Our LEGO Advent project is over. This being our 1st year to try such an endeavor had every expectation of having its “bumps and bruises,” but I would argue that it went marvelously – to no credit of mine. What a great time we had working on this with our 3 boys in the month of December. We wanted to summarize our thoughts in the following list and give any tips or advice for others who may want to copy our project in a future December.
- By working through the story of redemption through the Old Testament and into the New, I saw afresh how the same themes keep repeating over and over again. Since we all learn by repetition, it was helpful to have the same ideas reinforced in many of the stories. (AKH)
- Keeping our kids attention during the lessons was a challenge at times. The lessons that were kept to 5-8 minutes seemed to be fine, but if we crossed that 10-minute marker of me talking, the teaching became a little difficult. I learned as I was going that keeping the questions coming was a real help. In the future, I might even add some things to act out or provide more variety into how we are teaching truth. (CEH)
- There was a definite difference in the comprehension of our oldest son and our middle son. It certainly challenges your own personal understanding of redemption concepts when you’re attempting to explain them to a 5-year-old, who isn’t yet thinking in abstract ways, and a 7-year-old, who is thinking and processing and interacting personally with the material. (AKH)
- Jackson really enjoyed being able to read the Scriptures for our lessons, further demonstrating that the more they were involved, they more they enjoyed the lessons. (AKH)
- Having the LEGO’s as visual aids really helped the kids identify the main points of subjects of the lesson. (CEH)
- The LEGO building was more challenging than I thought. Sure it isn’t too hard to build a cross or snowman, but building an ark or Garden of Eden or locust wasn’t as easy as I thought. Our boys grew frustrated at times with the projects we tried to build and there were a few times we used Google Images for help, but in hindsight we probably should have oversimplified what we were building to get the boys more involved in building and the adults just observing or supervising. (CEH)
- How many LEGO’s did we use? I didn’t count. But we had a wonderful woman (Pam Sheehan) in our church buy us a box of 1,000 LEGO’s and we probably used most of them, along with those we already had. (CEH)
- Our older kids have asked if we can please do this again in other seasons of the year, like the “Easter season.” (AKH)
- I didn’t anticipate how the busyness of the season, coupled with regular scheduled events, would pose a challenge to completing our lesson each night. There were times we had to postpone and combine lessons and other times we had to get creative about the time and place in which we covered the material. At other times, we simply had to put the 2-year-old to bed early. (AKH)
Most nights, we sit around the kitchen table or the living room and listen as Charles unfolds our Advent lesson. But tonight we lined the boys up on chairs to peer at all our LEGO creations perched up on the ledge overlooking our living room. We wanted the boys to do two things: choose their favorite Advent LEGO creation, and decide which of them was most important. Josiah liked the star best, because it’s big and it led the magi to baby Jesus. Jackson liked the snowman best, because it’s a fun part of winter. I chose the tree, because it was both fun to build and it reminded me of God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promise of a Redeemer through so many generations of people. And in each of these “favorites” we were reminded that they all point back to God – God as Creator of the star that led the magi; God as Creator of the snow we love to play in; and God as Creator of each and every person in the line from Adam and Eve to Jesus. But we all agreed that the most important LEGO creation was the nativity scene, with baby Jesus and his earthly parents, with the wise men and the angel worshiping.
So we asked the boys why God created all of this; He certainly didn’t need to. Why would a perfect, holy God create the world and all that is in it if He didn’t need to? The simple answer: worship. God created the world, God created you and me, for His glory. We’re meant to glorify Him, to worship Him. We’re meant to bow ourselves before Him, but not just physically. To worship God means that everything we do is for Him and because of Him. And all that He created was good and pure and glorifying to Him – until Adam and Eve sinned. So God sacrificed an animal to forgive their sin, made coverings for them, and promised to send a Savior. And people kept sinning. So God commissioned Noah to build an ark, provided protection for Noah’s family from the onslaught on His wrath, and preserved His promise to send a Savior. And people continued sinning. So God established the sacrificial system among His people, over and over made temporary atonement for their sins, and promised again and again that He would send a Savior.
