Sharing The News With Children
“Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…
It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
“Seek That Which Is Above”
This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent and as I am often a “day late and a dollar short”, although I addressed it in terms of the way I address my Sunday Thought these days, I really did not address this very special day from my own perspective, as I should have. But since Advent is truly a magical time of the year, it deserves a more personal touch!
When I was a child, Advent was magical time in the church where I worshipped, and it was just as special in the church where I raised my children and where I helped to direct the worship segment for our children’s Sunday School. There were very special advent lessons I would share with the children every year. Even little ones too young to fully understand the true meaning of the season somehow instinctively knew that these four weeks that lead up to Christmas were special and I don’t for one minute believe it was because they knew that gifts would magically appear come Christmas morning!
Now our children would begin the celebration by lighting our very own Advent Wreath that they helped to make. Of course, we used the battery operated variety of candles which I painted the colors of purple and pink and white. We would ask the children to bring in greenery and pine cones the week before and we would create the most beautiful wreath as each child would reverently bring their gift to the front where a circle sat on an altar covered with a linen and lace cloth. The candles would be waiting and each child delicately added the treasure of nature they had brought and as they would lay it on the form upon the altar, they would say one thing they were thankful for!
During week number one, we walked around the church sanctuary and the Sunday School classrooms and asked the children to see what was different. Their answers were wonderfully innocent as some said the room was clean while others said that there were some new colors and decorations. The idea was to make sure they knew that this time was a special time. Then we would return to the gathering room and we would light the first candle…. a purple one…. and we would talk about what was so special about the coming of the new baby Jesus. We would talk about the very special gifts we share with each other and then we would remember the greatest gift of all….. God’s special gift….. by singing some special songs of the season. And we would talk about the signs that were given that would foretell the world of His birth! And we would talk about John the Baptist, reading the our first holiday passage of the season from the gospel of Luke as we think about the signs that would herald His birth!
In the time of Herod, King of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Luke 1:5-25 NIV
Make sure you share with your children and your grandchildren what makes these days so very special. And while we want to embrace the true innocence of our children by including the secular components that remain so endearing to the season, make sure that the true reason for giving and gifting to those we love is given its proper place of importance in the days ahead. You see, “… Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy…” *1) He exists because of the beauty given to us all by the Father in heaven, whose love and generosity and devotion was so great, He gave to us the greatest gift of all time!
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