The following resources have been provided by Fr Chris O’Donnell. We will move other resource material here in the coming weeks.
Advent Wreath Liturgy
Here is a simple poem that could be used as a liturgy in and of itself. It would simply involve gathering around the Advent wreath the advent wreath and reading the verse and lighting the candle associated with the verse. As that candle lights you could pause and pray for what it represents – hope, peace, joy, love and Christ. Music could be played to provide space for people to reflect on the various things they are praying for between the lighting of the candles.
Advent Wreath Poem
This candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,a candle of hope on this cold winter’s night.Hope keeps us going when life seems unfair, It helps us overcome, grief, hurt and despair. In lighting this candle, this candle of hope,We pray God will helps us, help us to cope. This candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,a candle of peace on this cold winter’s night.Peace is a gift of God’s presence and care,It’s needed at home, and everywhere. In lighting this candle, this candle of peace,We pray for our world, may all conflicts cease: This candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,a candle of joy on this cold winter’s night.It’s the light in our soul that keeps us shining, Even when hope and strength are decliningIn lighting this candle, this candle of joy.We welcome Christ’s love in the shape of a boy. This candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,a candle of love on this cold winter’s night.Love is God’s essence and our essence too, It adds meaning and purpose to all that we do.In lighting this candle, this candle of love,We trust in God’s presence from heaven above. This candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,the candle of Christ on this cold winter’s night.This Christ candle sits rightly in the centre,As in Jesus we find, God, friend and mentor.His name ‘Emmanuel’ is more like a promise,Even when we’re left, doubting like Thomas. It means God is with us wherever we stroll, No longer distant but in the depths of our soul. In lighting this candle, God’s no longer unknown,He is with us always and we are never alone. These candles are burning, a circle of light,Of God’s endless love on this cold winter’s night.Flickering flames of hope, peace, joy and loveGod’s encircling warmth from heaven above. And then comes the greatest candle of all,Christ’s candle that helps us when we fallA baby for Christmas, a wonderful birth,for Jesus is bringing God’s love to our earth. May this love lift spirits and hearts that are low And fill us with light and help us to glow. And in the midst of the giving comes God’s gentle dove,To remind us that the greatest gift is the gift of God’s love.
Advent Wreath Liturgy II
This is an advent wreath liturgy that I did with young people. It could be adapted to meet your needs.
This is a liturgy that centres on the Advent Wreath. After leading this liturgy I became aware that having the scripture references in each of the introductions was not as helpful to the young people as it might be with adults and depending on the group you have before you, you might leave out the scripture references. Also I edited the songs based on the suggestions made by the young people – it is always helpful to get insights or feedback from the young people involved.
Preparatory Work: Print Hope/Peace/Joy/Love Pages back to back and cut out the two large squares on each page. Give each person the little square of paper with the four topics – love, joy, peace and hope. Ask them to fill in the square – in each corner write a prayer that is dear to you related to each virtue.
Words of Introduction: We are going to let the advent wreath shape our prayer this evening. It is circular in shape to remind us that God’s love for us has no beginning and no end and that he constantly encloses us in the circle and the shelter and the warmth of his love. Usually an advent wreath is decorated with evergreen leaves, a sign of life in an otherwise lifeless winter. This reminds us that even in the cold and darkness of winter we should stay hopeful. Just like the evergreen trees that hold on to their leaves can we hold onto our hope and find life and be life for others when all around us people like trees have lost hope. Each candle represents a virtue and a promise and we pray God will be true to his promise and gift us with these virtues.
We gather in the name of the Father…..
We remember the things and the people we wrote on our piece of paper earlier and we think of them now….
