pink) one. The first Sunday of Advent you light the first candle, which stands for Hope, and you share readings or thoughts or prayers or reflections on the topic of hope. The second Sunday you light both the first (Hope) candle, and the second purple candle, which stands for Peace, and you share on the topic of peace. The third Sunday you light the first two purple candles and then the rose candle, which stands for Joy, which would be the topic of your reflections. Then the fourth Sunday you light all the candles, including the third purple one, which stands for Love, and you share your thoughts or readings about love.

But first we need to make our advent wreath.



Make an advent wreath—either one per kid or have everyone work together on creating an advent wreath for the family or group. You will find instructions how you can make an advent wreath here. Or decorate a shallow Bundt pan by wrapping it with artificial garland, or have kids (with adult assistance) hot glue pinecones, ribbons, etc., or decorate with glitter glue. You can hot glue on real greenery, but it won’t stay fresh very long. Or just create a sort of nest of evergreen twigs which can be replaced as they dry out. Fill the Bundt pan with sand, and add three purple and one pink taper candles.


Or, you could skip the greenery around the advent wreath in the traditional sense, and create it over the course of this month by having children trace their hand onto green construction paper and cut out the shape. You will need four hands per child. These green hands are set around the wreath as “greenery.” During this week’s closing time, and during the centering time for the subsequent three weeks, have each child write something on a hand related to that week’s Advent theme. For instance, during today’s closing you would have them write or draw something that makes them feel hopeful.


If you have time you could also make advent calendars by putting 22 very small pictures (drawn or put on with rubber stamps) on a sheet of construction paper or posterboard. Put a second piece of paper or posterboard over the top and mark where the pictures are. Cut flaps that can reveal the pictures, and label the flaps 1-22. Decorate the top sheet, then glue to the bottom sheet, making sure that there is no glue where the pictures are, so that the flaps can open. Then you are set to open one “door” each day through Christmas.



Is there anything good about waiting? What things do you think are worth waiting for?



Light advent wreath candle #1. Share one of the following readings about Hope (or use something else of your choosing).

 “I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day ‘every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight….’

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., from his “I Have a Dream” speech



Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

--Emily Dickinson

Week Two – December 10th


 Supplies Needed: Depends on activities chosen – see below. May include not only supplies for making menorah, but also ingredients for making latkes (potatoes, onions, flour, salt, eggs, oil, pan and stove or electric frying pan, spatula, plates, sour cream, applesauce, forks) and/or a dreidel and nuts, raisins, M&Ms, pennies or other small items for tokens in the game.

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

Every light is a miracle –  a symbol of the light inside us that can never be blown out.




We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)


Or, for older kids:


In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.



You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.



(If you wish, light two purple candles.) The theme for the second week of Advent is peace. Close your eyes and get quiet inside. What does peace mean to you? Try to picture a time when you’ve felt totally at peace. Can you think of a time when you made peace with another person? Can you think of a time where you made peace inside yourself? Feel a sense of peace throughout your body. Now open your eyes, but bring that sense of peace along with you into your day. (If you have time, you may wish to invite children to share aloud their experiences of making peace.)



Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday which observed for eight days, beginning on the evening of the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar. This year, (2009), Chanukah started at sundown, last Sunday, December 6th, and it will end tomorrow evening.

Chanukah is one of several winter holidays that feature candles and the celebration of light. But the Chanukah candles have their own special story. Here it is:


A long time ago, more than 2,000 years ago, the Jews had been conquered by a people called the Syrians. For a while they were left in peace by their Syrian-Greek ruler, but then a man named Antiochus IV became king of Syria. Antiochus IV couldn’t tolerate the fact that they Jews he ruled over had a different religion than his. He was angry at the Jewish people for refusing to worship the Greek gods that he worshiped.

The Jews believed they should worship their own god, in their own way. Most of us don't want anyone to tell us what to think, or what to say, or what we should consider important. We believe that we have the right to worship in our own way, and that others should have the same right.

But Antiochus didn't believe that, and he decided to make the Jews worship his gods. He forbade them to read their holy books, pray to their god, and celebrate their holidays. Antiochus even had Greek statues put in the Temple in Jerusalem, the holiest of all places to the Jews! He ordered the Jews to give up their Sabbath. He made the Jews sacrifice pigs—which Jewish law declares unclean—in their Temple, and anyone who refused, he had put to death.

The Jews were caught between betraying their beliefs and fear of torture or death.

