FHE / Christmas Activity Idea: Gingerbread Churches!

churches

On Halloween earlier this year, I hosted a German-themed party to celebrate the 500-year-anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  I’ve been meaning to do a complete write-up but the time slipped away.  Better late than never!  I’ve decided to split my write-up into two posts.

First, I’m converting one of the core party activities into a Family Home Evening lesson plan.  (Alternatively, use it to occupy your kids and their friends for an afternoon while they’re home from school over Christmas Break!)

Pictured:  The Gingerbread Churches made at my Protestant Reformation Party.

Second, in the next couple of days I’ll post all of the silly-and-serious “Theses” my party-goers came up with.

Lesson Topic:  Many Christians, One Christmas

Song: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”  (LDS Hymn # 68) (Optional: Lutheran version with different words and extra verses).

Scripture:  Abridged reading of Ephesians 4 (verses 4-8, 12-13, and 31-32)

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.  One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Wherefore Christ gave gifts unto men: for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

So let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Lesson:  History of the Protestant Reformation

    • 500 years ago in Western Europe, there was one major Christian church.  It still exists today and is the biggest Christian church in the world.  It is known as the Catholic Church.  (1000 years ago, the Catholic Church had split from the Eastern Orthodox).
    • 500 years ago, lots of people disagreed with the activities of the Catholic Church.
      • Some people thought the Catholic Church was fighting too many wars, known as the Crusades.
      • Some people thought the Catholic Church was too focused on money; that instead of feeding the poor and healing the sick, the Church was spending money on huge palaces and Cathedrals and parties.
      • Some people thought the Catholic Church was too aloof and hard for ordinary people to understand.  The Church was conducted in Latin, and the Bible was written in Latin, but most people didn’t speak Latin.  They spoke German and English and Spanish and French.  The people wanted to hear the scriptures in their own languages.
      • Some people thought the Pope (the head of the Catholic Church) was corrupt and didn’t have authority anymore to preach the Word of God.
      • Some people thought the Catholic Church was too focused on “works” instead of “faith” and “grace.”  This is the idea that so long as you checked all of the big boxes the Church told you to, like getting baptized and attending church on Sundays and making contributions to the Church, it didn’t matter whether you actually believed in Jesus Christ and tried to be like him in all of the small ways every day, while acknowledging you were a sinner who would never be perfect enough and had to rely on Christ’s grace.
      • These are just examples.  There were lots of other debates over the proper role of the Catholic Church at the time.
    • In 1517, one Catholic Monk named Martin Luther decided to write down a list of things he wished would change in the Church, and how.   He especially focused on the idea that if you paid money to the Catholic Church (called “indulgences”), that money would help forgive your sins and help your family members get to heaven.  He posted his list known as the “95 Theses” on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.
    • This list started a widespread debate in Europe about the ways the Catholic Church should change.  Because of it, new Christian churches started forming.  Today we call those churches “Protestants.”  Lots of your friends are Protestants.  Lutherans and Episcopals and Presbyterians and Baptists and Methodists are all types of Protestants that started in the years after Martin Luther posted his list of changes.  They all sought to change, in different ways, how Christians worshiped Jesus Christ.
    • These new churches fought with each other, and with the Catholic Church.  For centuries in Europe there were wars about which Church was right, and which Church the Kings and Queens of each country should belong to.  It’s because of these fights that people from many different denominations, like the Pilgrims and the Quakers, all moved to the United States.
    • The Catholic Church changed too.  On some issues, it realized the Protestants had good points — and so it tried to fix its mistakes.
    • Today there are thousands of different churches that all call themselves Christian.  Sometimes, when we attend the LDS Church, we spend too much time explaining why the LDS Church is different, and then focusing on how all of these other churches are wrong.  But this is the Christmas season, and so I think it’s time for us to focus on how all of the other churches are right.  God doesn’t want us to fight with each other, he wants us to love each other.
    • All of these Churches believe in Jesus Christ.  They believe in Christmas.  They sing the same Christmas songs.  They all believe that Jesus grew up and taught us how to love one another.  They all try to be kind to their neighbors and help the poor and the sick.   They all believe that Jesus died so that all of us, as imperfect and sinful as we are, can repent and be forgiven for our sins.
    • That’s what the scripture in Ephesians we just read is about.  It’s about being unified in worshiping Jesus Christ.

 

Activity:  Make Gingerbread Churches!

Fun fact:  Gingerbread houses started as a German tradition — in the 16th Century!  Or in other words, at the same time as the Protestant Reformation.

You will need:

  • Graham Crackers or Gingerbread
  • Thick icing or glue
  • Cardboard or large paper plates or some other flat surface
  • Lots of candies in different bright colors (Twizzlers, Skittles, M&Ms, gummies, sprinkles, fruit roll-ups, oreos…anything else lying around the house or in the cheap candy section at the store)

Dessert:  All of the assorted sweets you snack on while ostensibly building churches.

Lesson Wrap-Up:  Go around and admire everyone’s Churches.  Point out that everyone made different churches based on their own personalities and artistic preferences and imaginations.  Everyone has different colors and patterns and windows and designs.  Everyone’s gingerbread churches are imperfect; but everyone’s churches are also interesting and beautiful.

This is like all of the churches around the world.  They’re all imperfect (including ours).  But they all teach beautiful truths.  They all teach us to love one another.  They’re all focused on following Jesus Christ.  And they all celebrate Christmas.

Comments

  1. 500 years ago in Western [!] Europe, there was one major Christian church. We tend to forget about (Eastern) Orthodoxy, which claims today some 250 million members. Most Latter-day Saints have a Western European heritage, but a good case can be made that (Eastern) Orthodoxy has some very powerful resonances with LDS theology, more than we realize. See, for example these podcasts with Terryl and Fiona Givens:
    https://www.podbean.com/media/player/8wcpg-7a4fa4?
    https://www.podbean.com/media/player/it9at-7a4fab?
    Orthodox churches are often very beautiful, and, of course, the Orthodox celebrate Christmas, albeit often on a different date.

  2. I love this so much. And I love the gummy worm cross. Really though, gingerbread churches seem like so much more fun than plain old houses—we will definitely adopt this into the Grover family traditions.

  3. Fair criticism Leo. I know I should know better than to give short shrift to the Orthodox…maybe I’ll edit the post. Same overall point still holds true.

  4. Just the other day I was telling co-workers about the American tradition of making gingerbread houses out of…graham crackers. I’m gonna do this over the Christmas break.

  5. Then there’s this: http://www.omaha.com/news/goodnews/photos-gingerbread-houses-buildings-come-together-in-one-sweet-neighborhood/article_a04d96a1-5805-5cf0-84d7-10f93b0805a4.html

    (Sorry, don’t know how to do that hyperlink [?] thing. Can someone, admins maybe, help?}

  6. Looks like the hyperlink thingie worked!

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