Opening Prayer: Lord, we have gathered to pray and be together as we start yet another advent season. Advent always gives us the chance to step back from the busyness and madness of Christmas and take stock. May this prayer be a time that nourishes us and helps us to grow in hope, in peace, in joy and in love. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen
The Candle of Hope: The first candle on the advent wreath is called the Candle of hope. As we light this candle, we remember how St John described Jesus as a light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5). We pray his light will shine in our darkness. There is a verse that says ‘I light a candle and one small flame is all it takes to let the darkness know that it cannot win out.’ May this little flame remind us that there is always hope and that no matter how difficult life seems, darkness doesn’t win out……Light Candle
Þ Lord we pray for those people around us and in our world who have lost hope, those who feel like giving up and are at the end of their strength. May they find hope when they need it most and may we try to be a source of hope to others. Lord Hear Us
Þ Hope is only truly hope when things seem hopeless. Give us the grace and the faith to be hopeful and to persevere irrespective of what we are going through. Lord Hear Us
Þ We pray in thanksgiving Lord for the people in our life who give us hope and who lift our spirits with their humour, smiles, friendship and love. May we never take them for granted. Lord Hear Us
We place our square of hope and our prayers for hope at the candle of hope. In song we think of and pray for what we wrote. (Song Suggestions: Twista ft Faith Evans – Hope (HQ), Kodaline High Hopes )
The Candle of Peace: The second candle on our wreath is the candle of Peace. In his letter to the Philippians St Paul said, ‘The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.’ We all long for peace, peace of mind, peace in our hearts, in our homes in our world. We light this candle of peace knowing full well that peace is elusive, and in some parts of the world, it is almost completely absent. Yet in this season of Advent, we trust that God is never absent from us. God is always preparing something new. And even where there is war and discord, whether between countries, within families, or within our own hearts, God is present, gently leading us to new possibilities and hopefully he will help us find peace…..Light Candle
Þ Lord the peace you offer is a peace beyond understanding. Help us to find the peace we long for, so that we can be at peace with ourselves and who we are, while also being at peace with others and at peace with life. Lord Hear Us
We pray for the people in our lives, in our country and in our world whose lives are far from peaceful. We pray for refugees, victims of war and all who have to live with violence, division and separation. May they find peace
Þ in the midst of their storms. Lord Hear Us
Þ Jesus said ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’. We pray for the peacemakers in our lives and world. We remember those who work tirelessly for peace and those whose presence in our lives brings us untold peace and calm. May God bless the peacemakers. Lord Hear Us
We place our square of peace and our prayers for peace at the candle of peace. In song we think of and pray for what we wrote. (Song Suggestions: War is Over – John Lennon, Ray la Montagne Within You, A Spaceman Came Travelling, O.A.R. – Peace,)
The Candle of Joy: The third candle on the wreath is the pink candle, the candle of joy. It serves to remind us of the joy that Jesus brings into this world and the joy he has sown in the depths of our hearts. In his letter to the Philippians St Paul described Jesus’ wish for us by saying; ‘I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. You would think joy would come easy to us, especially at Christmas, everywhere we look there’s joy —in the children, the Christmas lights and music, the advertisements and movies. But joy, unlike Christmas presents, cannot be bought. It cannot be found outside us, only within us. It is like a spring deep within. We have to draw from this well of joy but too often we don’t lower our buckets deep enough, we live on the surface of our lives, distracted by the fleeting things of life. So to be joyful is a daily decision to go deeper and let our joy bubble up from within. We now light the third candle, the candle of joy…..Light Candle
Þ We pray for those who are sad, unhappy and hurting. Joy is something that can exist even in the midst of pain and so we pray that those who are hurting will be surprised by joy and this joy may rise up in their hearts and help them in their time of difficulty. Lord Hear Us
Þ We pray that we will find joy and bring joy to others. Lord Hear Us
Þ We pray in thanksgiving for those who are joyful and who lift our hearts. We pray especially for the joy that seems so natural for children and pets, we thank God for them and the joy they bring into our lives. Lord Hear us
We place our square of joy and our prayers for joy at the candle of joy. In song we think of and pray for what we wrote. (Song suggestions: Happy – Pharrell Williams, Joy to the World )
The Candle of Love : The fourth candle on our wreath is the candle of Love. Jesus’ life was all about love, it was his great commandment and he said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love.” With this candle we remember the love of God that surrounds and fills us at all times. Also we think of the people we love and the people who love us. There is no greater power than love. It is stronger than rulers and empires, stronger than grief or despair, stronger even than death. We now light the candle of love to signify the most powerful force in our world…. Light Candle
Þ We pray for those who feel unloved and unlovable. Those who don’t feel that they deserve love, those who long for love and are searching for love, those who have been hurt by love. May love rise up in our hearts and heal our lives. Lord Hear Us
Þ We pray that we will be loving people, who try to respond in love to all and in difficult situations we pray that we will try to be first to love. Lord Hear Us
Þ We pray for the people in our lives who love us and the people we love. May we never take each other for granted and may God help us to strengthen and deepen the bonds of love that knit us together. Lord Hear Us
We place our square of love and our prayers for love at the candle of love. In song we think of and pray for what we wrote. (Song suggestions: Tom Odell-Another Love, John Legend-Love Me Now, Taylor Swift-Love Story, Adele -To make you feel my love
The Christ Candle: We have lit four candles to remind us of four things. These are like four virtues within, four gifts given or four promises made by God: Hope, peace, joy, and love. The four come together and find completion in Christ. He is our hope, he gifts us with his peace, he wants us to be joyful and he loves us and wants us to love others. We light this candle asking Jesus to help us grow in faith; faith in God, faith in others and faith in ourselves. May he help us deepen our relationship with him and in finding him know that we will find hope, peace, joy and love…Light Candle
We ask God to bless us with his light and love, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
(Closing Song Suggestion: This is my Winter Song, In Christ Alone)
What am I hoping for most in life at the moment? Are there particular situations, people and decisions that need hope?
