Advent 2023 Waiting With Wonder: 7 Ways to Ready Young Hearts to Welcome Jesus
How can we help children enter into the season of Advent?
Waiting is rarely easy for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for children. Watching the clock until recess, waiting in line at lunch, or taking turns with a favorite toy can stretch even the most patient of kids. It seems to take forever for their birthday to arrive or for summer vacation to start, and everyone counts down the days until Christmas comes.
Advent is a season of waiting, but sometimes we skip right over the preparation and want to get right to the celebration of Christmas. Both kids and adults alike can benefit from the intention of the season of Advent to slow down. We are invited to ponder the gift of our Savior in our prayer and patience. This waiting during the four weeks of Advent can allow our hearts to be stretched open wide to make us ready to welcome Jesus at Christmas.
How can we help children enter into the season of Advent when it’s so hard to wait for the coming celebration? Here are a few suggestions:
Light the flame of faith around your Advent Wreath, likely the most recognizable symbol of the season. Add meaning to lighting the candles of your Advent Wreath by making it an occasion for family prayer. Sing a new Advent hymn each week as you light the candles. Read the Gospel or all the readings from Sunday Mass and talk about the themes you hear, like waiting, hope, peace, joy and love. Offer prayer intentions and thanksgivings as a family before you blow out the flames.
Get to know your family tree — the Jesse Tree, that is! The genealogy of Jesus includes many notable names from the Old Testament. Share the stories of these figures and how they paved the way for the coming of the Messiah. There are many versions of the Jesse Tree with readings for each day of Advent and ornaments to hang on the tree, or your family can just intentionally read favorite stories from the Old Testament during the weeks of Advent.
Try a new tradition from around the world. Advent traditions vary in different times and places. Learn more about ways Catholics around the world enter into the season with celebrations like Bambinelli (“Baby Jesus”) Sunday in Italy and Las Posadas (“The Inns”) in Mexico. Then try a new tradition in your home or with your parish community.
Learn about some of the saints of Advent. There are many feast days that fall within the season. Some of the most popular to celebrate are St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, St. Juan Diego with Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 9 and 12, and St. Lucia on Dec. 13. Remember these holy men and women with a special meal, craft or act of service. Just as these holy saints allowed their lives to be changed by Christ, we too can follow the plan the Lord has for us.
Rejoice during the Third Week of Advent on Gaudete Sunday. It is a time of joy in the middle of the waiting of Advent. The priest’s pink (rose) vestments at Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent help us remember that we are more than halfway through the season. We can share our joy by sending Christmas cards, caroling at the local nursing home, or putting up decorations around our home. This is also a perfect time to pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, meditating on the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood.
Countdown with the O Antiphons. One week before Christmas Eve, the Church begins to pray the O Antiphons. These short prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours all begin with “O” and a title of the coming Messiah, like O Adonai, O Radix Jesse, and O Emmanuel. You can sing one verse from the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel each day or even do a little Bible study on the Old Testament prophecy and how it is fulfilled in the New Testament through Jesus.
Keep the celebration going during the whole season of Christmas. After all the waiting, Christmas isn’t over in a day! The Christmas Octave is celebrated for eight days until Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the season lasts until the Baptism of the Lord. Exchange gifts, sing Christmas carols, look at Christmas lights, and bake sweet treats to share. Rejoice in the birth of our Savior for the whole season of Christmas!
LEARN MORE All About Advent & Christmas, written by Katherine Bogner and illustrated by Shari Van Vranken of CatholicPaperGoods.com, is available at StPaulCenter.com: All About Advent and Christmas – St. Paul Center (stpaulcenter.com)