In the village of Modin, a leader rose up by the name of Mattathias. He and his five sons--Judah, Jonathan, Johanah, Eleazar,and Simon--joined a band of patriots in the hills, and became guerilla fighters. On dark nights, they brought down the armies of Antiochus, one after another. When Mattathias died, Judah became the leader of the outlaw army. They called him Maccabee –  The Hammer.  It  was under his leadership that, against all odds, they defeated the Syrian army and were able to return to Jerusalem.

On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev, they marched into the Holy City and immediately made their way to the Temple.  There they saw a sight that left them shocked and angered. Idols, filth, impurity were everywhere. They rummaged through the ruins seeking at least one flask of pure olive oil with which to light the makeshift menorah they hastily put together. They were determined to restore the Eternal Flame, the light which always burns in the Jewish house of worship.

Flask after flask they found - every one of them broken, ruined, made unusable for ritual by the Syrians. Finally - a miracle! One small jug, enough for only one day, remained with the seal of the Kohain Gadol intact! Quickly, with trembling hands, they poured it into the menorah and lit it. It would be eight days before they could manufacture more oil for the next lighting, but meanwhile, they lit what they had.

The flames of the menorah burned and burned and burned and burned and burned and burned and burned and burned. For eight days they burned. (I bet you counted). Those eight miraculous days are celebrated at  Chanukah - the eight day long Festival of Lights, where we light the Menorah each evening, remembering the miracle from more than 2000 years ago.

Note: three activities follow. How many you have time to do depends not only on your time available, but also on whether you choose a simple or more complicated menorah craft. Choose the activity(ies) that work best for your time frame, group of children and RE space.


Activity 1

Make a menorah (either as individuals or as a group). See or for several options ranging from clay to marshmallows, including both menorahs that will actually hold candles and depictions of menorahs (in case you are not able to have literal flames in your RE situation).


Activity 2

Make potato latkes. If you don’t have a kitchen available in your RE space these work very well with an electric frying pan. Children can grate potatoes, add and mix ingredients. However, only adults should actually fry latkes, as the hot oil splatters very easily. You may wish to have children make the latke batter and then proceed to activity 1 or 3 while an adult cooks the latkes.


Activity 3

Play the dreidel game. You should be able to purchase a dreidel from the gift shop of a local synagogue, or follow the instructions here to make one. Your dreidel will probably spin better if you insert a short pencil through the paper dreidel, so that it spins on the pencil tip.



Do you think miracles really happen? If so, what miracles can you think of? Do you think a miracle has to be something that breaks the laws of nature, or could something be miraculous if it just seems amazing and wonderful? Do you think the bigger miracle of the Chanukah story was the victory of the little army over the bigger army or the oil that burned and burned? Can you think of any other miracles that happened in the story? Can you think of anything you’ve seen that you would call a miracle in the sense that it was amazing and wonderful?



We won’t light candles on our menorah(s) because this year Chanukah doesn’t start for another couple of days, but here is a fun Chanukah song in Hebrew to sing about the dreidel:


Si Vi Von


Si vi von, sov sov sov

Chanukkah hu hag tov

Chanukkah hu hag tov

Si vi von, sov sov sov


Nes gadol haya sham

Chanukkah hu la am

Chanukkah hu la am

Nes gadol haya sham


Note: A “sivivon” is a dreidel. “Nes gadol haya sham” means “A great miracle happened there.” The Hebrew letters on the dreidel stand for this phrase.


For tune go here.



Week Three—December 17th

Winter Solstice


Supplies Needed: Bowl of water, scented oil, gold glitter, candles (one small per person, plus one large one), matches, birthday candles or other small candles to use for safely lighting larger candles


Chalice Lighting

See week one.



See week one.



(Light the first three candles of the advent wreath (two purple and one pink).) Our first Advent candle stood for hope, and the second one for peace. Our third advent candle stands for joy. Take a moment of silence to think about what makes you feel truly joyful – not just happy or amused for a moment, but what really fills your heart and lifts you up. (Have children share aloud and/or write these thoughts on the “greenery” hands.)



This week brings us the moment of the year which is at the root of the year which is at the root of many winter holidays, the winter solstice, which is the day of the year with the shortest day and the longest night. Around the world, for centuries back and in many different ways, people have celebrated the moment when the season began to turn toward more sunlight, and today we’ll join in that celebration.



