Guide: Finding complicity, connection in our challenges


People value their freedom above most anything. We resist any form of captivity. Even when we feel trapped in an awkward situation at a Christmas party, our eyes scan the room for a friend to rescue us. Of course, there are far more oppressive realities that hold us captive, such as human trafficking, abusive relationships, and social systems that limit our choices and ability to influence change. The sister in the story that this lesson focuses on becomes aware of the widespread use of plastics among her options as a consumer. She feels trapped in a system that hurts the environment. The activity in this guide focuses more generally on freedom, while the lesson plan more directly addresses care for the earth.

When our freedom is threatened, it becomes easy to lose hope that we can do anything about it.


For longer back than anyone could remember, God's people were under attack or under the control of outside forces. More than seven centuries before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote in turbulent times of a Messiah who would save God’s people from their plight. Though Emmanuel would come as an infant, he would save the world. His Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, exist in each of us as we struggle with today's challenges.


Begin by saying: "Imagine you are trapped in an escape room, with just an hour to free yourself. You can choose one person from any time in history to help you escape. Who would you choose, and why?"

Give students a minute or two to think about this, then ask for their answers and record them on newsprint or a board visible to everyone. 

Discuss choices and the reasons behind them with as many students as time allows. If anyone chose Jesus, make a point of exploring their reasons. For example, they might recall that John’s Gospel twice mentions that Jesus appeared in the upper room, even though the doors were locked. 

If students mention comic book superheroes or characters from action movies or video games, explain that you asked for people from history, not fictional characters. 


Begin by asking students what qualities or skills they'd want in an ideal escape partner. Make connections between these characteristics and the people they chose.

Ask: "What qualities would make Jesus an ideal partner in an escape situation?" Listen for and respond to insights about his miraculous abilities as well as traits such as patience and wisdom.

Display the image below or another image or figure of Jesus as an infant. Then ask: "Which of the qualities or abilities that we just discussed about Jesus do you see in him here? Would you have chosen this person to help you?"

Conclude by saying: "God's people had a long history of being oppressed or held captive. When Jesus was born, the Romans were the latest in a series of foreign powers to dominate God’s chosen people. But more than seven centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah foretold of a baby, to be named Emmanuel, who would save God's people from their captivity. God was with his people in the person of Jesus, and the Spirit of Christ dwells within us today to help us with very real problems that hold us captive."


Almighty God, 

we're often looking for a hero,

someone to save us

or magically make everything better.

In this Advent time, keep us mindful of our ancestors in faith

who waited long and endured so much

until you sent your son, Emmanuel, so small and humble, to save the world.

Help us to recognize the Christ and the gifts in each other

as we strive to build your Kingdom today.