With thanks from Sr. Pat Carter
Monday December 4 is the first Monday of Advent. Get your students to help you to put away the green cloth from your prayer centre and put the purple cloth on your table. You will want to explain that purple is the colour for Advent. The Church calendar begins with the season of Advent, the way that the everyday calendar begins with New Year’s Day. Advent is the Church season before Christmas. Advent helps us to get ready. Advent is the first part of the word Adventure. We are going to go on an Adventure of waiting from today until December 23rd when the holidays begin.
Tuesday December 5 is the first Tuesday of Advent. If you have an Advent wreath put it in your prayer centre. If you don’t have a wreath, use a large cardboard ring painted green. Point out to the children that the circle is a symbol of God’s eternal love and the colour green represents eternal life. God has no beginning and no end just as it is difficult to tell where the circle begins and ends.
Wednesday December 6th is the first Wednesday of Advent and the Feast of St. Nicholas. Light the first Advent candle. Tell the class that today is the Feast of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas let his light shine by helping poor people, especially one family. [if you can get a little bag of gold – at the Dollar store they often have little bags of gold foil chocolate coins] Show the students the little bag of gold. Tell them the following story.
“St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra a long time ago. He knew that there was a family who had three daughters. Back then, families needed to have gold to give when the daughters were married. But the family was poor and did not have any gold. So St. Nicholas went to the poor family’s house at night and threw a small bag of gold into the window. He did this three times so each of the daughters could get married. St. Nicholas was a good and holy man who liked to share.”
You may want to have your students create a mitre (bishop’s hat) so they can dress like St. Nicholas the bishop. If you want the pattern, email me and I will scan it and send it to you. OR you can teach the class the song It Feels So Good to Give! to the Tune of “The Farmer in the Dell.”
It feels so good to give!
It feels so good to give!
I love to make God’s children smile, it feels so good to give!
Song adapted from 30 ten-minute Prayer Celebrations for Young Children by Debbie M. Repp, page 6
Thursday December 7th is the first Thursday of Advent. Teach the students the song, “Are We Ready?” to the tune “Frère Jacques/Are You Sleeping?”
Are we ready? Are we ready?
For our Lord? For our Lord?
Make for him a pathway
Make for him a pathway
To our hearts, to our hearts.
Light the first candle and sing the song. Ask the class to respond to each line you say with “Thank you, God.
Leader: For the season of Advent, All: Thank you, God.
Leader: For the colour of Advent, All: Thank you, God.
Leader: For time to get ready, All: Thank you, God.
Leader: (to children) Do you have something that you are thankful for that you would like to share? After each child shares All: Thank you, God.
You may want to sing “Are We Ready?” again at the end.
Song and prayer adapted from 30 ten-minute Prayer Celebrations for Young Children by Debbie M. Repp, page 4-5
Friday December 8th is the first Friday of Advent. Ask the class leader to turn the Advent candle on. Sing the song “Are We Ready?” Read the following Advent Story. Have the ECE be Jerome and the teacher be Rachel. If you have another adult in the room, that person can be the narrator.
An Advent Story
“What are you doing, Jerome?” Rachel asked.
Jerome was sitting on the floor. Scattered around him were papers and boxes, tangled strings of lights and bright tinsel garland. “It’s the first day of Advent. It’s time to get ready for Christmas.”
Rachel shook her head. “I haven’t even thought about it yet,” she sighed.
“Well, you better start,” Jerome admitted. “Advent is the time to buy presents, send out Christmas cards, and make a list of what you want.”
Rachel was silent for a while; then she spoke softly. “I don’t know Jerome. Father said at Mass that Advent isn’t just about decorating and shopping and baking and making lists of things for people to give us. He said that’s not what Jesus wants.”
“Probably not,” Jerome said. “But that’s what everybody does during Advent. We can’t change the world, can we?” The two friends sat in silence, each one thinking their own thoughts.
“No,” Rachel finally agreed, “we can’t change the world, but we can change ourselves. Jesus said, ‘Stay awake and watch carefully.’ He wants us ready when he comes again.”
“What do you mean, comes again?” Jerome wondered. ‘Like another Christmas?”
“Nobody knows,” Rachel said. “But Jesus says we have to be ready.”