Where would I love to find peace in my life at the moment? Who in my world or where in my world needs peace?
Where do I find joy? How can I be more joyful? Who would I love to be lifted by joy?
Who are the people that I love that I want to pray for? Where in my life do I need love? Deceased family and friends I want to remember
Advent Parish Liturgy
Here is a liturgy that we had in Kilmallock in Kilmallock in 2019. It went well but if I were to go again I would tweak a few things. ‘Advent’ music is important to choirs and liturgists and yet I often think people don’t get to sing the Christmas hymns enough – and maybe this liturgy could give them a chance to sing familiar Christmas hymns – although maybe this isn’t liturgically correct!
Opening Hymn: Once in Royal David’s City
We gather in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And with your spirit.
The dictionary defines the word advent as ‘coming’ – the coming of something very important. As a season Advent teaches us to wait, to prepare, to take stock, to reflect, to actively seek Christ and to search for the spark of Jesus in others and around us. Advent is a time to look for hope, to look forward to the coming of light the coming of Christ. During these four weeks we pray for what already is. Christ is present to us but we long for his renewed presence among us and we prepare for this. They say ‘Good things come to those who wait’, well tonight we gather to wait, to pray, to hope and to invite the light of Christ to break through the darkness in our world and in our lives. As we pray and wait we will listen to stories and light candles on the advent wreath and reflect on what each candle symbolises.
Come O Long Expected Jesus
God on this dark December night we gather to pray that you will be a light for our path as we journey through advent. May you deepen our longing for you, heighten our sense of anticipation of your coming, and create a home in our hearts and lives where you will find a warm welcome. May this season of advent increase our sense of wonder and awe at a God who chose to come in the form of a helpless baby, wrapped in love and light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
A Story of Hope – Rose Hales
The first candle on the wreath is the candle of hope. We will now listen to a story about hope:
Rabbi Hugo Grynn was sent to Auschwitz as a little boy. In the midst of the horror his family like many others held onto whatever shreds of their religious observance they could. One cold winter’s night Hugo’s father gathered the family to celebrate Chanukah…the feast of Lights. Hugo watched in horror as his father took the family’s last pad of butter and made a makeshift candle using a string from his ragged clothes. He then took a match and lit the “candle”. “Father, no!” Hugo cried. “That butter is our last bit of food! How shall we live?” To which his father gently replied, “We can live for many days without food! We cannot live for a single minute without hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here. Not anywhere. The story reminds us of the importance of keeping hope and giving hope.
In the letter to the Hebrews we learn that hope is an anchor for our souls. It says; “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.” The next hymn repeatedly asks Jesus to come and help us, to be a light that sets us free and to be a source of living hope that leads us to new life.
