To help pupils consider the vastness of the universe and the question of significance of human beings.
You will need:
Large pictures of the following:
- Picture 1 – the sun, or another nearby star
- Picture 2 – a galaxy, for example, the Andromeda galaxy
- Picture 3 – a cluster of galaxies, for example, the Virgo cluster.
23 large pieces of card: the number ‘1’ written on the first; ‘0’ on all the others.
A beautifully wrapped gift with an accompanying card addressed, ‘To someone special’
Prepare the pictures. You may be able to obtain these from the school science department or astronomy club or from Google Images.
Begin the assembly by selecting someone from the audience and presenting them with a beautifully wrapped gift (eg a small box of chocolates). Also give them a card, the envelope of which is clearly marked, ‘To someone very special’. Make sure that the audience are aware of what is happening and what the words on the envelope say.
1. Ask: How many stars are there in the universe? After receiving some suggestions from the pupils, say that we know about at least one star – on sun (display Picture 1). Ask a pupil to come to the front to hold up the card showing the number ‘1’. They should stand on one side of the front area of the hall.
Explain that the sun is a huge ball of hydrogen gas, large enough for a million earths to fit inside it. Light from the sun takes eight minutes to travel the huge distance to the earth.
2. Continue by explaining that the sun is only one star in our local group of stars, which is called the Milky Way galaxy. Ask if anyone has seen the Milky Way? Say that if they can get somewhere where there are no street lights, on a clear night, they will be able to see a diffuse band of light across the sky. This is the Milky Way. Explain that it’s a vast collection of stars which are like our sun. Say that if we were to take a ride in the Starship Enterprise and go out of our galaxy and look back, we would see something like this. (display Picture 2).
3. But this is only one galaxy among many! (display Picture 3). Remember, each galaxy contains about 100 billion stars. Ask how many galaxies there are in the universe? Explain that there are about 100 billion!
4. To work out how many stars there are in the universe, you need to multiply 100 billion by 100 billion and you get… (ask eleven more pupils to come and hold up the remaining ‘0’ cards, so that the number is stretched across the front of the assembly hall)…a very large number indeed! This number was once likened to the number of the grains of sand on the beaches of the world (Genesis 22:17)!
5. Read Psalm 8:3,4 and 9, whilst Picture 3 and the number are still being displayed. Then ask the pupils holding the number cards sit down, but leave on display Picture 3.
1. Ask pupils what they think the vast, unimaginable size of the universe means for our understanding of our own place in it.
Say that some people simply conclude that we are totally insignificant and that our existence and that of the whole universe have no purpose at all.
Christians take a different view. The Bible acknowledges this whole universe is the creation of God. The reason it is so vast is a demonstration of the exciting and extravagant being that God is! But far from man being insignificant, God has chosen to reach out to human beings in a special way.
2. Ask pupils if they have ever had the experience of being chosen out of a vast crowd (like the person who received the gift at the beginning of the assembly), and because of that they have felt special.
3. Explain that Christians believe human beings are special, in spite of their apparent insignificance in this vast universe – because God chose to come in the person of Jesus to demonstrate his love and care for us. We might be a very small part of the universe, but we are a very special part!
4. Draw pupils’ attention to the picture of the galaxies again (Picture 3, still on display). Say that you are going to end this assembly with a few moment of quiet. As they look at the picture, ask them to let it remind them, not of their insignificance in such a great universe, but of their great significance to God!