“But how?” Jerome asked.
“Well, we can do all the same things as getting ready for Christmas, but do them for Jesus.”
“You mean like instead of making a Christmas list, we’ll make a list of things we can do for Jesus?” Jerome asked.
“And for others,” Rachel said. “Remember, Jesus said that whatever we do for others, we also do for him.”
Jerome’s mind started racing with ideas. “We can make our morning prayer a getting ready prayer and ask Jesus to fill us with his love.”
“That’s good!” Rachel agreed. “And we draw pictures for older people in retirement homes and nursing homes.”
As Rachel and Jerome talked, the light of God’s love in their hearts kept getting brighter and brighter. They were getting ready for Jesus. Are you ready for Jesus?”
Adapted from Bundles of Faith and Tons of Fun by Patricia Mathson pages 62-63
Monday December 11th is the second Monday of Advent. Ask your class, how many candles do we light now? Light the first candle and move around the wreath clockwise to the second purple candle and light it.
Read Matthew 3:3. Then say “In God’s Word written by St. Matthew we hear “Prepare the way of the Lord.”” Ask your class, what does it mean “Prepare the way of the Lord.”? Let the students share what they think it means. Hopefully someone will pick up the meaning from the song…Prepare for Jesus a pathway to our hearts. Jesus wants to live in our hearts. We need to open our hearts for Jesus. Jesus wants to fill our hearts with his love.
Response to God’s Word – once all the sharing has taken place invite the students to respond to each line you say with “Prepare the way for our Lord.” You may want to write this on chart paper or the Board so those who may need a reminder, may get a clue about the response.
Leader: The season of Advent is a holy time.
All: Prepare the way for our Lord.
Leader: Now is the time to open our hearts to Jesus.
All: Prepare the way for our Lord.
Leader: Now is the time to receive Jesus’ love.
All: Prepare the way for our Lord.
Leader: We watch, we wait, in this holy time.
All: Prepare the way for our Lord.
Prayer adapted from 30 ten-minute Prayer Celebrations for Young Children by Debbie M. Repp, page 5
You may want to sing “Are We Ready?” at the end OR sing “This Little Light of Mine” for the second week of Advent. Ask the students “How will people know that your light is shining?” [By the way we live – smiling, being kind, being loving….] Ask your students to decide what way they are going to show their light this week. Say a prayer like, “Jesus, help us to let our lights shine this week. Amen+” Turn the candle off. Throughout the day reinforce the idea of letting their lights shine.
Tuesday December 12th is the second Tuesday of Advent. Today is a special day of prayer with all of our First Nations and metis Brothers and Sisters in Canada. The bishops have asked all of us to pray on this feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. [Search for an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Google images] and tell the story in a simplified form as follows. On December 9th (in 1531) many years ago a Aztec Indian named Juan Diego was walking to Mass and a beautiful lady dressed like an Aztec maiden surrounded by light appeared. [show the google image of Our Lady] She told him she was the Immaculate Virgin Mary. She asked Juan Diego to have a big church [a shrine] built there at the spot. She said, “Ask for my help. Here I will listen to people’s prayers and I will help them.” Mary then asked Juan to tell the bishop of her desire. When Juan went to the bishop, the bishop did not believe him. Finally the bishop told him to ask “his lady” for a sign that she was truly the Mother of God. When Juan asked Mary for a sign, she told him to return the next day. In the meantime, however, Juan’s Uncle Bernadino became very ill, and Juan had to stay home to care for him. By Tuesday the uncle was dying, so Juan set off to get a priest. On the way he met the Holy Virgin. Embarrassed, he apologized for not meeting her the day before. Mary replied, “Now listen to me. Do not let anything bother you, and do not be afraid of any illness, pain, or accident. Am I not here, your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? What more could you want? Don’t worry about your uncle. He is well already.” Mary then told Juan to go to the top of the hill and gather the flowers growing there. Juan knew that nothing grew on that rock hill, let alone in the middle of winter! However, he climbed the hill. At the top he found gorgeous roses! He picked them and brought them to Mary, who arranged them in his tilma, or clock, which his wife had made. Mary told Juan to take them to the bishop. Standing before the bishop, Juan opened his white tilma, letting the fragrant roses fall in a shower to the floor. Imagine the bishop’s surprise at seeing roses in winter! But he saw a greater miracle. On Juan’s tilma a life-size image began to appear. Juan gasped! It was his “Lady!”
