THE FAMILY MASS IN ADVENT
The Advent wreath can be the focus of attention this Sunday as the readings bring to mind the last things. That Advent wreath speaks of time and its passing. Each candle measuring another week gone, from the loneliness of that first candle through to the excitement when we get to four candles lighted. The evergreens that make it up, themselves speak of the everlasting, and yet they will dry up and wither losing their present fresh look. We bind the greens that speak of hope into a circle reflecting eternity, no beginning and no end. The wreath is a powerful reminder that Advent is not just a warning about Christmas coming. St Paul on the First Sunday tells his young Christians what Jesus himself told his disciples: Stay awake, he advised, because you do not know the day when your master is corning. Watch yourselves.
The Tree of Jesse, with its symbols representing stories and events in the Old Testament could be the focus now.
The idea of the Jesse Tree is to show the family of Christ in the form of a tree that springs from Jesse, who was the father of King David. In the portrayal of the descent of Christ from the line of David there may be up to fifty characters portrayed.
The time of waiting for the coming of the Messiah is highlighted. There are many kinds of waiting – at airports, at the dentist, for the end of the school day, for Christmas Day. As Christians we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Jesus into our lives, at Mass, at Christmas. The Old Testament characters can give us courage and hope by their example.
John the Baptist is the character of this day. He tells us how to prepare during Advent for the coming of Jesus. John is different, he is a strange character but attractive. He points to Jesus, shows him to his disciples. Each one of us has to show Jesus to others. John is honest and true. We are all to be brave as he was standing up for God. John wants us to make good roads, no obstacles to our journey towards Jesus. We have to clear away the rubbish in our lives.
John spent his time of preparation in prayer and fasting, he is our Advent example of good preparation for Christmas. Have we Advent prayer at home: are we thinking of helping the poor this Christmas? The St. Vincent de Paul Society Appeal at this time is a reminder. How do we help as individuals and as a community.
Now in the week before Christmas we put the Blessed Virgin Mary before us as our help in preparing for a happy and holy Christmas. We think of her months of waiting. She had said a willing Yes to God in all that he asked of her. She thinks of others as she waits, and so she goes to visit Elizabeth to help her in her difficult time. She was generous in her giving. Like her we are preparing for Christmas with generosity, with loving obedience to all that God asks of us. As she got all ready for the birth of Jesus so we spend this next week making ourselves ready to receive him at Christmas.
MUSIC FOR ADVENT
Christmas music should not intrude into Advent, whatever the supermarkets and radio may do. There is a wide range of traditional Advent songs available. The children may know some from “The Children of God” programme at school.
Here are some other suggestions:
From Gather. G J A Publications ¬
God of all people. (David Haas).
I Let the heavens be glad (Joe Wise)
Maranatha (rim Schoenbachler)
Praise to you, O Christ, our Saviour
Now in this banquet (Marty Haugen)
Lord of Glory (Tim Manion)
In the Lord Ill be ever Thankful (Taizc)
From TUs. Maire Ni Dhuibhir Uilmhaigi Bothar an Tiama
From Winter name of God – Michael Joncas
ADVENT WREATH AT MASS
The Advent Wreath is primarily a family custom. Its use in the church has come of recent years. At the Family Mass it can be a rich symbol of the meaning of the season. It can be blessed on the First Sunday, and thereafter the lighting can be an opening action in the Mass.
The Directory for Masses with Children allows the choice of individual elements in the Opening Rites, so the use of the wreath fits here quite easily instead of perhaps the Penitential Rite. During the lighting of candles, the opening hymn may be reprised, or another one used.
Individual children can be called up to light the candles. The following blessing (from the Veritas Book of Blessing Prayers) can be used:
Let us pray:
Father, all powerful Lord of Light, bless our wreath of evergreens with Its candles. May our Advent be a time of preparation. Help us to renect on the power of light to dispel darkness In our world and In our lives. Touch our hearts with the warmth of your love. May the Increasing light of these candles brighten our minds and hearts to be steadfast In faith, Joyful In hope and untiring In love, so that we are ready again to receive In true peace, Jesus, the Light of the World, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
TO BLESS THE JESSE TREE
Creator God, Bless this tree that tells the story of your care for us; and fill us with joyful hope as we wait for him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
God of all ages, stir up your power and come. You have promised to be with your Church until the end of time. May we experience the joy of your presence in our midst, for you live and reign as Lord of all, one God to be praised and glorified for ever and ever. Amen.
SOME RESOURCE BOOKS
Colourful Childrens Liturgies. Lee & Wisdom Columba Press
Step by Step through Advent Mary Fitzgerald. The Columba Press
Living &celebrating the Advent & Christmas Season. Mary Lewis. St Pauls Bookshop.
Advent begins at home. Polek & Ardenhub. Veritas.
Celebrating the Season of Advent. Ed Eltin Griffm. The Columba Press
Family Celebrations for Advent & Christmas The Columba Press.
Advent means .coming ” and this season celebrates the coming of Christ. In fact there are three comings of Christ.
Jesus who came as a baby at Bethlehem; the Messiah promised by God and long-awaited by his people; the Lord who sets us free.
Jesus who is very near and comes to us daily in the needs of our brothers and sisters; where two or three gather in his name; in the faces of those who show us Christ in joy and pain; in Word and Sacrament.
Jesus who will come again at the end of time as King of Kings; as judge of the living and the dead; and who will usher his faithful people into the Kingdom of his Father.
Good things to suggest doing for each of the 24 days before Christmas.
1. Pray for someone who lives alone.
2. Hug each person who is important to you.
3. Help with a chore at home
4. Pray about what makes you sad.
5.Thank God for your family and friends
6. Pray for peace in war-tom countries
7. Draw a picture of someone waiting for something special
8. Forgive someone who has hurt you
9. Be kind to someone today
10. Thank God for life and love
11. Pray for all who are sad today
12. Do something for your Mum and Dad without being asked
13. Write a Christmas lener to someone
14. Tell or write a story about someone preparing for Christmas
15. Pray for those who are afraid
16 Think quietly about the people you love
17. Pray for all who are alone for the first time this Christmas.
18. Thank God for the gift of faith.
19. Give away one of your best smiles
20. Pray for those who are blind.
21. Draw a picture of Bethlehem, & where Jesus was born.
22. Pray for love in the world.
23. Thank God for the gift of Mary, Mother of the Church.
24. Say something nice to everyone you meet today.
COME, LORD JESUS,
PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD,
While acting out Scripture passages may be possible with older children, the advantage of mime is that the children do not have to learn lines and act them. And more to the practical point church acoustics are often poor without the use of microphones. On these Advent Sundays, the coming of John the Baptist can be mimed with several readers involved. Movement throughout the church can be organised. The Visitation story lends itself to this medium also. Imagination can be used to introduce extra characters without interfering with the story being read. This may be particularly necessary on the First Sunday (Year C) Gospel. The preparatory material for the readings in The Columba Lectionary for Children can also be adapted for mime.
If children are working on gesture and movement the first reading on the Third Sunday can be given expressions of the joy characteristic of this day.
These can be encouraged from Sunday to Sunday.
*A home Advent Wreath with family prayer at the lighting of candle/s each evening..
*A scripture scene of Advent/Christmas can be distributed for colouring – all the better if small prizes are awarded at Mass for best efforts.
*Other competitions such as crosswords are to be found in activity books.
*Home-made or commercial Advent Calendars can be encouraged..
*The Advent Tower with its seven windows for the 0 Antiphons can be explained for the final week of preparation.
*Children’s activities to collect money or gifts for the poor can be organized.