You see, this Creator God has a plan – He always has had a plan. And the sinfulness of man hasn’t thwarted His plan. Everything we read about in the pages of the Bible is about God unfolding His plan. And that’s why the manger is there. God sent Jesus to fix all this. And He sent Jesus as a baby because it was a necessary part of His plan. At exactly the right point in His plan, God sent His Son to become a man, so that He might live, He might grow up, He might fulfill all righteousness, and ultimately, so He would die on the cross to provide the full atonement for our sins. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, no remission, of sins. And in our previous lessons we learned that only the perfectly pure blood of a human would be sufficient to cover our sins. No animal blood could satisfy God’s justice. No sinful human could satisfy His justice, either. Only Jesus could do this. God had to send His Son to live and to die so that we might be reconciled to Him. And only by being reconciled to Him could we truly be His worshipers. And so He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
We had a fair amount to cover tonight due to last night’s missed LEGO Advent evening. We picked up the boys immediately from school and rushed to the movie theater to enjoy The Hobbit with Grandpa and the Happy Meals from McDonalds accompanied us afterwards. So LEGO’s were not something we had a lot of time for when we got back home around 9:00pm.
Tonight, we began with a review of Herod’s hatred for Jesus and the reasons for fear that Mary and Joseph would have had for their new child Jesus. Herod was intent on finding the infant Jesus and stealing his life from Him and he went to the point of slaughtering countless thousands to make it happen. But what an example of the Father’s sovereignty that not even Herod’s plot could steal the Father’s plan. Joseph took his family to Egypt due to the angel’s warning about Herod’s plot and they began a difficult journey of some 200-300 miles.
Once Herod was gone from this world, they returned to Israel for Jesus to begin living his perfect life.
We talked about what Jesus would have been like as an infant and small child. I asked the boys to give a list of ways Jesus would have been no different than other children and here is what they came up with: He went to school, He had hair and a face, He cried and laughed, etc. Josiah provided the comic relief for the evening when he declared that Jesus probably attended Bixby Elementary School.
Then I asked the boys to give a list of ways Jesus would have been very different than the other children and all others and the one reason they came up with was that he didn’t sinned and always obeyed. At that point, we went back to our lesson on the O.T. sacrificial system and I reminded the boys of the insufficient sacrifice of that lamb and all other animals and why Jesus’ blood would be enough. I gave them a bit of a taste of tomorrow night’s lesson (the most important of the season) and we will talk about why Jesus was called the Lamb of God. It’s Gospel time!
As you can tell, our LEGO creations were the pyramids and a camel to symbolize their journey to Egypt and back. Annie added a replica of the sphinx for “kicks and giggles.”
In contrast to last night’s lesson about King Herod and his hatred of Jesus, we looked tonight at some who actually sought Jesus out to worship Him: the wise men, or magi. While it can certainly be said that Jesus’ birth wasn’t accompanied by any human fanfare, there were some from far-off lands in the east who wisely discerned the times and waited expectantly for the birth of a child they knew would be King of the Jews.
Having never really heard the term “magi,” we explained to the boys that these were men who studied the stars and used the information they gained to make predictions about future events and to interprets various circumstances, sometimes accurately and sometimes not. But we also explained that because these men came from far in the east, they may have come from the land in which Daniel had lived long before, the land of Babylon. If so, then these magi would have been familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and may have used that knowledge to ascertain an approximate time for the arrival of this infant King. Following what they described as a star, they arrived in Jerusalem and sought out the help of the religious elite, who promptly conveyed to the magi that the Messiah would be found in Bethlehem. Feigning his own desire to worship this new King, Herod instructed the magi to find the Child and return back with news of His whereabouts.
What a contrast it must have been to have a band of traveling magi arrive at Jesus’ home with their caravan of animals and all that must be required for such a lengthy trip. And in such a lowly setting, royal gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh must have seemed wildly extravagant. But whatever their beliefs were concerning the God of the Jews, these wise men knew that this young Child was the King. And they worshiped Him.
Tonight’s creations: a star and three magi
Jesus being hated is as ancient as Satan’s fall. You can look all throughout the O.T. & N.T. and see people hating Jesus: Cain, the city of Babel, King Saul, Nebuchadnezzar (before Dan. 4), Saul before he was Paul, etc. Tonight we covered another individual who hated Jesus: King Herod.