Juan’s tilma is on display at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to this day.
St. Juan Diego, pray that we have your love for Mary. And we pray that we can be reconciled with all our First Nations and Metis brothers and sisters in Canada. Amen+
Wednesday December 13th is the second Wednesday of Advent. Light the two candles in the wreath. Sing “This Little Light of Mine.” Ask the students to share one way that they have let their light shine since yesterday. If possible, let each child share one thing. Ask the children to respond “We thank you, God to each prayer then say the Thank You Prayer:
Leader: For the gift of love that we receive from our families and friends,
All: We thank you, God.
Leader: For Jesus, God’s most precious gift to us,
All: We thank you, God.
Leader: For the joy we feel inside when we share our light with others,
All: We thank you, God.
Leader: (to children) Do any of you have something you are thankful for that you would like to share?
All: Thank you, God. (Use this response after each child’s prayer.)
Prayer adapted from 30 ten-minute Prayer Celebrations for Young Children by Debbie M. Repp, page 7
Thursday December 14th is the second Thursday of Advent. Ask the students how long they think Advent is? It is four weeks of waiting so the church uses four candles to help us. Show the candles to students [three purple and one pink; if you don’t have coloured candles, tie purple and pink ribbon on the white candles.] Why do you think we have a pink candle and not just four purple candles? The church knows that it is difficult to wait patiently so the pink candle helps us to know that we are more than halfway through Advent. Pink gives us hope and joy. Light the first two candles. [With such young students, it may be advised to use electric candles that the children can switch on when they are playing in the prayer centre.] Say a wee prayer, like “Loving God, help us to wait patiently for Jesus’ birthday. Amen+”
Friday December 15th is the second Friday of Advent. Light two candles in the wreath. Sing “This Little Light of Mine.” Invite the students to trace their foot on a folded piece of paper. Cut out the foot on the folded piece of paper so there are actually two feet. Put the students’ name on one of their feet. Get them to draw a picture of one way they have let their light shine this second week of Advent. Put the feet up around the room walking together through Advent OR send the feet home to show their parents that the class is on an Adventure.
Monday December 18th is the third Monday of Advent. Light the two purple candles and the pink candle. If possible, get a small tree without any leaves. Explain to the students that all of us have a family tree. It shows us who our relatives are. Jesus has a family tree too and his family tree is called a Jesse tree. We are going to decorate the tree with symbols representing the different relatives of Jesus. [Follow the symbols and the introductions of the family members in the chart below. If you want to add one symbol a day you will have to start on December 7th. You could add two symbols a day…so start on December 15th. If you do not have commercial symbols, you can make simple ones out of cardstock paper so they will hang from the tree.]
|Apple||Adam/Eve||I am Adam and this is my wife Eve. We are the first man and woman. It is to us that God made His promise to send Jesus. Our symbol is an apple with a bite out of it.|
|Ark/boat||Noah||I am Noah. God saved my family, many animals and me from the flood. My symbol is the ark.|
|Bundle of sticks||Abraham||I am Abraham. God chose me to be the father of his special people. Because I trusted in God when he asked me to sacrifice my son, Isaac, God blessed me with many children who would wait for the coming of Jesus. My symbol is a bundle of sticks.|
|Many coloured coat||Joseph||I am Joseph, Abraham’s grandson. When I was young, my brothers sold me as a slave in Egypt. Later, I was set free, became governor, and helped God’s people when there was no food in their homeland. When Jesus comes, he will save all people. My symbol is a many-coloured coat.|
|Ten commandment tablets||Moses||I am Moses. I led my people out of Egypt. I received the Ten Commandments from God for his people. My symbol is the tablets of stone on which God’s laws were written.|
|Tree||Jesse||I am Jesse, David’s father. Jesus was from the root of Jesse. Jesus’ family tree grew and grew. Many people waited for his coming. My symbol is a tree.|
|Crown||David||I am David. I am a king who loved God very much. I wrote many psalms, the songs you pray or sing at Mass. I came from Bethlehem where Jesus would be born many years later. My symbol is a crown.|
