Supporting Schools & Parishes
Sharing Christmas with the Christians of Vellore Diocese An act of collective worship
Children will need to make divas in advance. These are small clay thumb pots with a flat base. In India you would fill the lamp with oil and have a cotton wick, but in this case it is probably safer to make the divas of a suitable size to hold a tea-light. As a minimum you will need two lights per class, but it would be good for every child to make and use their own light if this is possible (and safe!).
You also need other props:
- a star (Christmas decoration);
- a poinsettia (real preferably, but artificial or photograph will do)
- a baby doll (is an Indian doll possible?) you may like to dress the pupil who takes this section as Mary
- a candle
- perhaps a banner with the Tamil Christmas greeting?
If you are able to do so, download the OHP slide of an Indian school nativity tableauand display this throughout the assembly.
The script that is set out below can be used by an individual worship leader - but it is even better if a group of children lead, so I have set this out as for a class led-assembly. An additional two pages of information on Christmas in South India are included with these materials, so that if you wish to extend the service by talking in more detail about Christmas in Vellore Diocese you may do so.
The people who are walking in darkness have seen a great light; the light is shining on those who live in the land of deep darkness. Jesus is the Light of the World. (adaptation Isaiah chapter 9 verse 2)
Welcome to our assembly. We are remembering today our friends who are Christians in the Diocese of
Vellore in South India. One of the languages they speak in that area is Tamil, so I am going to wish
you a Happy Christmas in Tamil:
Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal
Light is very important to us all. Without the light of the sun we would freeze and die. Without the light of lamps and torches we would not be able to see where to go. Without the electric light which lights our schools and homes we would not be able to see to do anything once night has fallen.
We call Jesus the Light of the World because he is as important to us as light. He shows us the way to live and the way to go. Without him it would be like the world is full of darkness.
The Christians in South India love Jesus. At Christmas they like to remember that Jesus is the Light of the World. This is how they do it:
Pupil with star:
The Christians in Vellore decorate the outside of their homes with huge paper stars. The stars remind them of the story of the wise men coming to see Jesus, and how Jesus guides our lives like the star guided the wise men. They leave the stars up on their houses for weeks, so that everyone can see.
Pupil with lit diva:
They light oil lamps like these, which are called divas, and put them on the corners of their roofs and on their walls. When their neighbours ask what the lights are for, they tell them about Jesus who is Light of the World.
Pupil with poinsettia:
In India the plants and trees are different to those in England. The Indian Christians decorate their homes and churches with mango and banana leaves at Christmas. Their favourite plant is the poinsettia because these beautiful red leaves remind them of the shining star which shone over the stable at Bethlehem.
Pupil with lit candle:
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the people in Vellore have very long services in church which last two or three hours. Hundreds of people go, and if you are late you may have to sit on the floor of the church or even stand outside and watch through the windows because the church is so full. At the end of the Christmas Eve service everyone takes a candle home with them. This shows how the message of Jesus the Light of the World is taken out from the church building into the world.
Pupil with doll:
At Christmas we welcome the birth of Jesus as a baby here on earth. For Christians in Vellore this is also a special time to welcome babies into God's family. Many babies are baptised on Christmas because it is such a special day.
We are remembering that Jesus is the Light of the World, but in the Bible we are told that we should be like lights too. He said that the way we treat each other helps to bring light or darkness into one another's lives. Here is a verse from Matthew's Gospel:
YOU are the light of the world. Let your light shine brightly, so that people may see the good things that you do, and because of you they will think about God.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Light of the World. As Christmas approaches, may we remember the lesson we have learnt from our Christian friends in India, that Christmas is not really about getting presents, but about your coming into our world. Amen
Pupil with diva:
We have learnt how the Christians in Vellore return to their homes on Christmas Eve carrying the light of Christ. Now we are going to return to our classrooms carrying our own diva lights to remind us that we should try to bring light to everyone we meet.
Arrange for a suitable method of lighting the divas. Each class to be led back to its base by a boy and a girl each carefully carrying a lit diva. If all the children have made divas it is probably best for just two to be lit during the procession(!), but you could light the others back in the classroom for a moment.
Any Christmas carols could be used with this act of collective worship, "Silent Night" would be particularly appropriate. You may prefer to use a hymn such as "We are marching in the light of God" at the end of the assembly.
If you have been able to use the Indian nativity OHP and are using this assembly as part of a fundraiser you could also include the following in the assembly:
The picture you can see is of a nativity tableau at Kassam in Vellore Diocese. This is a church school Christmas service, just like the ones we have in England. This term church schools in Ely Diocese are raising money to help repair some of the church schools in Vellore Diocese like this one. We hope you will help us with this today.View this page as a pdf