Herod’s hatred was fueled from a desire for self-glorification. Herod was jealous for his own throne & he knew to some extent Jesus put His kingship in jeopardy. He didn’t want anyone – let alone a baby – stealing his royal thunder. So when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem from the East, Herod sent them to find Jesus but under the guise that he wanted to be a worshipper with them. He deceived them & convinced them – probably temporarily – that he would join them around the manger when they found Jesus so that he could also participate in glorifying him. However, as we know his motives were evil & his plan was wicked. He wanted nothing more than to slay Jesus & keep his throne intact.
As we talked about the wickedness of Herod, you could tell the boys were really mystified that anyone could hate Jesus so much & even go to the extent of killing other babies to find Him. Specifically, you could see the disappointment & sadness on Josiah’s face when he heard of Herod’s evil plans. It was a brief, yet tender moment to witness & share. Those are the moments we are treasuring during our Advent Lego project.
We concluded the evening by briefly mentioning that Herod is just like everyone else who doesn’t love God. I am hoping my boys chew on this truth a bit, because we will return to it in a few days. It is one of those Gospel elements that we all need to know. Without God, we are evil to the core & capable of any sin.
Herod & his throne were our LEGO project tonight.
Periodically, we take our boys on a little review of our LEGO creations, reminding them of the characters and events that have shaped our lessons thus far. As we reviewed the various creations sitting atop the counter overlooking our living room, the boys drew attention to several of our masterpieces. Josiah mentioned Frosty the snowman and reminded us that there are many stories and traditions that are enjoyed this time of year that are fun but have virtually nothing to do with Christ’s birth. Jackson pointed out Mary, reminding us that she was chosen by God to bear the long-awaited Savior of the world, and the angel, bringing to our minds the special announcements the angels were privileged to make to so many people in our story. Finally, Josiah noticed the giraffe, taking us back to our lesson on Noah and the ark God called him to build. Without knowing it, Josiah brought us back to the main thrust of all that we’ve studied this far: the world needed a savior. Noah and his family experienced firsthand the desperate need to be saved from the wrath of God; their need, however, wasn’t any different from the need of every human being that has ever lived. We’re all, left to ourselves, in desperate need of a savior to satisfy the justice of God and provide for the forgiveness of our sins. Time after time, God had promised to send this Savior, this Messiah, the Promised One, and for so long God’s chosen people, Israel, had waited and hoped.
Reading the account of Jesus’ birth is almost anticlimactic. On one hand, we know the anticipation, we read of the angels’ announcements, we watch as the wise men eagerly seek Him out. Yet, we’re also struck by the simplicity and lowliness of Jesus’ entrance into this world. We really don’t know very many of the details of that night. But we know that it must not have been usual; it must not have been normal. Deeply engrained customs of hospitality, coupled with an overwhelming lack of space, meant that this very pregnant woman and her husband would be provided with the only shelter available at the time, the animals’ quarters. It certainly isn’t typical for mothers to lay their newborn sons in mangers meant to hold feed for livestock, but even in Mary’s creative use of her surroundings we can’t help but notice God’s sweet provision for the needs of such a precious Child.
Our task this night: build a manger and a not-pregnant Mary.
One of the most well-known metaphors in the Bible is that of sheep and shepherds – standing for us and Jesus (the Great Shepherd). As we reached Luke 2 (the most familiar section in the Scripture that retells the Christmas story), we begin to see the role of worship that some random shepherds played in the nativity story.
As we read vs. 1-7 together, we noticed that the shepherds had a similar reaction that others had when they encountered an angel: fear. We had talked about this before with the boys but again we wanted to remind ourselves about why people got afraid when they saw an angel in the Bible. Angels have all kinds of roles other than being simply messengers of God. Sometimes they came to judge for God, sometimes they came to make music, sometimes they come to protect humans, etc.
Angels are supernatural beings that can be very bright, appearing in human form and yet not look fully human at all. Because angels sometimes came as agents of destruction, you weren’t always confident when you saw an angel. And the shepherds didn’t know why the angel came at first.
But when the angel comforted them and told them he had come to let them know the Messiah had been born, a chorus of angels joined the first angel and began praising God. A choir began singing right there in the middle of a pasture. (Imagine how scared the sheep were! Bet they ran every which way you could see)!
The shepherds’ role in this story was a simple one: to worship God. They would travel to Bethlehem to see the Baby Messiah and offer him their best: worship.
And for tonight’s creation, we simply made sheep.