Fire at Pentecost
Pentecost will be celebrated on Sunday 31 May 2020
by Penny Hollander (revised, originally published in 2006)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the word ‘Fire!’ displayed in large letters and the means to record words as they are suggested in the ‘Assembly’, Step 1.
- You will also need a large candle and the means to light it as a focal point for reflection.
- Show the word ‘Fire!’ to the children.
Ask the children what words come to mind when they think of fire. Record the words as the children suggest them. Suggestions may include exciting, warm, light, dangerous, destroys, flicker and so on.
- Ask the children to think of happy occasions when we have fires, such as Bonfire Night, campfires at Brownies or Cubs or on holiday, and birthday candles.
- Point out that although many happy occasions include fire, it can be dangerous, so we have to be careful when we are near it. Explain that we need to take precautions to avoid getting hurt by fire and emphasize the need for adult supervision when we have anything to do with fire.
- Explain that Christians sometimes use fire as a way of imagining God.
Tell the following story of the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples at Pentecost. Ask the children to imagine the scene and suggest that closing their eyes may help them to disappear into the story.
The Story of Pentecost
After Jesus rose from the dead, he showed himself to his disciples several times. After 40 days, Jesus left them again to return to heaven. Before he departed, he asked his disciples to go and tell other people about him. He also promised that even though he wouldn’t be with them any more as a person, he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them forever.
The disciples were puzzled. They didn’t understand what Jesus meant. They gathered in a room to wait for Jesus to keep his promise. For a while, nothing seemed to happen, even though about 120 of Jesus’ followers were praying. They probably thought things like, ‘How is the Holy Spirit going to come?’, ‘When is something going to happen?’ and ‘Why do we have to keep waiting?’ They would have felt frightened, anxious and curious.
While they were waiting, they chose another disciple, Matthias, to replace Judas Iscariot. Judas was the one who had betrayed Jesus to the authorities.
Time went on and it seemed as if nothing was going to happen. Questions kept going round and round in the disciples’ heads. Had Jesus let them down? Was it a matter of out of sight, out of mind? Everyone and everything was quiet, but still they kept on sitting there.
In the quietness, the followers suddenly heard a new sound, like a strong wind blowing towards them. They became aware that God’s presence was with them and at the same time, they saw something incredible: flames or tongues of fire appeared and rested on each person’s head, but without burning them! Instead, they each felt a new power sweeping through them, making them happy and excited. In fact, they were so excited that they all started speaking at once and in different languages.
The day of Pentecost had come and the disciples’ lives had changed forever. Jesus had kept his promise, and had sent the Holy Spirit to be their friend. The fire was a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence, and the different languages that they were speaking signified that they could go and tell people in other parts of the world about Jesus, too.
If the children closed their eyes to listen to the story, ask them to open them again.
Time for reflection
Light the large candle.
Ask the children to focus on the flame and think about the story that they have just heard, about the disciples’ anxiety turning to joy.
The Bible describes the Holy Spirit in different ways. It speaks about the Spirit being strong like the wind, but gentle like a dove and as bright, warming and powerful as fire.
What would it have felt like to have been with the disciples in that room on that special day of Pentecost? It would have been amazing!
Remind the children that Christians today still celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at the festival of Pentecost. This year, Pentecost will be celebrated on Sunday 31 May.
We thank you for sending the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Thank you that you keep your promises and can turn sadness to joy.
‘Light up the fire’ (Come and Praise, 55)