Let the Countdown Begin!
An assembly for Advent
by Janice Ross (revised, originally published in 2008)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To encourage us to begin the season of Advent with quietness and reflection.
Preparation and materials
- Have available a video of the Countdown Clock and the means to show it during the assembly. It is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JVwo3D72cc (0.34 minutes long).
- You will need the means to display the anagram ‘R A T S I M H C S’.
- You will also need an Advent calendar and an Advent ring and candles, or one large candle.
- Ask for a volunteer to do some counting for you. Explain that this might be tricky because it involves counting backwards. You would like the volunteer to count back from 30 to 1.
Now ask for a second volunteer to do this again, very quickly. This time, you would like to try to beat the timer.
Show the video of the Countdown Clock.
- Ask the children whether they have heard of a TV game show called Countdown. The show has run for over 30 years and involves two contestants competing in several letters and numbers rounds. In the letters rounds, the contestants have 30 seconds to try to make the longest word possible from nine randomly chosen letters. It isn’t easy, but some of the contestants are amazing at solving these word puzzles. At the end of 30 seconds, the contestant who makes the longest word is the winner. Sometimes, very clever contestants can use all the letters to make one big nine-letter word.
- Show the video of the Countdown Clock again.
Optional: you may wish to challenge the children to complete certain tasks within 30 seconds, timing them by using the Countdown Clock. For example, you could ask them to do a certain number of star jumps or say the alphabet a certain number of times.
- Explain that you are going to show the children a nine-letter, mixed-up word. They have 30 seconds to work out what the word is while the Countdown Clock is ticking. If they find the word, they must put up their hand, but not shout out the answer.
Show the anagram ‘R A T S I M H C S’.
- At the end of the 30 seconds, congratulate any children who have figured out the word: CHRISTMAS!
Ask the children whether they found it stressful, hearing the clock ticking in the background.
- Identify that this is the beginning of the Christmas season, when there is usually a lot of counting down. You may hear people saying things like, ‘There are only 24 days to Christmas’ or ‘Just two days to go!’
Magazines are full of Christmas Day countdowns: when to make a start on the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding, when to order the turkey and so on.
TV adverts are all about countdowns for present-buying: for Mum, Dad, Aunt Jemima and even the cat!
Everywhere, there are shopping lists, address lists and checklists. Often, people are hurrying and scurrying, and seem excited or stressed. There is a race to get everything done before Christmas.
- Show the Advent calendar.
Explain that many of us will be counting down to Christmas by opening a door in our Advent calendar every day, and possibly eating a chocolate, too! Many of us might feel like we want December to pass by as quickly as possible so that Christmas Day arrives soon.
Time for reflection
Show the Advent ring and candles, or one large candle, and light a candle.
Explain that this is the beginning of Advent, a time for us to prepare our hearts to hear the Christmas message.
Explain that it is difficult to be in a rush, to feel stressed and agitated, when we are sitting in front of a candle. A candle is a soothing, quietening thing, something that brings light and stillness into our busy world.
Our Advent candle reminds us that light came into a dark world at Christmas. It reminds us to prepare our hearts once again for the coming hope of the world.
Let us sit quietly for a few minutes in front of the candle and allow our hearts to be stilled.
Pause to allow time for thought.
At the beginning of the Advent season,
We ask that you help us to be still and know you.
Thank you for this candle, which brings quietness, light, gentleness and stillness to our lives today.
Help us as the days ahead become busy and exciting to remember the reason that you sent your son, Jesus, into this world.
Some relaxation music accompanying the image of a candle flickering is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfpLea9OurA (just over an hour long)