Advent has become one of my favorite Liturgical seasons. After months of Ordinary Time, we change directions and start looking ahead. Our focus becomes preparation, for the coming of the Christ-child, and for the return of Christ.
Our family traditions have been evolving. We started with an Advent wreath, and added the Jesse Tree, but the most participatory, yet biggest challenge, for our children is preparing our manger for the arrival of the Christ-child.
Several years ago, I found a wooden box reminiscent of a manger, which was large enough for a baby doll. Next to the empty manger, I placed a container of cotton balls. The children could help prepare a nice, cozy bed for Jesus by doing loving acts for others and spending time with Jesus in prayer. The trouble has been that after a few days the manger is forgotten and the children run out of ideas.
While in prayer the other day, it came to me that I could make a list of specific activities to direct our efforts. We’ll make a paper chain with each link containing the instructions for the day. In the morning, we’ll reveal the challenge and the kids have the entire day to incorporate that activity and offer their cotton ball to Jesus. Some days have modifications to suit the variety of ages in our family; we have children from 20 months to 15 years old. If you’d like to join us, here is my list:
- After Mass, say a prayer for the Pope’s intentions.
- Play or eat lunch with someone who is lonely or sad.
- Let someone else have the best seat or first turn.
- Say a prayer for the souls in Purgatory.
- Pick one toy in good condition to give away.
- Make an ornament for your teacher.
- Play a game together.
- Bring an offering to Mass.
- Forego something you want and pray for those who are needy.
- Sing a song to Jesus on your own.
- Read with someone.
- Pray a decade of the Rosary for someone who is sick.
- Make a Christmas card for someone who has employed you.
- Do an extra chore.
- Make extra effort to pay attention and participate in Mass.
- Memorize a Bible verse.
- Call a relative to tell them you love them.
- Give everyone a hug.
- Say “Thank you” every time someone gives you something.
- Read (or listen to) a Bible story on your own.
- Do something nice for someone (that they would appreciate.)
- Offer Mass for a particular person.
- Learn about a Saint who is new to you.
Extras–Change a diaper or make a snack for someone and clean up after yourself.
Listen carefully to Mom and Dad and obey promptly.
Take care of God’s earth and your property by finding 5 items outside to clean up or put away.