The Longest Night of the Year

by Lynn Ungar

Josephina Mouse had been noticing, and she didn’t like what she’d been seeing.  In all of her short life when she woke up in the morning the sun was shining, and it went on shining until well after she was tired out with the day’s scurrying and searching and nibbling.  But for days and days, too many to count, the morning light had seemed to get more and more dim, as if the sun were tired, and in the evening the sun seemed to be going to bed earlier and earlier, as if it weren’t feeling very well.

That night, snug in their burrow, Josephina asked her mother, “Mama, what’s wrong with the sun?  It doesn’t shine as long as it used to, and when it does shine it isn’t nearly as warm.  Is the sun sick?  Is it old?”

“Oh, Silly Little Twitch-Whiskers, the sun is old, older than me, or Grandma, or old Mr. ‘Possum who’s lived in this forest longer than anyone can remember, but it isn’t tired or sick.  This is just what the sun does this time of year.  It’s called winter.”

“But why?  Why does the sun do this?”

“Oh, Miss Nosiest of Little Pink Noses, that’s just what it does.”


Josephina’s mother stopped and thought for a moment.  “Perhaps the great Winter Mouse up in the sky nibbles away at the sun, so that there’s less and less to shine.  Don’t worry, soon the mouse will go to sleep, and the sun will start to grow back.”

“But I don’t see nibble marks,” said Josephina Mouse.  “I’m sure the moon gets nibbled away bit by bit, then grows back to a circle again.  But there’s no piece missing on the sun.”

“Oh, Miss Bright Eyes, you’re a clever one.  Perhaps the sun gets dusty through all of its long journeys and can’t shine so bright.  Don’t worry.  The great Winter Raccoon up in the sky will come and wash the sun, scrubbing with her clever paws day after day until the sun shines bright again.”

“But Raccoon washes her food before she eats it.  Will the Winter Raccoon eat up the sun?  What will we do then?”

“Oh, Miss Worry Paws, you can stop rubbing your hands that way.  There’s really no such thing as the Winter Raccoon.  Winter comes because the great Winter Raven in the sky spreads his wings out over the earth to go flying.  His black wings are so wide that they cover the whole sky.  If you look up at night you can see the bright stars he hides in his feathers.  You know how Raven loves anything shiny.  Don’t worry, eventually he gets tired, and takes shorter and shorter flights.  When he’s sleeping his wings don’t block the sun, and it gets warm again.”

“But where does such a big bird find a place to roost?  Where is the tree that goes all the way up into the sky?”

“Oh, Miss Wide Ears, does anyone listen as carefully as you?  Since you’re such a clever one, why don’t you tell me what happens so that the light is less.”

Now it was Josephina’s turn to stop.  She hid her eyes behind her paws for a moment as she tried to imagine.  “Maybe,” she said, “maybe the whole world is a great acorn rolling through the sky.  Maybe where we live is up by the cap, and other animals, in a forest far, far away, live down by the pointy tip.  Maybe the acorn rolls in such a way that for a time the cap comes closer to the sun, and we see it longer and feel it brighter.  And then, later in the year, maybe the pointy tip rolls closer to the sun, and the animals down there get warm while here it gets cold and dark.  Don’t worry.  Soon the acorn will roll back, and everyone who lives on the cap will have warmth and light, and the flowers will bloom, and we’ll all go searching for seeds and nuts.”

“Yes, oh Miss Tail So Long it Tells Tales of Its Own, I’m sure that must be how it is.  But for now there are seeds in the burrow, and it’s time for sleep.”

Josephina Mouse curled up close against her mother’s warm, soft side, and as she drifted into sleep her dreams began with the bright, cold stars shining down on the longest night of the year.



You may wish to have an altar decorated with evergreens. Place a large bowl of water and a candle in the center of the room. Have some gold glitter and scented oil nearby. Give each of the participants a candle—a votive candle or tea light in a holder is safest. The candles will need to stand independently at the end.

Everyone sits in a circle with a lit candle in front of them each person has a turn to talk about their losses during the year, things they no longer have and miss, or sorrows that continue to carry. When each person finishes talking they blow out their candle. When all are done, the central candle is extinguished and everyone sits in the darkness reflecting on what they have lost. After a long silence, the leader relights the central candle which represents the sun and sprinkles the gold glitter on the water. Each person lights their candle from the central candle and says something good that they hope will come out of the loss the mentioned earlier, or something that they wish would replace the earlier loss. After each person lights their candle they place them by the water so they can watch the glitter sparkling there.

