Each Christmas our kids help set up the crèche. They unwrap each piece, carefully placing the donkey, the sheep, the wise men and the angel in their proper places. Finally they place Joseph and Mary on either side of the crib. Cory and I try to wait until Christmas Day to put Jesus in the manger, but the kids always protest that the manger “isn’t right without the baby Jesus in it!”
And so it begins. All through the month of December when we walk into the living room, we’ll notice that baby Jesus is sleeping soundly on the bed of hay. Cory or I will take him out and set him alongside the manger scene, but somehow Jesus manages to find his way back into his crib each night.
The kids are right, of course. The crèche is not complete without the baby Jesus; we are not complete without Christ. This is the message of Advent. We are supposed to notice the empty manger and long for the child Messiah within. The candles lit on the Advent wreaths at Mass and around our dinner tables remind us that the light of the world is about to be born and how dark and cold we would be without Him.
May you and yours be blessed with Christ’s light in this blessed season!
--Heidi Busse and the OSV staff
Share your suggestions and questions.
This month on Teaching Catholic Kids
December at a Glance (PDF)
(Grades K-5): The Shoe Blessing (PDF)
(Grade 6 and up): St. Francis and the Baby in the Manger
It was Christmas Eve. The holy man named Francis and his friend Giovanni stood with the
townspeople of Greccio in a cave in the nearby hills. All around them, torches and candles danced
light and shadows on the people’s faces. A few days before, Francis had asked Giovanni to set up
the cave to look like the stable Jesus had been born in hundreds of years before. It even had a
manger with hay so people could see what kind of bed little Jesus had slept in.
Francis planned to have Christmas Eve Mass in the stable that Giovanni had created. Francis
sang and preached. His voice was filled with his love for Jesus. Giovanni listened with his heart as
well as with his ears. He saw Francis go over to the hay-filled manger and gently touch the rough
wooden box. Then Giovanni blinked. Could it be? Could there be a sleeping baby in the manger?
It had been empty only seconds before, but Giovanni thought he saw a baby! Francis went on
talking, but tenderly touched the baby, who stirred and woke. Giovanni stared. Francis had
awakened the Christ Child!
The others around them sang more joyfully. Giovanni was not certain if they too saw the Child
but he joined in with their songs. Then the manger was empty again, but everyone’s hearts were
full. The singing went on into the night. The service ended but never the joy.
And now, hundreds of years later, many people set up mangers and stables, just as Giovanni
helped Francis do, so long ago.
Discussion Starter: Whom did Giovanni see in the manger?
Lifelong Catechesis Corner
Talk about the people and families who have been heralds of the good news for you. Send them a note in your Christmas card to thank them for sharing who they are.
Activities online at the Lifelong Catechesis page.
Soul Food for Teachers
Questions for Discussion and Examination of Conscience (PDF)
Catholic Stewardship for Kids
St. Lucy (or, in Scandinavia, Lucia), whose name means light, was often called the patron saint
of the light of the body or the eyes. People prayed to her for help with eye diseases. In
Scandinavia, St. Lucia’s feast day is celebrated by the oldest daughter in the family serving a
special breakfast (including Lucia Cakes) wearing a white robe and a ring of candles around her
head. On this day, young boys often wore Star Boy hats that were blue cones covered in gold
Prayer for St. Lucia Day
As we gather today we light a candle to remember the love St. Lucia shared with others. She
looked to the light of Jesus for strength, guidance and hope. As we prepare for Christmas, remind
us to also look to Jesus, and be a reflection of His light to those around us. Amen.
We Will Wait Upon the Lord (The Posture of Prayer) by Mary Lou Rosien
I love Advent! It reminds me of how we are, right now… in this moment... waiting upon the Lord! We should live in anticipation of the coming of Christ all the time. Sometimes, I wonder if the way I live my life, and even the posture I take in prayer, reflects that eager anticipation?
Is my mind drifting during Mass? Am I slouched in the pew the way I would be in a boring college lecture? I should be attentive, straight-backed, interested, kneeling straight and anticipating the joy of the Lord. Is the posture of my body demonstrating the love in my heart and the desires of my mind? Am I eagerly anticipating that moment of Consecration when the Lord will be present at the Mass in a special way?
Neil Combs, author of A Body in Prayer (Bezalel Books), puts it this way,
“Though it is ultimately our hearts which offer prayer, the posture with which we enter into prayer is also important. Hands folded together is said to be a posture of humility showing we are beggars before God, while arms opened are upward signals a reaching out to God and a desire to be closer. Similarly when we kneel before Christ in prayer, (especially in private prayer) we are showing greater reverence to God and humility before Him. While God hears all prayers, whether kneeling standing or even exercising, some postures just say, "This prayer is important, and God, I really need you..."
As the Mass is the ultimate Catholic prayer, I am reminded that our posture during Mass is especially important. We can increase our motivation for proper posture if we commit to learning more about the Mass this Advent. Books, CDs and articles from OSV can increase our knowledge and love of the Mass. I suggest: Celebrating the Mass; Joy, Joy The Mass: Our Family Celebration; Teach Me About the Mass; and Five Ways to Prepare for Mass.
Other resources I like include the CDs and downloads available by Scott Hahn: Understanding the Eucharist, The Lamb’s Supper, The Fourth Cup, How to get more out of the Mass, and The Body and Blood of Christ. Many of these can be ordered or downloaded for free at http://www.catholicity.com/cds/downloads/.
As we wait upon the Lord, we can prepare ourselves by better understanding our Catholic Faith and preparing the way of the Lord. This eagerness will shine through in our posture, understanding, and excitement when we share our faith with others. God bless you abundantly in the coming year and Merry Christmas!
Be with us, Lord, as we enter this waiting season of Advent. We thank you for the many
blessings in our lives and with anticipation, preparation and hope we look forward to the arrival of
the your Son, Jesus, the light of the world. Amen.
Visit our Year of Faith resources page for books, prayer cards, inserts and more!
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