Yesterday I wrote this blog piece about our writing our own songs of praise, like Mary's song of praise when she and Elizabeth reunite. I've been corresponding with several people about possibilities for interactive activities for the 4th Sunday in Advent, and I thought I'd list some of them here, in case you're casting about for inspiration.
Do something creative with the empty manger
Travis Kern, the pastor at St. John's Lutheran in Rockville, Maryland, posted the picture below on Facebook. That's an empty manger, with strips of cloth laid there by the whole congregation.
There's so much you could do with the strips of cloth: write prayers on them, write hopes on them, write the ways that God has blessed you, write a message for the baby Jesus, write praise for God's great works. All you would need would be markers; I doubt you'd even need a special fabric marker, since you're not putting the strips through the wash.
If you don't have a manger, you could fashion one out of a box or a trough or a dresser drawer--after all, families who are poor, the way that Joseph and Mary were poor, must improvise.
Make a paper chain
On the strips of paper, again, so much you could write: hopes, dreams, prayers. You could talk about Mary's song of praise and how it ties back to prophets, like Isaiah. You could have people write about events from the past that are important and form a chain that can never be broken. The paper chain could be added to the tree that you probably have by now in your chancel.
Plant a seed
--There's also the pregnancy aspect, the waiting aspect, the having to be patient at the fulfillment of the promise. It's Advent 4, after all. It's a perfect opportunity to think about what we wait for. What seeds are in us, waiting to come to fruition? You could get some paper cups and put potting soil in each. You could get some seeds and invite people to plant them and to take the cup home. You could encourage them to think about what they'd like to see take root in their own lives. You could invite them to pray as they plant. You could remind them of the importance of watering that seed, both the real one in the cup and the metaphorical seeds that God has planted. Seeds in dirt might appeal to people who don't think of themselves as artsy. Of course, there's also the danger of mess, if that's important to avoid in your church.
Social Justice Activities
The spectacle of a pregnant, unwed teenager and a pregnant, barren woman might present a good opportunity to talk about the outcast. You can't get much more outcast than to be a woman in a distant outpost of the Roman empire, unless, perhaps, you were a slave. Could you create an interactive activity that could be simple and done by people of a wide variety of ages and skill levels? A skilled quilter could set up a station where people worked on baby blankets for indigent mothers. Or maybe it's enough to plan activities to be done throughout the coming year to help women in our society who need our care: the very young, the battered, the homeless, the mentally ill.