Forming Faith Blog

God in the Fiery Furnace (December 3, 2017)

Daniel 3:1, 8-30

Free Resource: I-DOLL-atry (Kids 3rd-6th Activity)

Advent Theme (December 3—December 24): God’s Presence Brings Life

God is with us in the fire.

For the first Sunday of Advent, the Narrative Lectionary gives us the story of the Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3. Now it’s time for some fun! I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved the stories in Daniel (at least the common ones). They are amazing stories with fantastical events. They almost fit the structure of a fairy tale (they don’t, but bear with me).

In today’s story, we don’t get a “once upon a time” or a “happily ever after,” but it does begin with almost “a long time ago in a land far away” (Daniel 1:1) and this story ends with our three heroes promoted and blessed (Daniel 3:30). Our heroes are paragons of virtue, while our “evil” king is over-the-top. We wouldn’t call what happens magic, but it is a wonder. There are plenty of reoccurring patterns (we skip some of the repetition of “the satraps, the prefects…” (three times) and “the sound of the horn, pipe…” (four times) in the assigned reading). And the story teaches a universal truth (but more on that later).

God Is with Us

This isn’t a “traditional” Advent story (in fact, this story doesn’t show up in the Revised Common Lectionary). It doesn’t fit the theme of the advent of the promised Messiah. But, Advent is about the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. In Jesus, God came among us, God’s presence became tangible. Our NL Bible passages all center around God’s presence bringing life, culminated in God becoming flesh and living among us.

The universal truth conveyed in the story of the Fiery Furnace (and really all the Book of Daniel), is that God is with us, even in the worst of times. God was with Daniel, God was with the three young men, and God was with the Jews in their exile and difficult return.

The promise to us, today, is that God is with us, too. In our good times and our bad times and our worst times, God is with us. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood firm in their faith in the one true God, following the First Commandment. They trusted in God enough to face death. And, we see that God truly was with them.

A Cautionary Note

It is commonly said, implicitly and sometimes explicitly that God will protect us from bad things because we are believers. That is just not true. Tragedy strikes everyone, the just and the unjust. Some people (Christians and non-Christians) miraculously escape harm, and some people (Christians and non-Christians) suffer and die in tragedy. Some people have everything they need, and some people don’t. Following Jesus doesn’t make your life smoother or trouble-free. What following and trusting in Jesus does give us, is the promise that God is with us every step of our journey through life. We are never alone.

It’s easy to say that God is always with us, and somewhat easy to believe that is true. What’s hard is living it. So many things get in our way, crowd out the simple truth of God’s constant, loving presence. These things steal our fear, our love, and our trust. The Bible even has a word for that: idolatry. We don’t bow down to statues anymore, but we do focus on other things and not God. Our free activity this week, “I-DOLL-atry” teaches kids (of all ages) the meaning of idolatry in a silly, but memorable way.

This activity was created originally for our Living the Word: Kids (3rd-6th) curriculum, but can easily be adapted as a children’s sermon or activity for any age group.

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

How are you planning to have fun with this marvelous story this week?

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

 

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence to help in your preparation!

Image Copyright: buchachon / 123RF Stock Photo