Sunday, December 30, 2012

Prophets of the Lord

In the weeks leading up to Christmas break, the level 3 children began work on the prophet studies.

In level 1, we focus on 5 particular Messianic prophecies - prophecies pointing to the first coming of the Messiah.

  • The People who walked in darkness... 
  • And you Bethlehem of Ephrathah...
  • The Lord shall give you a sign! A maiden...
  • For a Child was given us, a Son born to us; upon His shoulders...
  • A Star shall come forth out....
(we include the Scripture passages when we read aloud from the Scripture, to emphasize where each of the passages is found - I invite you to find these passages (all within the prophets) and to find the end of each passage we actually use ;) )

Each of these prophecies reveal something particular about the coming Messiah - not just the Messiah who was born in the stable, died on the cross and rose from the tomb; but the Messiah who is coming again, for whom we daily prepare but most particularly prepare during the weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. 

In level 2, these prophecies are reviewed again, going deeper. Emphasizing to the children that every time we come back to God's Word there is something more for us if only we will keep our eyes and hearts open. Thus, in level 2, we discuss some of the actual Old Testament history - just a bit. 

And we add a few more specific prophecies: 
  • A shoot shall spring from the stump of Jesse....
  • Then the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb...
  • A voice cries out: "In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord!"...
And we expand the Star and Sceptre to include "I see Him, though not now; I behold Him, though not near...."

For the most part, the meditation on these prophecies flows with the particular group of children - what are their insights? What words stand out for you? What do these words mean? Share any intellectual knowledge I have about a word, a phrase, a point in history that is pertinent to the discussion. Hold back any insights that the children are not pointing to yet - there is time in the future to come back to these prophecies again and again. 

Level 3 continues the same prophecies and adds a study on what used to be several prophets and now focuses mostly on Isaiah. The children aren't going for it - and want to study more!

This year, in the level 2 & 3 atrium, I gathered all the children to meditate upon the first set of 5 - for many it was review, and a couple of children sat back as if to say, "I've got this, so I'll just sit quietly and let the conversation flow for the younger children." They sat up a bit straighter when I started mentioning things they didn't know yet ;) Who was Jesse? how does he fit in? But I thought Jesus would be a descendant of Jacob? Who are all these people? How do they connect? Frankly, the 6-7 year olds really weren't there for that part of it, but they were meditating on the words in their hearts (if their faces revealed anything!) during parts of the conversation they didn't connect with. 

We read the words several times during our meditation. 

The beauty of these prophecies, is that I honestly don't remember all that was discussed, all that was explored, all that was discovered - but the children do - it is in their hearts - what stood out for them in that moment is now stored within their hearts - a seed that will sprout later, or nourishment for an already growing seed. What stands out for me are the revelations made in my own heart. 

Thus allowing that ebb and flow of private meditation with outward reflection as the conversation continued to cycle through the younger and the older children was very beautiful to experience in the atrium. 

What stood out for me from the children's responses? In one of my atriums (the specifically level 3), the children revealed that the real desert in one's own heart. Sometimes we really do need to go somewhere barren in order to discover the truth of God, but many times that desert is within ourselves; as well as among people who have not yet found God's love and mercy. 

I did very specifically point out to the children that it is NOT "The voice cries in the desert, "Prepare the way of the Lord!" but instead: "The voice cries, "In the desert, prepare the way of the Lord!" Hm. A BIG difference! Too bad our lectors don't quite get that nuance all the time ;)
(update: it seems that some of the New Testament translations of this Old Testament passage have the punctuation marked in the wrong place - not the fault of the lectors - the fault of the translators... how sad :( )

A continual reminder in the atrium - WHO is a prophet? A prophet is someone who truly hears the word of God (in some cases eats it!) and then shares that Word with the world. Perhaps a particular individual, perhaps a particular group, but always the message contains Truth that is for everyone - all peoples of all times.

A listening ear - and a listening heart.

Eventually I did dismiss the youngest ones, inviting each of them to take a prophecy card of choice for tracing with the calligraphy markers and/or pens. This was fantastic for getting the older children to show the youngers (when the olders became available). (the rest of this description is for both the oldest in the level 2/3 and all of the children in the level 3) I kept the 3rd through 6th graders for further meditation; going a bit more into the history of the Israel. We've not yet pulled out this timeline, but I felt some more facts of the history were in order. So we walked through some of that history in broad overview - giving light to how these prophets connect to each other and to whom they were speaking. 

How do these prophecies truly apply to our lives today? 

How do they guide us today? 

How do they help us understand the Parousia? 

What more prophecies could there be? Isn't this enough? It is... and it isn't. 

Afterwards, the 4th-6th graders in each atrium were invited (can I say "required"?) to explore the Prophet Studies binder. This is a material with some recent updates, thus my set of prophet booklets for the just-level-3 is different from the set of prophet booklets in the combined 2/3 atrium. The booklets have been minimized in content to really focus on the most key points. However, I am personally disappointed to find that the focus is almost entirely on Isaiah only. Despite their being 18 prophecy books... Hm. 

But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the materials in the combined atrium had not yet been updated. So I took some photos of the Scripture chart (seen below in one of the photos), as well as the question cards. I re-created these materials for the just-level-3 atrium, but left the booklets alone. 
Scripture chart shown here
level 2 child tracing in calligraphy
level 3 children doing a prophet study
I then have the children in the just-level-3 atrium read the introduction booklet. Then select a green card with questions. Read the booklet that it tells them to read; but then, in order to answer the remaining questions, also pull out that Scripture chart in order to find the remaining answers directly in the Bible. 

This works fine in the level 2/3 atrium - these children are mostly homeschooled or unschooled; the ones who do attend school are very responsible as well - so this atrium, despite several new-to-the-atrium children has readily adjusted to the freedom of movement within the atrium. 

In my only-level-3 atrium, my other catechist usually sits with these children while they are working to help keep them on task and support them as they make their work choices. My 5th and 6th graders are all-new to the atrium (having an excellent but only part-time atrium experience for sacramental preparation in 1st or 2nd grade) and they attend a traditional school - so they are still exploring what this atrium environment is all about. The 4th graders have been in the atrium since Kindergarten, so they're old pros at it ;) 

The level 3 prophet study looks at the calling, the vocation, the struggles and the messages of the prophets. My hope is that the set-up we now have, requiring the use of the Bible, will pull the children into the lives and messages of the prophets, encouraging them to read and discover more than the "work-required" portions. This introductory work really has the possibility of opening wide many doors into Biblical exegesis.

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