|Temple||Solomon||I am Solomon. I am a king too. I built a great church, called a Temple, where God’s people could come to worship Him. My symbol is the temple.|
|Whale||Jonah||I am Jonah. When I did not obey God, He sent a great fish to carry me to the place I was to go. I was in the fish three days, just as Jesus was in the tomb for three days. My symbol is a whale.|
|Lily||Mary||I am Mary. God chose me to be the mother of Jesus, the Saviour that everyone waited for. My symbol is a lily because God let me be born without any sins.|
|Hammer/Saw||Joseph||I am Joseph, Jesus’ foster father. God chose me to love and protect Jesus and Mary. Because I was a carpenter and worked with wood, my symbol is a hammer/saw.|
|Manger||Teacher||About 2,000 years ago Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We rejoice that he has come. We wait and get ready now to celebrate that wonderful day again in our hearts and prepare for him to come again. Let us add an empty manger as our final symbol.|
Adapted from Celebrating our Faith, NOCCC, page 85-86
Tuesday December 13th is the third Tuesday of Advent. Light the two purple candles and the pink candle. Speak with the class about the symbolism of a candy cane. Jesus is often called the Good Shepherd. A shepherd uses a cane or long hook to guide the sheep back to the fold. As a bishop, St. Nicholas carried a staff as a symbol of his relationship with God and the people he served. Bishops today still carry the staff (crozier) when celebrating with the community. Follow-up by making candy canes by twisting a red and white pipe cleaner together. Send them home with a brief explanation. Share candy canes with the class.
Wednesday December 14th is the third Wednesday of Advent. Light the two purple candles and the pink candle. Advent is a season of wonder as we reflect on all that God has done for us and the world that God created. We reflect on all that the coming of Jesus means to us and to our world. Sing the song “Twinkle, Twinkle little star.” Ask the students if they ever just look up at the stars at night. It is amazing! The stars are so far away but we can see their light. Ask the students if they know about the star that was in the sky before Jesus was born. The star shone so brightly that it guided the wise ones to his birth place in Bethlehem. [if there is time, ask the students to make a star to take home.]
Thursday December 15th is the third Thursday of Advent. Light the two purple candles and the pink candle. Advent is a season to share God’s love. Have a gift box wrapped up and inside put a piece of paper that says “GOD’S LOVE”. Ask the students – “Did you ever get a gift that you really liked?” The season of Advent is a wonderful gift in our lives. It is an opportunity to live in love and share God’s love with others. How will you share the gift of God’s love with others today? How will you share the gift of God’s love with your family today? Sing “The Little Light of Mine” as a way to close the session.
Friday December 16th is the third Friday of Advent. Light the two purple candles and the pink candle. Bring in a stable or create one from a box. Explain that St. Francis of Assisi was concerned that many people did not truly understand Jesus’ birth. He was the first person to put together a crèche/manger scene to help people. Read the story below to help the students understand the manger scene.
St. Francis and the Baby in the Manger
It was Christmas Eve. The holy man named Francis and his friend Giovanni stood with the townspeople of Greccio in a cave in the nearby hills. All around them, torches and candles danced light and shadows on the people’s faces. A few days before, Francis had asked Giovanni to set up the cave to look like the stable Jesus had been born in hundreds of years before. It even had a manger with hay so people could see what kind of bed little Jesus had slept in.
Francis planned to have Christmas Eve Mass in the stable that Giovanni had created. Francis sang and preached. His voice was filled with his love for Jesus. Giovanni listened with his heart as well as his ears. He saw Francis go over to the hay-filled manger and gently touch the rough wooden box. Then Giovanni blinked. Could it be? Could there be a sleeping baby in the manger? It had been empty only seconds before, but Giovanni thought he saw a baby! Francis went on talking, tenderly touching the baby, who stirred and woke. Giovanni stared. Francis had awakened the Christ Child!
The others around them sang more joyfully. Giovanni was not certain if they too saw the Child but he joined in with their songs. Then the manger was empty again, but everyone’s hearts were full. The singing went on into the night. The service ended but never the joy.
And now, hundreds of years later, many people set up mangers and stables, just as Giovanni helped Francis do, so long ago.