Pass around a glass of orange, apple or white grape juice (something sun-colored). The leader puts the scented oil in the water and anoints each person with sunshine by dipping her hand into the sparkling, scented water and sprinkling it over each person’s hair.


Play and sing along with The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun”



Week Four—December 24th



Supplies Needed: Song sheet (included), simple costumes for pageant or stuffed animals/dolls/action figures to enact the story. Cocoa and cookies if so desired.


Chalice Lighting:

For so the children come

And so they have been coming….

No angels herald their beginnings.

No prophets predict their future courses.

No wisemen see a star to

show where to find the babe

that will save humankind.

Yet each night a child is born is a holy night….

--Sophia Lyon Fahs


Check in: See week one.



Light all four advent candles. Say “We light our fourth and final candle for love.”



“Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning.

Love has to be put into action and that action into service.

Whatever form we are,

Able or disabled, rich or poor,

It is not how much we do [that matters]

But how much love we put in the doing;

A lifelong sharing of love with others.
--Mother Theresa


Have a moment of silence, then have people say aloud the names of those they love and/or write them on the greenery hands.



Although Jesus probably wasn’t really born in December, many centuries ago the Christian church decided to celebrate his birth at mid-winter. It was not only a way of connecting to midwinter holidays that people already celebrated, but it made sense to them that the story of the special baby who would bring hope and joy should come at the time when we are looking toward the growing light of longer days.



You can turn this story into a Christmas pageant by having four people read the story, while others act it out. If you only have one or two kids, they could choose dolls or stuffed animals to play the various parts, and then move the “characters” around to show the action of the story. You can create simple costumes for a more fun performance. Lyrics for the carols which are interspersed with the story/pageant are on a separate sheet.


The Christmas Story Retold
by Ellen Schmidt (adapted)

Cast of Characters

(speaking roles)

Deborah, a middle-aged woman
Jacob, her husband
Daniel, a middle-aged man
Anna, his daughter (about 10) In Jerusalem about 25 C.E.


(non-speaking roles)
Innkeeper's wife
Little Deborah, age 10
Little Daniel, age 7
Deborah's & Daniel's families
Infant Jesus
Angels In Bethlehem, at the time of Jesus' birth


DEBORAH: Daniel! Daniel teen Reuben!

DANIEL: Deborah! Imagine meeting you here in Jerusalem!

DEBORAH: This certainly is a surprise! I haven't seen you in years! Not since you moved away from Cana what was it, about 15 years ago! What brings you up to the city?

DANIEL: We've come to visit the temple. This is my daughter, Anna. Anna, this is my friend Deborah, who was my neighbor back when we were growing up in Canal

DEBORAH: It's nice to meet you, Anna. And I'd like you both to meet my husband, Jacob.

DANIEL: Pleased to meet you. And what brings you here?

DEBORAH: Our daughter is being married in the temple next week and we're here to make the final preparations. She and her new husband will be living in Cana, not far from where you and I used to live.

DANIEL: This is quite a coincidence. We've come here because Anna has never seen the temple, since it's such a long trip from our home in Capernaum. But, when we were making our Hanukkah plans, we decided this would be a good time to visit the place where that great miracle happened so long ago.

DEBORAH: I'd certainly agree with that. It was truly wonderful that, after we got the temple back from the Greeks, one day's worth of consecrated oil burned in the holy lamp for the eight days needed to make more.

JACOB: True, but remember that the real miracle was that the Jewish farmers actually won the war against the Greek armies and restored our religious freedom! That's what calls for joyful celebration!

DANIEL: You're absolutely right! So, how are things in Cana these days?

DEBORAH: About the same. The only news is about that traveling preacher who has been going around with a group of followers telling people that God is coming soon to rule on earth, and they'd better be getting prepared to live in God's kingdom. Yeshua of Nazareth is his name -- the Greeks call him Jesus.

DANIEL: I've heard of him. In fact, I've heard it said that he is the baby who was born in Bethlehem that year we all had to go there because Caesar Augustus was taking a census for tax purposes. Do you remember that?

DEBORAH: Do I ever! That was really a wild night! Do you think it could be the same Yeshua?

ANNA: What are you talking about, Daddy?

DANIEL: I guess I've never told you that story.

