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Sunday, first week of Advent

November 27, 2005

Blessed Advent!

Once again, it’s time to prepare our hearts for the coming of the King!

This year’s reflections will be a bit different–if only because they may be more similar to the previous year’s than usual. My husband and I were asked by our new pastor (a gift from God if ever there was one!), to begin an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) process for our parish beginning this fall (i.e., we’ve been at it for a few months now). Several people were interested in becoming Catholic, and we get to guide them through what the Church actually teaches, help them to learn how Catholics live (or should live…), and help them become incorporated into the parish, in order to help them make that monumental step. It’s an exciting new ministry for us, but it’s also a rather overwhelming responsibility–the details are seemingly endless, and we’re figuring out most of them as we go. What that means is that I can’t put in the hours of reflection time that I did last year. I will have to redo each Sunday (the readings are different every year) and the saints’ feast days will be on different days of the week, but I plan to send at least some duplicate reflections from last year. In the meantime, here are a few Advent customs I compiled for our RCIA participants that you may want to consider for your own spiritual preparation this year:
Advent Customs for the Home (these are just a few–and there are variations possible for all of them)

Advent Wreath (to be placed on a table or hung from the ceiling)
You will need: an evergreen wreath (real or artificial), 4 candleholders, 3 violet candles & 1 rose candle (or 3 white candles tied with violet ribbons & 1 tied with a rose ribbon–just make sure the ribbons don’t burn!). If you want to hang the wreath, you’ll need a sturdy base for the wreath, ribbons (preferably purple) to hang it with and something to hang it from (such as a ceiling hook).

The shape of the wreath symbolizes eternity and God’s Love–it has no beginning and no end. The evergreens symbolize eternal life and the never-changingness of God. The four candles are for the four weeks of Advent, and we light one more candle each week as we draw nearer to the coming of Jesus, the Light of the World. The violet color reminds us that we have work to do while we wait for the coming of the King. As the carol says, “let every heart prepare Him room”. We spend Advent preparing our hearts to welcome God. The rose candle will be lit the third week of Advent as a sign of joy that He’s almost here!

We light the candles during supper, but you could light them whenever you want.

The first week, bless the wreath, then light one violet candle each day
Father/husband: Our help is in the Name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
Father: Let us pray. O God, by whose word all things are made holy, pour forth Your blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. Through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.
He sprinkles the wreath with holy water (if you have it)

The second week, light 2 violet candles each day.
The third week, light 2 violet and 1 rose candle each day.
The fourth week, light all four candles.

At Christmas, we replace the colored candles with one large white candle to symbolize Christ (white to represent His purity), replace the dried-out branches with fresh and decorate the wreath with small ornaments.

Christ Candle
You will need: a large white candle, blue cloth (napkin, felt, etc.), some way of decorating the candle
Decorate the candle to represent Christ. Traditionally the Chi-Rho (PX superimposed) symbol is used–these are the first two letters of “Christ” in Greek. You could also cut out a picture of Jesus from a Christmas card & pin, glue or tape it to the candle (there are other options–let your creativity guide you). If you want to use paint, regular tempera paint mixed with white glue will stick.
Then drape the candle in the blue cloth (or gather the cloth & tie around the candle like a cape), so the candle represents Jesus in Mary’s womb. At Christmas, remove the cloth and light the candle to reveal Christ as the light of the world.

Manger With Straw
You will need: something to represent a manger (could be as simple as a small box) & something to represent straw (usually real straw or strips of paper)

One way to prepare for Jesus’ coming is to do what we know He would want us to do, even when it’s hard. Each time anyone on the family does a good deed during Advent (especially doing a little something nice for another person–even something as small as smiling at them), they put a piece of “straw” in the manger. Then when Baby Jesus comes, the straw of your kindness will cushion the hard boards of the manger for Him, because what you did for the least of His people, you did for Him (see Matthew 25:40).

Jesse Tree
You will need: a small, many-branched “tree” (we cut a branch of lilac), a Bible, symbols (make or find them). Each day, hang the appropriate symbol from the tree & read the story. These are just suggestions–feel free to use other stories and/or other symbols.

This is the family history (family tree) of Jesus. The idea of using a tree comes from Isaiah 11:1-4, where the prophet refers to the Messiah (Jesus) as a shoot that will sprout from the stump of Jesse.

