Hello everyone! What a year it’s been! And yet, here is Advent and a new year in the liturgical calendar of the Church. It may well feel like it’s going to be a very different Advent and Christmas season – unlike any other – but that does not mean we cannot make space to grow in our faith and give some of our time to God, amidst the excitement of preparing for Christmas!
Below are some activities and prayer ideas that you may find useful to look at — and make use of — during this season of Advent and, then, into the Christmas period.
If you need any other ideas, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And, during Advent and Christmas, please do check back regularly at this website for updates and special online songs, prayers and videos that will allow us to go deeper, as a parish, into the mystery of this beautiful season! Whatever our year has been like, do remember that the nativity of our Lord is a sure sign of HOPE, which cuts through the darkness of this world and reminds us of his light and great love. May you enjoy preparing, as a family, to receive more of His love this Christmas and don’t forget to think of those living near you, who may need YOU to be the hands and the loving heart of the new-born Jesus to them, by some simple act of kindness!
Advent is our time to ready ourselves for the coming of Jesus. We can prepare ourselves practically, but here are a few activities which will help us prepare room in our hearts for Jesus.
- Pathways to God – 4 ways of celebrating Advent as a family at home
- Loyola Press have a webpage dedicated to some resources for you and your family to avail of this Advent.
- Mark 10 Mission offer a children’s Liturgy of the Word and songs to help your child understand the Sunday readings of Advent.
- How to draw an Advent Wreath – Drawing tutorial for children
- This resource is from “Catholic Icing”, a wonderful art and crafts website for children to help them grow in their Catholic faith
- CAFOD have produced a family Advent calendar
- Save the environment with this Green Advent Calendar (PDF) from the Jesuit and Friends magazine.
- Order a FREE Jesse Tree resource for children. You are welcome to free copy – donations welcome!
- The Examen Prayer for Children (Key Stages 1 and 2)
- Examen Guidance Sheet for you to download or print
Advent Prayer Corner
During Advent, consider setting up a small space, set aside at home to help the whole family prepare for Christmas. Your prayer space could have a crib, an advent wreath or candle, some pictures or symbols of our faith, photographs of your family and/or a few cushions.
You can use it very simply. Family members could use it as a space for a short prayer as they pass by. Or, for a few minutes before bedtime, you could gather too light the candle and offer some intercessions e.g. “God bless…..”
You may have some special cultural traditions around Christmas which you enjoy as a family. Here are some ideas to help you think about the nativity scene and some prayers which you can participate in at home…
Homemade Paper Nativity Scene
This is a lovely family activity which doesn’t require lots of materials. The site includes free templates, which you can download and print out, with all the instructions.
Preparing and Blessing our Nativity Scene
Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter, Admirable Signum 2019, said:
“I wish to encourage the beautiful tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas”
As a family, ask yourselves:
- What will we use and where will we place our nativity scene? In a prayer space? By the tree? At the table? In our heart?
- What has your journey to the crib been like this year? Full of fears and worries? What joys have there been? What do we need to bring forward for Jesus to heal? What do we need to give thanks for?
You could then say this special blessing of the crib together –
“God of all creation, in our need you sent your Son, Jesus, born of Mary, to be our Saviour, who brings peace and joy. Lord, bless all who gaze upon this crib. As we recall his humble birth, may we always raise our thoughts to him, our Emmanuel, who lives and reigns for ever. Amen.”
See the Catholic Culture website for a fuller family prayer time around the crib
Grace at the Christmas Meal
In “Laudato Si”, Pope Francis says: “We stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom”
Here is a simple prayer you could say at Christmas Dinner:
“Love brought Jesus to the stable and love brings us around this table. As we give thanks for the gift of this meal, and of each other, may this day be filled with joy, prayer and gratitude. Amen.”
Why not also place the Christ-child, Jesus, at the centre of the table as you eat and give thanks for all that you have received?
A Christmas Tree Blessing
As a family, you can gather round your Christmas Tree to recite this simple blessing –
“Lord our God,
we praise you for the light of creation:
the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night.
We praise you for the light of Israel:
the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures.
We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:
he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
who fills us with the wonder of your love.
let your blessing come upon us
as we illumine this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
See the USSB website for a fuller prayer time.
The movie The Star is a lovely animated story which tells the story of Christmas through the eyes of the animals there. The movie itself can be purchased from many outlets and online shopping sites. But the “National Conference for Catechetical Leadership” have produced a lovely PDF resource which you could use at home, alongside the movie
Wintershall Nativity Winter Walk
Join Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem this Christmas. Meet the shepherds in their fields, watching their sheep and spot an angel as you climb a hill!
A paid event from 18th-21st December 2020 – Time Slots must be booked in advance. This is a Covid-safe Event.
Resources for adults
- Musical Reflections for Advent from the creative collective “The Vigil Project” – songs to aid you during your prayer times, as we prepare for the coming of Jesus
- Best Advent Ever – from an American organisation called “Dynamic Catholic” – they have developed a very nice annual series of daily reflections for Advent (and next year for Lent), which you have to sign up to, but is free, and then the reflections gets emailed to you every day of Advent
- “My Catholic Life” offer daily written or audio reflections throughout Advent
- Bishop Barron’s Advent Gospel Reflections: sign up to receive a short reflection from Bishop Barron in your inbox each morning about that day’s Gospel reading.
- Advent Meditations with the Holy Family This series, called “Rejoice'”, is offered by Ascension Press and will be an excellent way of entering into this season.
- Why not take a pilgrimage through Advent with Parousia Media? It is free to register for and allows you to access a series of excellent talks and reflections all the way through Advent.
- The Christmas Octave: prayers, scriptures and reflections
- Crib Reflections: Our parish Catechetical Co-ordinator writes crib-inspired reflections for the days leading up to Christmas Day.
- Parish Carol Singing Lyrics Sheet