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Christmas Countdown

by Alison Thurlow

Suitable for Key Stage 1 - Church Schools


To encourage us to use the season of Advent to consider the Christian belief that ‘Christmas starts with Christ'.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need an Advent calendar with pictures of the Nativity to show during the assembly.
  • Gather some images of countdowns to Christmas and have the means to show them in the 'Assembly', Step 4, where some examples of these are described (optional).
  • Also, if you wish, you can create an image with the following quote from Isaiah 9.6 (NRSV):

    For a child has been born for us,
       a son given to us;
    authority rests upon his shoulders;
       and he is named
    Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

  • Have available the song ‘Talk about Jesus’ by Ken Warke on the It’s Christmas CD (Children’s Ministry, 2003) or a recording of an appropriate Christmas carol and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. Ask the children if they are good at counting and go on to say that you are going to start the assembly by doing some counting with them. Then count all together as follows (starting slowly and getting faster and louder as you go):

    - from 1 to 10
    - from 1 to 30
    - backwards from 10 to 0
    - backwards from 25 to 0.

  2. Ask if anyone can guess why you have asked them to count backwards from 25 to 0 at this time of the year. If necessary, give them a clue by holding up the Advent calendar.

  3. Say that you expect a lot of the children are counting down the days till Christmas and ask if anyone has got an Advent calendar. You may like to let a few children tell you what was behind the door on their Advent calendar that morning and/or let someone open the door for today on your calendar.

    Ask if they have ever wondered why it’s called an ‘Advent’ calendar, then explain that Christians call the four weeks leading up to Christmas ‘Advent’ and it’s a time when they prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Say that this year, Advent starts/started on Sunday 29 November.

  4. Continue by saying that there seems to be a lot of counting down going on at this time of the year as people get ready for Christmas – doing things such as this.

    Display the 'countdown to Christmas' images, if using.

    Posters and magazines have Christmas dinner countdowns, such as when to buy your turkey and when to make or ice your Christmas cake.

    TV adverts have countdowns of shopping days left and ideas for buying presents for all your family and friends.

    The Post Office has notices to tell you the latest dates that you can post Christmas cards and parcels - especially important if you have friends who live in other countries and want your presents and cards to reach them in time.

    Children, mums and dads and teachers count down how many days of school are left before the Christmas holidays begin!

  5. Note how there is actually quite a lot of counting down in the Christmas story in the Bible, too.

    More than 2000 years ago, a young girl called Mary was counting down the days until her baby would be born. It must have felt like a very long time to wait, but it was worth it because Christians believe Mary’s baby was Jesus, God’s own son.

    Much longer ago than that, however, the Jewish people had been waiting and counting down to the time when her special baby would be born, a baby who would change the world. We can read about the wait for this baby in the Old Testament part of the Bible in Isaiah 9.6, where it says:

    Display the image with the quote from Isaiah 9.6, if using

    For a child has been born for us,
       a son given to us;
    authority rests upon his shoulders;
       and he is named
    Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Time for reflection

If appropriate, explain that Christians believe that Jesus was the baby mentioned in Isaiah, the baby so many people had been waiting for and who, when he grew up, would change the world. For this reason, in the middle of all the other busy things that happen during the countdown to Christmas, Christians try to make sure they make time to remember what they are really celebrating at Christmas – the birth of Jesus.

Encourage the children to use the time each day when they open a door on their Advent calendar to pause and think about what they are really celebrating this Christmas.

Lord Jesus,
We thank you for the excitement of starting to get ready for Christmas.
As we open our Advent calendars, please help us to remember the story of your birth. 


‘Talk about Jesus’ by Ken Warke or chosen Christmas carol

Publication date: November 2015   (Vol.17 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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