Adapted from the The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children’s Faith Formation, page 73
We will add an animal and a character a day to our crèche/stable scene for the next week before Christmas holidays begin. To end the session, sing either “Are We Ready?” or “This Little Light of Mine.” Put a star on top of the crèche, if possible suspend it above the stable/cave. [if you don’t own a manger scene…make one.]
Monday December 18th is the fourth Monday of Advent. All the candles in the wreath are lit now. Put a cow and a manger (feeding box that Jesus would lie in) in the stable/cave. Explain that when Mary and Joseph walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem they would not have been able to carry a cradle. So when the innkeeper brought them to the stable the manger would have been there. The manger would have been the place where the innkeeper put the food of the animals. Give each child a thin strip of yellow paper (put yellow paper through a shredding machine) to put into the manger to make a soft bed for baby Jesus to lie on. If you have straw, you can give each child a piece of straw. [Real straw has a strong scent…this is my experience speaking.] Say a little prayer like: “Thank you God that the innkeeper let Mary and Joseph use his stable and manger.” Then teach the students the song “We Are Ready for You” to the tune “Happy Birthday to You”
We are ready for you.
We are ready for you.
We are ready, dear Jesus.
We are ready for you.
Tuesday December 19th is the fourth Tuesday of Advent. Light all the candles in the wreath. To the manger and cow add a sheep or two in the stable and an angel. The angel can be placed on the roof of the stable. This angel is called Gabriel because Gabriel told Mary that God wanted her to be Jesus’ mother. Make a pile of straw on the floor of the stable so Mary and Joseph will have a place to rest when they come. Explain that angels played a couple of other roles in the story of Jesus’ birth. The angels also went to the shepherds in the fields to tell them that a Saviour was born for them. Read Luke 2:8-15. The angels sang “Glory to God in the highest and peace to all people on earth.” Say a little prayer like: “Thank you for the angels that announced Jesus’ birth to Mary and to the shepherds.” If you are able you may want to teach your class the refrain to Angels We Have Heard On High….”Glor-ia in ex-cel-sis De-o.” OR Sing “We Are Ready for You.”
Wednesday December 20th is the fourth Wednesday of Advent. Light all the candles in the wreath. Add a donkey and St. Joseph to the stable scene. Explain that Joseph is a good husband and would want to make sure everything is ready for Mary to give birth to Jesus. Also put some little piece of white cloth that Mary will be able to wrap the baby in. Explain that there was no room for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem because people were there to be counted. It is called a census. Joseph’s family was from Bethlehem so he had to go to that place to be counted in the census. We still have census today but we are counted in the city where we live. But they did not have computers in Jesus’ time so people needed to be counted by going to their hometown.
Say a little prayer like: “Thank you God that Joseph was a good husband and that the donkey was able to carry Mary all the way to Bethlehem.” Amen+
Sing “We Are Ready for You.”
Thursday December 21st is the fourth Thursday of Advent. Light all the candles in the wreath. Add a horse/pig or other animal and Mary to the stable scene. Put Mary on one side of the manger and Joseph on the other. Put the animals around them. Explain that the animals would have helped to heat up the stable. Ask the students, “Who is missing?” Hopefully they will say “baby Jesus.” Ask them, “What day is baby Jesus born? [Christmas day, December 25th] How do you think Mary and Joseph were feeling three days before Jesus was born? [tired, scared, nervous, sad because it was happening in a stable and not in their home – there were no hospitals then]. Ask the students what gifts do they want to bring Jesus this Christmas? What have they done to prepare for Jesus’ birthday? Let the children speak. Sing “We Are Ready for You.”
Friday December 22nd is the fourth Friday of Advent. Light all the candles in the wreath. Add the baby Jesus to the manger. It is a couple of days early but the Christmas season will be over when the children return to school on January 8th. Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. If you wish to have a Birthday cake/cupcakes, go for it. Be sure to read the story before you eat. Luke 2:15-20. The shepherd went home glorifying God for being given the gift of Jesus. Will you glorify God when you go home today? Will you celebrate Jesus’ birthday on Christmas day? It is why we receive gifts, but don’t forget the biggest gift is the gift of Jesus.