Date Person/event Symbol Scripture
Nov 27 Creation globe Genesis 2:1-2:4
Nov 28 Adam & Eve apple & snake Genesis 3:1-19
Nov 29 Noah rainbow Genesis 9:8-17
Nov 30 Shem blanket & grapes Genesis 9:20-23
Dec 1 Tower of Babel tower Genesis 11:1-9
Dec 2 Terah tent Genesis 11:31-32
Dec 3 Abram (Abraham) starry sky Genesis 15:1-6
Dec 4 Sarai (Sarah) laughter Genesis 21:5-8
Dec 5 Isaac altar & ram Genesis 22:1-19
Dec 6 Rebekah camel & water jar Genesis 24:10-24
Dec 7 Jacob (Israel) ladder Genesis 28:10-19
Dec 8 Judah lion Genesis 49:8-12
Dec 9 Perez twins, red thread on one hand Genesis 38:27-30
note: the story of Tamar (the rest of chapter 38) is interesting too, but not suitable for children
Dec 10 Passover lamb Exodus 12:21-28
Dec 11 Commandments stone tablets Exodus 20:1-17
Dec 12 Rahab red cord in window Joshua 2:1-21
Dec 13 Ruth sheaf of grain Ruth 3:7-11
Dec 14 Boaz sandal Ruth 4:1-11
Dec 15 Jesse stump with shoot Isaiah 11:1-4
Dec 16 David crown 2 Samuel 5:1-5
Dec 17 Solomon temple I Kings 6:1-38
Dec 18 Rehoboam map of Israel, divided I Kings 12:1-20
Dec 19 Hezekiah shadow on 10 steps 2 Kings 20:1-11
Dec 20 Josiah scroll 2 Kings 22:8-13
Dec 21 Jeconiah (Babylonian exile) tears or weeping willow Matthew 1:11-12, Psalm 137:1
Dec 22 Bethlehem Jewish city Micah 5:1
Dec 23 Joseph carpenter’s tools Matthew 1:18-24
Dec 24 Mary lily Luke 1:26-56
Dec 25 Nativity manger scene Luke 2:1-19

Nativity Scene:
Instead of setting up the entire nativity scene at once, set it up in stages. Have Mary and Joseph start on the other side of the room and gradually get closer to the stable. The shepherds have their own “hillside” somewhere else. Mary and Joseph arrive at the stable Christmas Eve, and Baby Jesus, the angels and the shepherds come during the night. At this time, the Wise Men start on their journey from another part of the room, arriving for Epiphany (either January 6th –following the 12th day of Christmas–or the nearest Sunday).

Today’s readings (Cycle B):
Isaiah 63:16-17&, 19, 64:2-7
Psalm 80 “Lord, make us turn to You, let us see Your Face and we shall be saved”
I Corinthians 1:3-9
+ Mark 13:33-37

The Master is coming!

This season of Advent not only points us to Jesus’ coming as the Messiah in the fullness of time in Salvation History, and to our celebration of His coming as a Baby December 25th, but also to the time we least suspect, when we will meet Jesus face to Face. It points us to that defining moment of our lives when we will either love (and obey, see John 14:21) or rebel against Him forever, to our eternal joy or horror. That moment may be Jesus’ return at the end of time, or it may be the hour of our death, the end of time for us. Either way, it could happen at any moment. We need to be ready, to not be found spiritually asleep.

Jesus has given us responsibilities in His absence. He urges us to be prepared to give an accounting of our service at all times…but we tend to get side-tracked. We get busy doing our own thing instead of doing His work, because it’s been so long since we witnessed His mighty deeds. The good news is that He’s lavished us with every spiritual gift we need to become ready. He will strengthen us, so that we may be blameless when He comes. We will need some of that strength in order to go to the spiritual bath house of Sacramental Confession (to remove the blame we already deserve), and some to avoid taking on blame while we continue to await His advent (literally “coming”). We need to take possession of that abundant spiritual strength, of that wealth of spiritual gifts, and put them to use in His service so that our whole life will be a preparation for heaven. That way, when the day of decision dawns, we won’t be caught off-guard. We’ll simply keep on doing what we’ve grown accustomed to doing. The loving obedience of heaven will come naturally because we’ve been using His resources to practise it on a daily basis here on earth.

May we live each day in obedient, joy-filled anticipation of the Lord’s return, eager to show Him what we’ve done with the gifts He’s entrusted to us.

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