In the Bible, Jesus and His followers are often spoke of as being lights in a world of darkness. John 8:12 states that “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Young children are usually fascinated by the concepts of light and darkness. Use their natural curiosity as a jumping-off point to teach them about Jesus as the light of the world.
Ask the preschoolers how they feel when it is dark. Many of them might be afraid of the dark. Some may have night lights in their bedrooms, or glow-in-the-dark stars on their ceilings. Talk about why they are scared when it’s dark. They will probably say that it’s hard to see things. If your classroom is dark enough and you think the children won’t be scared, turn off the lights. Then, light a candle and hold it up. Show them that the candle helps you see where you are going. Turn the lights back on, and tell the students that the world is sort of like being in the dark. Sometimes it’s hard to see the right way to go. When you try to walk in the dark, you bump into things. The same thing is true if you try to walk without Jesus. Read to them John 8:12. Tell them that Jesus shows people the right way to go. He is the light that people should follow. Distribute a picture of a candle that has a flame. Have the students color the candle and then to glue gold glitter on the flame.
Remind the students that following Jesus means they should be a light that shines in the world. When Jesus lives in you, His light shines through you. When Jesus says to love each other or be kind, that is His way of showing you how to shine. Brainstorm and act out ways the students can be kind to each other, such as sharing art materials, picking up litter, or giving a compliment. Then, distribute cardboard stars and glow-in-the-dark paint. Have the children each paint a star. When the stars are dry, tape yarn to the backs of the stars so the students can hang them around their necks. Turn of the lights so that the students can see how the stars glow, and how they can each be a “light” in the world.
Show the students a flashlight or lamp. Turn it on, and then cover it with a basket or blanket. Ask them if they can see the light. Explain that you can’t hide Jesus’ light. You have to let it shine. Brainstorm some ways the children could be a light for others by doing some good works, such as picking up trash around the church, mowing the lawn for a neighbor, or using their allowances to buy food for a food bank. Remind them to ask permission from their parents before they do any acts of kindness. Finish up the lesson by singing “This Little Light of Mine.”
Tell the students that in order for Jesus’ light to shine through us, we need to be free of “gunk” that can block the light – “gunk” such as ugly thoughts or bad behavior. Take a pumpkin or gourd – carve a lid and a cross or other design on it ahead of time, but do not clean it out -- and show them the “gunk” inside. Explain that when Jesus forgives our sins, it is like He is cleaning out our gunk. Scoop out the slime and seeds as you explain this. Then, when the “gunk” is gone, His light is able to shine through. Place a candle in the pumpkin and illustrate how it shines through the design that you carved ahead of time. As a follow-up activity, have the students color paper pumpkins. Cut out the eyes and mouth of the paper pumpkins and glue tissue paper to the back so that light can shine through each pumpkin.