What Is Advent?
Advent is a season of preparation for the celebration of Christmas. It starts four Sundays before Christmas. The focus of this season is both the incarnation of the Christ child in Bethlehem and being alert and ready for the coming of Christ.
Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for Jesus and remove the distractions of the world from our lives.
This can be difficult due to the focus on Christmas, especially some of the more commercial aspects of the holiday.
Common Advent practices include increased prayer and acts of charity.
The liturgical color for Advent is purple. This signifies that we are getting our hearts ready for the celebration of Christmas. The only exception is that the color for the third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, is rose. This color indicates the joy of being halfway through the season.
A wreath is often used during this season to help us focus on preparation for the coming of our Lord at Christmas. One or more candles is lit every day and a prayer is said. The prayer often includes a scripture reference. Download a prayer sheet here.
Many of us have seen and used a traditional Advent Calendar. In it, we count down the days until Christmas by opening a window on a paper calendar each day, to reveal a new surprise. This year, consider participating in a reverse Advent Calendar. Rather than opening a window to take something each day, this Advent Calendar encourages giving.
Now is the time to set up and Advent table in your home or youth ministry room. If at home, put it in your family room or another room your family uses every day. Use it as a focal point to remember to observe the season. This is important as Christmas draws closer and we are tempted to get caught up in the holiday rush.
The “O Antiphons” are part of the evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for December 17 to December 23. In them, Old Testament imagery is used to proclaim the coming of the Christ child. Incorporate them into your family prayer.
Consider going to a confession service as a family or with youth group or youth ministry. And then do something afterwards to celebrate this beautiful gift of grace from our Lord. Go out for pizza together or something similar.
A Jesse tree is a traditional craft which shows the relationship of Jesus to famous people from the bible. Every day you read the story of somebody related to Jesus from the Bible and hang an ornament on the tree with a symbol which represents the person you just read about.
We especially focus on doing acts of charity and kindness for other. To reinforce this, start a good deeds chain today. A good deeds chain is a simple paper chain, but you must do a good deed for each piece of paper you add. So have some slips of paper ready, and every time a member of your family does an act of charity for somebody else, write it on the chain.
Today, say a simple prayer service together. It doesn’t need to be lengthy. In fact, with very young children, shorter is better so they can really pay attention. A typical prayer service includes scripture, petitions, and traditional prayer. You can make up your own or use the simple prayer service here.
As Christmas gets closer, we start to panic about all of the things we need to do between now and December 25. Take a breather from the worry today with this reflection.
You can use these in your own home or give them away to a relative or friend. These votive candle holders are easy enough to make that all of the members of your family can help, no matter what their age. Using colored tissue paper creates a pretty “stained glass” effect. Light your votive candles and say a prayer for a loved one.
Wreaths are commonly used during Advent and at Christmas, so tie this holiday tradition in with its spiritual meaning. Hang a wreath on your front door or elsewhere in your house. Use this wreath prayer service to make any evergreen wreath serve as a reminder of our salvation.
This is a Christmas tree blessing to keep our attention on Jesus while decorating for the season. If your tree is already up, you can still gather together for a blessing. Doing a Christmas tree blessing helps us focus again on the true meaning of this busy season, which is especially important as we draw nearer to Christmas and are worrying about things like purchasing few more gifts or getting ready for guests.
Advent Stations are a devotion which is similar to the Stations of the Cross. They encourage the participant to take a journey through prayer and scripture. In the case of these stations, we are taking a journey which shows us God’s preparation for the coming of Christ through the ages.
Your kids might have made a list of some things they’d like to receive for Christmas. So for today’s advent activity, encourage them to make a list of all the things they already have which they are thankful for.
Connecting with Others
Visiting an elderly relative or friend can be a meaningful activity for children and teens. Or visit a nursing home. But it can also be uncomfortable for children, young and old, who are not used to visiting with senior citizens. They seem to have so little in common. But in fact, there are some easy ways to break the ice.
These homemade Christmas gifts would also be appropriate for kids to make for grandparents and other relatives, neighbors, or any special people in their lives.
Today for your advent activity, why not surprise a neighbor by doing something unexpected? You never know when somebody might really need an act of kindness. Here are a few ideas.
Winter family activities help us appreciate the beautiful world God made for us. We should enjoy it together even when it is cold! After the activity, talk about how God has provided the outdoors for us as our own playground. And he has provided so many other things for us also, including the gift of Jesus!
Service projects are a good way to show our care for others. One popular project with teens and younger children is yardwork for the elderly. There might be some leaves left from the fall. Or fallen branches from winter storms. An elderly neighbor will appreciate any help you can give.
Christmas caroling can help us think about the coming of the Christ child and it is a good way to evangelize to those around us. You can go out caroling with an organized group or just sing a few at a family gathering. Include plenty of songs which focus on Christ.
Bring a little light and cheer into somebody else’s life by letting them know you are thinking of them. While any recipient would do, this would be an especially nice act of service for an elderly neighbor or shut-in.
The gospels show us that Jesus reached out to those in need. His life is a model for how we should interact with others. One way to do this is through the Corporal Works of Mercy. These are acts of charity which show our love for those on the margins.
This lesson plan will help youth understand what it means to be ready for Jesus. How are we preparing?
This discussion and set of reflection questions helps youth consider John the Baptist’s message that “One mightier than I is coming after me.” During this holy season we are encouraged to prepare. Some things are worth waiting for.
This lesson plan on St. John the Baptist will help youth understand who this prophet was and the role he played in making the way for Jesus.
This lesson plan on evangelization will help youth understand that Our Blessed Mother is an example of how to bear the Good News to others.
This lesson plan on the second coming of Christ will help youth understand that we don’t need to be scared of the time when Christ comes in glory at the end of time. But we do need to be prepared.
This lesson plan on St. John the Baptist and advice will help youth understand that we must go to a trustworthy source when we are seeking answers to our questions.
This reflection helps youth consider the question which was asked of John the Baptist: “Who are you?” There are many ways we can identify ourselves. How does our faith impact our identity?
The purpose of this reflection is to help youth understand what Mary’s fiat (“let it be done”) meant and to help them understand ways to say yes in today’s world.