Dec 5, 2014
During the month of December, children of Christian families dream about the gifts they hope to receive on Christmas Day. How would it be otherwise? Ads have inundated—no, they have bombarded parents,grandparents, and guardians, pressing them, coaxing them to splurge on their children! The syndrome of Santa also contributes to the fever-pitch desire for trinkets, many of which will be discarded soon after their excitement has waned.
Christmas may be a time for giving to our children, but they must be taught to reciprocate unselfishly, even in small measure. If not, they will grow into uncaring selfish adults. Scrooge comes off as a thoroughly unpleasant person until he embraces kindness.
Christmas, Secularized? Advent, Buried?
Irving Berlin, a Jew and a widower, wrote “White Christmas” for his second wife, Ellen McKay, a Catholic socialite. Made famous by Bing Crosby, the song virtually secularized Christmas. But the secular celebration of Christmas this year was accelerated; it began before Halloween. It would seem that Advent has been hopelessly buried by the secular blitz. Still, as tomorrow’s Catholics, our children must be taught about the Church’s seasons of grace as a way of living them and putting on Christ (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:17). We must not despair—the word despair has no part in the Catholic lexicon. It is not impossible for children to celebrate and come to love Advent, if we educate them. It will always be a challenge for Catholics to navigate in choppy waters and crosscurrents.
Saint Nicholas, Bishop
Several countries have adopted Saint Nicholas as their patron whose feast this year is tomorrow, December 6th. Catholic educators can show their students how the two words “saint” and “Nicholas” were changed from ‘Sinta Klaus’ to “santa” and “claus.” This fourth-century bishop of the early Church brings his own wonderful story.
Advent and the Expectation of the Jews
The coming of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in human history. By reason of the Incarnation, God becomes a human person—one with us in everything except sin. “He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory that I may share in his fullness.” These are the words of St. Gregory of Nazianzen, a fourth-century Church Father.Christian faith is a relationship with this God.
The story about Jesus Christ begins with the story of Abraham who begins the origin or genealogy of Jesus’ human life. For four thousand years, the Jews waited with great expectancy for their promised Messiah. Old Testament books are filled with this longing, but we Christians already acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of humankind. We anticipate this great feast in Advent. And the Old Testament prophet Isaiah helps us to do so. He is ‘the evangelist of Advent’ because almost all the First Readings of Advent come from his book. His clairvoyance is startling. It’s as though he enjoyed the inside scoop about the Christmas narrative hundreds of years prior to the event.
The Annunciation to Mary and Joseph
During Advent, the Church again celebrates the Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary which is officially designated for March 25th. The angel’s Annunciation to Joseph is as important however. Joseph is being asked to cooperate with the divine plan of redemption by claiming the Child-Messiah as his own when the child is not his own.It’s all terribly confusing for him as the angel places before him the case, but all in a dream. What is the divine plan? He must marry Mary and give the child his identity. He will come from the House of David. Children can be taught to meditate on this mystery, if only for a minute or two. What lesson can they learn from Joseph, a man of faith?
Suggestions for the Classroom Preparation for the Coming of Christ
Advent is a lovely season to celebrate with children because there are so many activities for them to do. A few suggestions follow:
- Advent wreath and accompanying prayers. The children can be prompted to express their own eagerness at the coming of our Emmanuel, God-with-us, expressed in the prayer, “Come,Lord Jesus, come” (1Cor 16:22). They should be encouraged to sing the ancient and beautiful Gregorian melody, “O Come, O Come,Emmanuel.” The children, God’s People, journey together with the Lord of history through history and toward the fulfillment of the Kingdom.