Sunday, Nov. 28, is the first Sunday in Advent (Year A).
On Nov. 27, Pope Benedict XVI’s Advent begins with Saturday night vespers at 5pm, which he will dedicate to the unborn.
On Nov. 28, the Holy Father will dedicate our Advent journey to the Blessed Mother in his noon Angelus in St. Peter’s Square.
And so we come to Advent again. We need to remember the three things that are truly crucial to the season. These are:
Confession. Make an Advent confession, if possible taking the whole family and making it a special day to seek forgiveness. Make it clear to the kids that confession is the most important Christmas preparation we undertake — and that we confess throughout the year to prepare for the “little Christmases” of Jesus coming to us every day. Perhaps you can combine the Advent trip to the confessional with a trip to the mall. First, we give our hearts to God — then we figure out the lesser things we want to give to everyone else.
Serving the poor. Almsgiving is key to a penitential season. If putting money in the poor box every day (or every Sunday) is your best way to accomplish that, make it a point to do so this Advent. If you have the opportunity (as we do) to participate in local apostolates that help the poor, do that instead. Children’s developmental stages are such that the actual doing of service will make a different kind of impact than giving money. But putting money in the poor box will also teach them their obligation to serve.
Pray! If you don’t pray a daily family Rosary, or if you have fallen out of the habit, restart it for Advent. Do only a decade at first if a whole Rosary is too much for your family. In today’s “Our Take,” Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the importance of Mary in Advent. Tell your children that you are living this Advent with Mary, since she understands best what Advent is all about. Consider putting an image of Mary (perhaps Our Lady of Guadalupe) with your Advent wreath.
Speaking of which, here are several family activities you can share with your family:
Advent Wreath. The “Church Year” website has a good guide to putting up and praying with your Advent wreath. Find it here: ChurchYear.net/adventwreath.html.
Jesse Tree. This craft is a wonderful way to teach your family about Advent history. The Register offers extensive instructions for Jesse Tree readings and crafts. Find them at: NCRegister.com/blog/advent_activities_jesse_tree_readings/.
Advent Gift Box. While we personally haven’t had the greatest luck with the Jesse Tree — we know plenty who have, though — we have been fairly faithful to our Advent Gift Box tradition. Get a full explanation (and printable version) here: NCRegister.com/site/print_article/4151/.
Advent Movies. There are four movie nights in Advent when you can reinforce the meaning of the season with movies about repentance and reform. Three we have recommended in the past are: The Ten Commandments (1956) or the made-for-TV “Moses” (1995) starring Ben Kingsley; It’s a Wonderful Life (1946); and A Christmas Carol (we like the excellent 1984 George C. Scott version). For a fourth one, try “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Those two are great TV specials that point to the true meaning of Christmas — and avoid the clichés of commercialized Christmas specials.
Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44
Here’s Pope Benedict XVI on the meaning of Advent:
“In Advent, the liturgy often repeats and assures us, as though seeking to defeat our mistrust, that God ‘is coming’: He comes to be with us, in each one of our situations; he comes to live among us, to live with and in us; he comes to fill the distances that divide and separate us; he comes to reconcile us with himself and with one another. He comes in the history of humanity to knock on the door of every man and woman of good will to offer individuals, families and peoples the gift of fraternity, concord and peace. ...
“To live this Advent period more authentically and fruitfully, the liturgy exhorts us to look at Mary most holy and to undertake spiritually with her the path to the cave of Bethlehem. When God knocked on the door of her youth, she received him with faith and love. In a few days, we will contemplate her in the luminous mystery of her immaculate conception. Let us be attracted by her beauty, reflection of divine glory, so that ‘the God that is coming’ will find in each one of us a good and open heart, which he can fill with his gifts.”
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.