Sermons That Work

Wait and Give Thanks: Celebrate the Promise, Advent 4 (C) – 2012

December 23, 2012

[RCL]: Micah 5:2-5a; Canticle 15 (or 3) or Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” (Luke 1:46-48)


In Advent, we are asked to wait. Instead of jumping immediately into Christmas, we spend four weeks pacing along its shore. Longing. Preparing. Waiting. Our tradition says it’s important. Because some truths are so big that we must get ready to receive them.

Of course, waiting is not easy. Far from it. But scripture assures us that waiting is a holy feeling. And scripture gives us some tools for its work. One week at a time. One step at a time.

Your job through this season is to take these shore-line steps with your congregation. To let them experience the holy feeling of waiting. And to let your children lead you all to that really big Christmas truth.

These resources are not simply words designed to be spoken to children. So that they get it. They are also words designed to be spoken to us by children. So that we get it.

The plan of God’s rescue for the world revealed to Mary may sound a little outrageous.

It should. It is. It starts with an unmarried, pregnant girl. And includes an oppressive government. A journey far from home. A cast of peculiar outsiders. Danger. Surprise. And the unlikely promise that a baby will make all the difference in the world.

If it all feels a little desperate, maybe that’s the point. To pull this off, the Lord of all time and space must really want to be here with us. Not once we get ourselves straightened out. Not when we get our lives together. But now. And just as we are. God with us. God for us. God willing to make do with whatever conditions happen to exist.

And once we experience this promise, our hearts can’t help but pour out thanks. Thanks for the outrageous good surprise. Thanks for offering a rescue when we needed it, instead of when we deserved it. Thanks for letting lowly folks participate in something so magnificent. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

This week you will help the children recall the feelings of a good surprise and of thanksgiving. Waiting has been hard, but when we see what God is up to, we can’t help but bubble over with gratitude. Imagine, the perfect gift for every last one of us!

Children’s Worship Service

[The leader welcomes the children, focusing on them individually, making them feel as comfortable as possible.]

LEADER: [to congregation] Will you let your children lead you in worship?

[Pause for response.]

LEADER: [to children] Will you help our congregation, the “big kids,” remember the important stuff about Advent?

This is the last week of the special season called Advent. Do you remember what Advent helps us get ready for? Yes, Christmas. And it’s been full of waiting. But the waiting is almost over.

Today I’d like you to imagine a really good surprise. Not the scary kind. But the good kind. The kind that you can’t help but feel thankful for. Can you show us how that feels?

[Allow time for them to respond. Take your time.]

And can we all say this together? [with as much expression possible] “WOW!”

[Practice gesturing to the children and the congregation and having them repeat “Wow!”]

Remember that feeling. Wow! What a great surprise! Can we all say that together?

LEADER and CHILDREN and CONGREGATION: Wow! What a great surprise!

LEADER: [to children] In our last week, this is a holy Advent feeling. It’s the feeling Mary must have had when the Angel said, “You’re going to have a baby who will change the world!”

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! What a great surprise!”]

Because that isn’t really what we’d expect, right? If someone is going to change the world, this person should be powerful, right? And rich! And smart! And lead the government, right? And boss people around? And not put up with rule breakers, right?

And instead, the angel tells Mary that the great promise to change the world – is a baby. Small and weak and poor. Because God is on the side of the small and weak and poor.

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! What a great surprise!”]

And when the baby Jesus grows up, he won’t command armies and punish bad people. He will heal and hope and love beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. Even people who don’t deserve it. Even the small and weak and poor. Even people like us!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! What a great surprise!”]

When Mary understood all this, the Bible says she just couldn’t help but say thanks! “Wow” and “thanks” go together a lot with God.

So, in our last two days of waiting, I wonder if we can celebrate Advent with a prayer kind of like hers. We’ll all do it together – along with the big kids. I will say a line, then you say: “Wow! And thanks!” Let’s practice. With the kind of excited expression that you get after waiting a long, long time: “Wow! And thanks!”

You never gave up on us, God!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

You sent us prophets and miracles and beauty!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

And you promised a loving savior!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

Because you are with us and for us!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

Every small, weak, poor, last one of us!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

And we can’t help but praise your name and shout:

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]


Don’t forget to subscribe to the Sermons That Work podcast to hear this sermon and more on your favorite podcasting app! Recordings are released the Thursday before each liturgical date.

Receive Free Weekly Sermons That Work Resources!


Christopher Sikkema


Click here