JACOB: I don't think I've heard it either, Anna

DEBORAH: Well, it's quite a story. It happened when I was about ten years old - King Herod was still alive - maybe 30 years ago. Caesar had ordered all the Jews to return to the city where their family had originated from so he could get an accurate census for the tax rolls. My family and Daniel's had to go to Bethlehem. Now I know you think of Bethlehem as a sleepy little town, but it sure wasn't then. I'd never seen so many people in one place before in my whole life. It seemed more crowded than Jerusalem at Passover.

(Innkeeper and wife come in. Animals come in. Cow under manger.)

Sing O Little Town of Bethlehem (lyrics below)

DANIEL: Our families had managed to find a place to stay in a little inn -- more like a boarding house, really. There were several other families staying there, too. We were packed in like sardines. We kids didn't mind, though -- there was always someone to play with!

(Some innspeople come in. More come in. Little Daniel and Deborah in front with dreydls.)

DEBORAH: Remember when that young couple showed up at the door? She was really pregnant and we kids peeked and snickered until we saw how close she was to tears.

(Mary and Joseph come in.)

DANIEL: I guess they'd been looking for a place to stay for hours with no luck and she was scared that baby was going to be born right out in the street! The man that ran our boarding house said he was out of room, too, but they said they were really desperate for a roof and some protection from the cold wind, because they were sure the baby would be arriving soon.

DEBORAH: Everybody in the inn was concerned, but nobody volunteered to give up their space. I remember that my mother told my dad that she had little ones too, and that she wasn't willing to run the risk of their spending the night on the street.

(Innkeeper asks others to leave and shake their heads.)

DANIEL: My parents felt the same way. Finally, the innkeeper said he thought he could make a place for them in his stable, if he moved a couple of the animals outside. The young couple -their names were Miriam and Yosef, weren't they? -- were so grateful you'd have thought he'd offered them a room in the palace.

(Innkeeper looks in stable - goes back to Mary and Joseph.)

ANNA: You mean the lady and the man stayed in the barn?

DANIEL: Yep. The innkeeper took the cow out, swept up the floor of the stall and put in fresh straw. He found them a couple of blankets and got them all settled down in the stall.

(Little Daniel and Deborah sneak up close.)

DEBORAH: I remember watching him get everything ready, and thinking that at least they wouldn't be cold, because all the sheep and the donkeys in the stable were warming it up pretty well!

DANIEL: I'll bet Miriam was asleep the minute she lay down on that straw -- after the innkeeper shooed all us kids out!

(Little Daniel and Deborah go to inn and go to sleep.)

JACOB: So, did the baby really get born in the stable?

DANIEL: That's right. In the middle of the night. I was sleeping in the main room and I woke up when I heard Yosef come in to get the innkeeper's wife to help with the birth.

(Baby is born.)

DEBORAH: Me, too. Remember how we lay awake waiting for her to come back? It seemed like hours, but I guess it really wasn't, because it was still dark when she returned and said that a baby boy had arrived.

DANIEL: We were so curious we couldn't resist sneaking out to get a look at him. We didn't take a lantern but we could still see -- remember how very bright that big star was?

(Angels hold up star.)

DEBORAH: It seemed like such a magical night. That bright sky was so amazing! I could have sworn that heaven itself was shining down on that little baby and that the angels were welcoming him into the human community.

(Angels enter)


Sing “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” (lyrics below)


DANIEL: And not just angels, either. Remember all those shepherds who came to the stable? The night seemed special to them, too -- and they should know if a night is different, since the're often out with their flocks at night. They were pretty sure it was a sign that this was a special baby.

(Shepherds enter.)

ANNA: You mean the shepherds left their sheep and came to find out what special thing had happened that caused the bright sky?

DANIEL:; Yep. And not only shepherds. Most of the people in the inn came out to find out what was going on, too.

(Innspeople go near stable.)

DEBORAH: I remember thinking what special people Miriam and Yosef must be also, to put up with all those people when the baby was just born. They too must have thought there was something really special about their little boy.

DANIEL: And remember those Magi from Persia who arrived at just about dawn? I just stared at their fancy clothes.

ANNA: Why did they come?

DANIEL And they brought presents, too! They must have been really rich, because they brought gold and frankincense and myrrh. I guess that's an indication of just how special they thought the baby was.

(All but readers hold still.. Readers move back to center and look at tableau.)

JACOB: Well, if that baby is the Yeshua or Jesus I've heard preaching in Capernaum, he certainly grew up to be a special man. I heard him just a couple weeks ago, and he is quite a remarkable rabbi.

