Preschool children are among the most hopeful people in a society. Perhaps it is an unconscious understanding that they have all of life and its possibilities before them, or perhaps it is that they tend to find hope and pleasure in small things, which happen frequently. Children are intuitive, and it with intuition that they understand hope. This may be because they “are so fresh from God,” as Charles Dickens put it!

A New Testament story that young children can identify with is that of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). For adults, it is about a man seeking forgiveness and a fresh start, a good story for starting a new year. For young children, though, it is a story about someone short like themselves, who, in his excitement, runs and climbs a tree, hoping to see Jesus. It is hope that is emphasized in the version of the story below. Read it to children. If you have a picture bible, show them an illustration of Zacchaeus as you read this story.

Hoping to See Jesus

One day, Jesus was in a city called Jericho. Many, many people there hoped to see Jesus. Crowds lined up where they knew he would soon come.

One of these people was a man named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus hoped very much to see Jesus, for he had been selfish. He wanted to tell Jesus he was going to change his ways. Maybe he was hoping to really have a chance to talk with Jesus, or even to have dinner with him.

People kept coming. Zacchaeus realized he could never see Jesus in the crowd, for he was very short. All around him were taller people. So, quickly he ran down the road and climbed a sycamore tree. There he sat high up on a branch, hoping he would see Jesus.

Soon, Jesus arrived. When Jesus and the crowd of people reached the sycamore tree, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”
Zacchaeus climbed down from the tree as fast as he could. He was filled with joy!

Activity

Discuss ‘hope’ with the children after reading the story:

  • Do you ever hope you will get a treat at the grocery store?
  • Do you ever hope you can have a friend come over to play?
  • Zacchaeus was hoping he would see Jesus. Let’s paint pictures about Zacceaus’ hope.

Provide various colors of paint, brushes, and large sheets of paper for each child. If paints are not available, provide many colors of markers, but paint will allow children to best express themselves. Stand back and allow children and their intuition to create works of art! Display these with the title “Zaccheaus’ Hope” where parishioners will see them.

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