“We know that the coming of the Lord is threefold… The first coming was in flesh and weakness, the middle coming is in spirit and power, and the final coming will be in glory and majesty.” ~St. Bernard of Clairvaux on the season of Advent
The virtue of patience rarely comes easily while we are growing up. To children, it seems that everything important takes too much time—whether waiting their turn in line, waiting for lunchtime, or waiting for their birthday to come, time moves slowly, and it can be difficult to be patient.
Waiting for Christmas to come isn’t easy either. As we enter the season of Advent, the Church teaches us the importance of preparation. With purple Advent candles and purple vestments worn by our priests, we have a visual reminder of how Advent is set apart. We count down the four weeks, adding light to the darkness with every new candle lit on our Advent wreath. Finally, on Christmas Eve, we exuberantly sing the Gloria and rejoice, because our waiting is over—Christ has come!
The word “Advent” comes from Latin and means “to come.” After many long years of waiting for the Messiah, Jesus came at a specific time and place. We celebrate the Incarnation and remember his birth each year at Christmas. We know that, during Advent, we look forward with hope to when Jesus will come again at the end of time to create a new heaven and a new earth. But we also recognize that Jesus comes to us in many ways right now. He is near to us when we pray. We can ask him to help us see him in the people around us. We can contemplate the beauty of his creation to see reflections of his goodness in the world around us. Most importantly, we encounter him in the most special way when we experience his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.
Yesterday, today, and forever, Jesus—our Emmanuel—is with us. This Advent, may the preparation and waiting stretch our hearts open wide to welcome him into our lives!
• With older kids, read and talk about the St. Bernard of Clairvaux quote [English | Spanish]. Ask them how they understand Jesus coming in the past, present, and future. Discuss ways to look for Jesus each day, and welcome him as he comes to us in prayer, through the people around us, and in the most special way when we experience his Real Presence in the Eucharist at Mass.
• With younger kids, create the Advent Accordion Storybook [English | Spanish] Read it together with them, talking about the meaning of the season of Advent. Show them that Jesus came at the first Christmas, comes to us each day, and will come again at the end of time.
• When is it hard for you to wait? How are you working on growing in the virtue of patience?
• Why do you think it is important for us to have the season of Advent before the celebration of Christmas? What do you think we can learn from the four weeks of waiting?
• How can waiting for the Lord help us grow in our faith? Think about examples like waiting to be old enough to receive your First Holy Communion, being patient during Mass, and listening for the Lord when we pray.
Enter into the season of Advent as a family using these books:
• All About Advent & Christmas: Sharing the Seasons of Hope & Wonder with Children by Katherine Bogner—This fully illustrated guide to Advent and Christmas explains the meaning of the seasons and the traditions that we share as Catholics. Learn about the people of the Old Testament waiting for the Messiah, the role of Mary and Joseph, the Saints of Advent, and the purpose of customs like the Advent wreath, Nativity scenes, Advent calendars, greenery, lights, and more. Woven into the book are connections to the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession, showing how the gift of Jesus at Christmas is carried into our prayer and liturgy all year long.
• The Mass and the Manger: My Interactive Christmas Story by Jennifer Sharpe—This sweet picture book has interactive pages that flip to tell two intertwined stories: one side of the page retells the narrative of the first Christmas, and when the page is flipped, the story is connected to events during the Mass. Both words and illustrations can help even young children understand the connection between Baby Jesus in Bethlehem and Jesus in the tabernacle at their parish church.
• The Jesse Tree for Families by Colleen Pressprich—The Jesse Tree is a Scripture-centered Advent tradition that shares the stories of key figures in the Old Testament and how they pointed the way to the coming Messiah. This book has beautiful illustrations for each person, a child-friendly reflection, and additional info for parents. As a bonus, it also includes lovely ornaments that can be cut out of the book and used with each daily reflection. After working through a list of people for the first weeks of Advent, the final week is spent reflecting on the “O” antiphons, which are seven titles of Jesus. The final reflection is on “O Emmanuel,” illustrated by the Eucharist, making a perfect reminder at the end of the Advent season that Jesus, whom we’ve been waiting for, is always with us!