DEBORAH: I agree. He always attracts big crowds of people who are willing to spend the whole day listening to him.

ANNA: What does he preach about?

JACOB: Mostly he encourages people to get ready for the coming kingdom of God by worrying less about obeying the Jewish laws and more about whether or not they are being truly good and kind people.

DEBORAH: Anyone who can get people to respect and help others and to think about how God really wants them to be is truly a special person.

DANIEL: He's certainly becoming well known all over this country.

JACOB: He sure is. You know, I'll bet people will still be talking about this man Jesus -- his teachings and his special birth -- many years from now.

Sing Joy to the World (lyrics below)


From REACH 1996


When the song of angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken

To feed the hungry

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among brothers [and sisters],

To make music in the heart.

--Howard Thurman


You may want to finish with cocoa and cookies



Christmas Carol Lyrics for Dec. 23rd Lesson


Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in the dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above
While mortals sleep the angels keep their watch of wondering love
Oh morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth.
And praises sing to God the king, and peace to all on earth.


It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

It came upon a midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold:
'Peace on the earth, good will to men,
from heaven's all-gracious King!'
The world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
with peaceful wings unfurled;
and still their heavenly music floats
o'er all the weary world;
above its sad and lowly plains
they bend on hovering wing,
and ever o'er its Babel sounds
the blessed angels sing.

For, lo! the days are hastening on,
by prophet bards foretold,
when with the ever-circling years,
comes round the age of gold,
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendours fling,
and the whole world give back the song
which now the angels sing.


Joy to the World

(lyrics which appear in Singing the Living Tradition, adapted from the original)

Joy to the world, the Words is come:

Let earth with praises ring.

Let every heart prepare a room

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.


Joy to the earth, now gladness reigns:

Let hearts their songs employ,

While fields and floods,

Rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.


Week Five – December 31st



Supplies Needed: drums or other rhythm instruments; a variety of nuts (if no one in group is allergic), dried fruit and/or small pretzels, bowl, large spoon, small cups; boom box/stereo/mp3 player with music


Chalice Lighting:

Each of us has a little light, but together we shine like the sun.


We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)


Or, for older kids:


In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.


Check in: See week one.



Kwanzaa is a holiday which runs from December 26 to January 1st. Unlike most holidays, which people have celebrated in one way or another for hundreds of years, Kwanzaa was invented a little more than 40 years ago. Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga wanted a holiday that would celebrate the Africa-American community and remind African-American families of the values that he thought were important for strong families and communities. And so he came up with seven principles for the seven days--giving them names from Swahili, an African language--and used symbols from African harvest celebrations to create a brand-new holiday. Today we’ll be looking at each of the principles, with a story or activity for each one. Just out of curiosity, can you think of anything else that has seven principles?


Principle 1 -- Umoja (Unity)
Unity means togetherness, standing together in support of one another.

To practice unity, if you have enough people, do a lap sit. Join together in a very tight circle with everyone’s right (or left) shoulder in toward the center of the circle. You will need enough people to be able to form a circle with people standing almost back to back. Then, all at the same time, have everyone sit down, so that each person is sitting on the lap of the person behind them.

If you don’t have enough people for a lap sit, have participants stand facing each other, hands open and raised to about head level. Standing palm to palm, have participants lean in, finding a balance point so that they are supporting one another.


Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
Self-determination means to think and speak and decide for yourself.

Here is an African story about self-determination:

The Three Tests

Once, long ago three tigers came to Africa. They went to the country of the animals and made this terrible announcement.

"From now on, this land will be ruled by the Tigers. We are, after all, the strongest, fastest and wisest of all animals. Therefore, we are the only fit rulers." they claimed.

A little mouse spoke up from the crowd, "But we have a council where we make our decisions together, we don't need or want any ruler."

One of the tigers let out a roar so loud and fierce that the poor mouse started running and didn't stop until he was in the land of the humans. To this day, he lives in the houses of humans. Her cousin, the field mouse misses her terribly.
The other animals didn't like the idea much either, but they looked at those tigers' big claws and sharp teeth and were afraid to speak. These tigers were even bigger than the lion.

"We will collect taxes and we'll also change the name of this country. From now on, this will be Tigerland and you will call yourselves servants of the tigers." they said.

Finally, Anansi spoke. "Great tigers, it is clear that you are strong, fast and wise, but just so that everyone will know for sure that you are stronger, faster and wiser than anyone
else, let us have a contest." Anansi suggested.

