In these dark days of winter, let us journey through Advent, preparing our hearts and homes for the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us, Jesus the Christ.

Advent is rich with sacred symbols. The Scriptures are filled with images of light and darkness, cacophony and silence, waiting and fulfillment. The color of the season is deep purple, reflecting the penitential and reflective nature of the season. Both the circular shape and the evergreen of the Advent wreath suggest eternal and everlasting life. Arrive a bit early at Mass each Sunday and look around your parish for the signs and symbols of the season. What do your kids notice? What do you notice?

Advent wreath

Candlelight – Christ is the light of the World

Evergreen – In Jesus, we are given the gift of eternal life

Water – We recall our baptism and are born anew in Jesus

Chant – We await the birth of the babe in the manger

Angels – Witnesses to the Good News

Star – The cosmic sign that the King of Kings has been born

The central focus of the season is the coming of the Lord. Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses this twofold meaning: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming” (No. 524).

Activities:   Week 1: Expectation  Week 2: Proclamation  Week 3: Celebration  Week 4: Fulfillment

Advent candleExpectation

The First Sunday of Advent

The Scriptures remind us to stay awake for we know not when the Lord will come.

Advent Wreath Prayer
Sit down to dinner as a family, light the first candle and say…

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1).
God of compassion,
be with us in these long and dark days
as we await the birth of your son, Jesus.
Amen.

Family Advent Activity
The Ringing of the Bells – Place a bell (or a cluster of sleigh bells) in a prominent place in your home. Draw names after Sunday Mass each week and pledge to do something nice for the family member whose name you choose. Each time you do something nice for that person ring the bells. Listen to the sound of kindness filling your house!

Reflect
How do the sounds of the season – bells, chant music, children’s laughter and excitement – help enhance our Advent experience?

Advent candleProclamation

The Second Sunday of Advent

John the Baptist proclaims the coming of the Messiah. How will we prepare?

Advent Wreath Prayer
Light the second candle and say…

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1).
God of salvation,
help us give voice to the voiceless
as we cry out in the name of your son, Jesus.
Amen.

Family Advent Activity
Adopt a family this Advent season through your parish, Catholic Charities or other local organization. Bring your kids along to help select the gifts. Remember the basics are always needed: coats, hats, mittens, socks, undergarments and pajamas.

Reflect
The candles on the Advent wreath remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. How might we reflect the light of Christ to others this season and beyond?

Advent candleCelebration

The Third Sunday of Advent

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). On this Sunday we celebrate and rejoice in the eternal power of God.

Advent Wreath Prayer
Light the third, rose-colored candle and say…

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1).
God of blessings,
we celebrate your good gifts
and rejoice at the gift of
your son, Jesus.
Amen.

Family Advent Activity
Bless the Tree – As you put up the family Christmas tree, give thanks to God for the gift of evergreens in the winter, the gift of lights to remind us of Jesus coming into the world, and special ornaments that remind us of family, friends and holidays past.

Reflect
What does the evergreen teach us about God’s love for us? (Hint: It is everlasting!)

Advent candleFulfillment

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High’” (Lk 1:30-32).

Advent Wreath Prayer
Light the fourth candle and say…

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1).
God of wisdom,
bless us with Mary’s “yes”
as we welcome Emmanuel into
our hearts and homes.
Amen.

Family Advent Activity
Spend time at the Crib – Encourage each member of your family to spend some quiet time in prayer near the Nativity scene at home or in your parish. What does the manger teach us? How could God allow his Son to be born in a stable? Give thanks for the gift of Christ and the joy of the Christmas season to come.

Reflect

Like the angels, how might we be witnesses of God’s miraculous love?

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