The tigers liked the idea, so Anansi continued. "Let us prepare ourselves, then tomorrow we will choose someone to compete against each of you."

So the tigers left and the animals held a private meeting to discuss what to do.

The next morning, the animals were ready. The tigers came to the council circle. The strongest tiger spoke first. "Who will compete against me?" he asked.

"I will." said the tiny voice of the field mouse.

The tiger laughed until he cried. "This will not take long." he said.

"Who will race me?" roared the swiftest tiger.

"I will." said the tortoise.

"This is no contest at all!" shouted the tigers.

Hare told the third tiger, " I must bring you to the home of the owl. She is the wisest of all creatures."

"We will see," said the tiger.

First was the contest of strength. The field mouse brought the tiger to a large clearing. They each stood at one edge of the clearing with one end of a rope. Between them was placed hundreds of big thorn bushes. When she gave a signal of two short tugs on the rope, the tiger was to start pulling. The loser would get dragged across the thorns.

The tiger laughed at the little mouse and said that he was ready. She gave the signal, and the tiger began to pull. What he didn't know was that behind the field mouse, standing in the forest was a great bull elephant holding onto the rope. So while the tiger pulled on one end, the elephant pulled on the other. The tiger got dragged all the way through the thorn bushes yelling, "Ouch! OOOCH! Ouch! Ouch!" all the way.

"If this is how strong the mice are, I would hate to see what the other animals can do!" he shouted.

Next was the race. The tortoise brought the fastest tiger to a five-mile stretch of road in the forest. At each mile marker, one of tortoise's cousins was hiding. (To the tiger they would all look alike.)

When the race began, Tiger went zooming away, leaving the tortoise in his dust. As he was coming to the first mile marker, the tiger was laughing to himself.

"How could a tortoise think he could outrun me?" he said.

Just then, Tortoise came out from his hiding place behind the mile marker.

"What took you so long, Mr. Tiger?" he asked politely.

Tiger was shocked. "How did you get here so fast?!" he screamed.

Tortoise didn't answer. He just slowly plodded off toward the next marker. The tiger zoomed past him and ran at top speed to the second mile-marker, only to find Tortoise sitting there waiting.

"I really thought tigers were faster than this." he said, sounding very disappointed.

"I'll beat you yet!" shouted the tiger as he sped to the next marker. At this third marker, Tortoise was sitting down playing a game of mancala with Anansi and laughing about how easy the race was. Tiger couldn't believe his eyes.

At the fourth marker, Tortoise was asleep, snoring loudly. Tiger sped by him so fast that he left the tortoise spinning like a top.

Finally, tiger was racing toward the finish line. Tortoise was nowhere in sight. Tiger was running at full speed. Nothing could stop him now. Yet, as he got closer to the line, he noticed a little round thing sitting there. It must be a rock he told himself. But as he got closer, he saw that little head and those four little legs and he knew. Tortoise was already there!

"It's impossible!!" he screamed. But no matter how much he screamed, it didn't change the fact that Tortoise had won the race.

Now the hare was bringing the third tiger to the home of the wise old owl. But the hare kept complaining of stomach pains and said that he couldn't walk very well.

"Can't you get someone else to show me the way?" said the tiger angrily.

"I'm the only one who knows the way," whispered Hare, "It's a secret."

Tiger was irritated. "Then you'll just have to ride on my back," he said.

They rode on for a little while, but the hare kept letting himself slide off the tiger's back, so they weren't making much progress.

"If you bring me to my house, I can get my saddle." Hare suggested, "That way, I won't slip off."

So the tiger brought the hare home and let Hare put a saddle on him.

"And if you let me use these reins," Hare continued, "I can steer you left or right without talking so much. I have a sore throat you know."

Tiger agreed. Then the hare went into his house and came out wearing spurs and carrying a whip.
"Wait a minute!" said Tiger, "What's all that for?!"

"Oh I just wear these spurs for show." Hare said. "And the whip is so I can keep the flies off you while you're giving me a ride."

"Okay," said the tiger, "But be careful."

So they rode on, but not to the owl's home. They went right to the council circle. All the other animals were gathered there. When Hare came in sight of the other animals, he dug his spurs into the tiger's sides and snapped that whip against the tiger's backside and yelled "GITTY UP HORSEY!"

That tiger went jumping and howling through the crowd looking about as foolish as a fool can look. All the animals laughed and laughed. The other tigers were so embarrassed that they pleaded with the hare to stop.

The hare got off the tiger's back and took his saddle and reins. Those tigers agreed never to come back to Africa again. That's why, to this day, there are no tigers in the forests of Africa.
And everyone got along fine in the land of animals with everyone as equals, no kings, no queens, no rulers.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
Collective work means to work together for the good of the whole. When we work as a collective we can create things that no one person can do by themselves.


Rhythm and music are good examples of things that we can do as a group of people cooperating together, creating a sound that is much richer than what one person can make by themself. Using drums, rhythm instruments or simply slapping on body parts or the floor, create a rhythm band. Start with one person who sets the rhythm, and ask people to listen carefully as, one by one, they join in the sound. You may wish to give more than one person the chance to set the rhythm.


Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
Cooperative economics means to share our resources and talents to build businesses that help the whole community.


Set out an array of different kinds of nuts (if no one is allergic), dried fruits, or other items that you might find in trail mix. Ask participants to cooperate together in creating and stirring together a trail mix. When it is finished, scoop up a small cup full for each person to enjoy as a snack.

Nia (Purpose)
We feel our purpose when we know what we want from our lives and work hard to make our dreams come true.


Here is an African story about Purpose:

The Name of the Tree

Once there was a terrible drought in the land of the animals. A kindly king came from over the mountain and planted a special tree. He told them that this tree would bear fruit all year round in any kind of weather. All they had to do to get the fruit was to speak its name. The name of the tree was Oowungalema.

The animals thanked the kind old king and he returned to his own land, which was far over the mountain. The animals then sounded the Great Drum to call everyone for miles around.

When all were gathered at the tree, the lion asked Anansi to speak the name of the tree.

"I thought you were going to remember the name!" said Anansi.

"I don't remember the name!" said the lion, "Someone must know it!"

They asked everyone who had been there when the old king planted the tree, but not one of them could remember the name of the tree. They decided to send someone to ask the king for the name. They were all very hungry, so they decided to send someone fast. They sent the hare.

The hare ran as fast as he could through villages, across the river, through the bush, over the mountain and straight to the court of the kindly old king. The king told him, "The name of the tree is Oowungalema."

The hare ran back, repeating the name to himself as he went along. On the way home, he stopped at the river to rest and take a drink. The water was nice and cool. It felt good

after all that running. The hare splashed around for a while to cool himself off, then he got out of the water and started back to the tree.

When he got back, the animals all cheered. "Now we can have the fruit!" they shouted.

Hare went up to the tree to speak the name,"Oomagamoomoo,no, oobapadoopa, ...Noomooogamooga.."

Try as he might, the hare just couldn't remember the name.

"We have to send someone else." Lion said at last.

So the springbok was sent. She ran all the way to the king over the mountain and tried to keep the name in her head all the way home, but coming through the forest, she tripped

over a root and bumped her head. The name was lost again.

Next they sent Leopard, but on the way back he started chasing a monkey who was teasing him. He forgot the name as well.

Many others tried and failed until finally, the tortoise asked if she might go. Most of the animals laughed because the tortoise is so slow.

"Give her a chance!" Anansi said, "She may succeed where the rest of us have failed."

The tortoise went to her mother and asked, "What do you do if you must remember something very important?"

Her mother told her to keep repeating it no matter what happens. So the tortoise set out on her journey. When she reached the king over the mountain, he said, "The name of the tree is Oowungalema."

Tortoise kept repeating it over and over to herself all the way home. When the monkeys teased her in the forest, she only said, "Oowungalema." (Have listeners say this word along with tortoise.)

When she passed by the river and the sound of the water made her thirsty, she looked at the water and said, "Oowungalema."

And when she got near her house and her children came running to her, she only said, "Oowungalema."

Finally, the tortoise came to the tree. All the other animals were anxiously waiting. The lion spoke, "Tortoise, please speak the name of the tree."

Tortoise said, "Oowungalema."

At last, the animals were able to eat the fruit. Everyone was grateful to the tortoise who kept to her purpose where everyone else had failed.


Kuumba (Creativity)
We use our creativity when we write stories, draw pictures, sing songs, dance or make anything that is beautiful or new.

Practice creativity by dancing along to music in any way that feels right to you.


Closing: Imani (Faith)
We finish with faith – faith in one another and in ourselves, the firm belief that we can make a better, more caring, more peaceful, more fair and more beautiful world.


Join hands in a circle. Raise joined hands up to the sky together and all say “imani” before letting go.