O Come Emmanuel
Prayers of Faithful – Dermot Dwane
Lord we pray for those people around us and in our world who have lost hope, those who feel like giving up and are at the end of their strength. May they find hope when they need it most and may we try to be a source of hope to others. Lord Hear Us
Hope is only truly hope when things seem hopeless. Give us the grace and the faith to be hopeful and to persevere irrespective of what we are going through and we pray in thanksgiving for the people in our life who give us hope and who lift our spirits. May we never take them for granted. Lord Hear Us
Lighting of the Candle of Hope – Verse 1 ‘A Candle is burning’
A Story of Peace – Emer Williams
The second candle on the wreath is the candle of peace. We will now listen to a story about peace: An artist was commissioned by a king to paint something that would depict peace. Firstly he painted the most beautiful scenery, with clear blue skies, on a glorious still summer’s day. However the king wasn’t happy and told the artist to try again. He then painted a beautiful picture of a mother, holding a sleeping baby in her arms. But again, the king wasn’t satisfied and asked the painter to try once more. Disappointed and frustrated, he went away. He sat and waited and prayed for inspiration. Finally he took to the canvas and painted a picture that he nervously gave to the king. The king studied it carefully and finally said, “Now this is a picture of true peace.” And what was this picture of true peace? The picture showed a stormy sea pounding against a cliff. The artist captured the fury of the wind and the dark sky lit by streaks of lightening. The sea was roaring in turmoil. And in the middle of the picture, under a ledge on the cliff, the artist had painted a small bird, safe and dry in her nest snuggled securely in the rocks. The bird was at peace in the midst of the storm that raged about her.
Peace isn’t an absence of difficulty or storms, it is about finding God or faith or peace in the midst of our storms. St Paul in his letter to the Philippians says: ‘The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Our next hymn asks God or Yahweh to dwell among us and give us his peace which is beyond all understanding.
The Peace of Christ – Bulgaden NS Martyr’s Theme
Prayers of the Faithful – Pierce Connery
Lord the peace you offer is a peace beyond understanding. Help us to find the peace we long for, so that we can be at peace with ourselves and who we are, while also being at peace with others and at peace with life. Lord Hear Us
We pray for the people in our lives, in our country and in our world whose lives are far from peaceful. We pray for refugees, victims of war and all who have to live with violence, division and separation. May they find peace in the midst of their storms. Lord Hear Us
Lighting of the Candle of Peace – Verse 2 ‘A Candle is burning’
A Story of Joy – Rev Liz Beasley
The third candle on the wreath is the candle of joy. We will now listen to a story about joy:
Gerry had been working in the nursing home for two months. He loved the work, the patients and his colleagues but something just didn’t feel right. There was no trace of joy. Gerry mentioned it to the head nurse Noreen. She asked ‘How can there be joy in a place that has so much sickness, suffering, pain and hurt.’ Gerry said, ‘not only is it possible to have joy here but it’s vitally important because it is exactly during difficult times that we need joy most.’ He said that, irrespective of how hard life is we need to be joyful and give joy. Wherever possible we need to give people reasons to sing and dance and clap. ‘But look around you,’ Noreen said, ‘There are people here who don’t have a voice to sing, others can’t walk not to mind dance and others can barely move their hands and so clapping is out of the question.’ However Gerry replied saying, ‘You don’t need your legs to dance, you don’t need a voice to sing and you don’t need hands to clap.’ Noreen was confused, ‘What do you mean you don’t need a voice to sing?’ Gerry replied, ‘Singing and dancing and clapping are great but what is even more important is what makes us want to sing and dance and clap. It is God’s spirit of joy within us that helps us to be joyful even when things are difficult.’
The penny dropped for Noreen and she said, ‘I think I get it. You are saying that, we don’t need our voices to sing, our feet to dance or our hands to clap. We just need joy in our hearts, it’s this joy that makes us want to sing and dance and clap.’ ‘Exactly,’ Gerry replied. ‘Joy is always an inside job and with Christ in our hearts we will always have joy and have reasons to sing and dance and clap, even when times are tough.
We can’t really call ourselves Christian if we don’t show joy. In John’s Gospel Jesus reminded us of this when he said, ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete’. We now sing a hymn that reminds us to be people of joy who rejoice with heart, soul and voice.
Joy to the World
Prayers of the Faithful – Michelle O’Connor
Joy is the one clear sign of the presence of God. May we find joy in the depths of our being and share this joy with others. May our light and our joy be infectious and help lighten the hearts and lives of those around us, especially those who feel they have nothing to be joyful about. Lord Hear Us
Lord happiness comes and goes but joy is something deeper. Help us to not to lose heart during the difficult moments in our lives. May we realise that circumstances may rob us of our happiness, but nothing can rob us of our joy. Lord Hear Us
Lighting of the Candle of Joy – Verse 3 ‘A Candle is burning’
A Story of Love – Áine O’Donnell
The fourth candle on the wreath is the candle of love. We will now listen to a story about love:
In the light of the tragedy of September 11th there were thousands of articles written. However, the most striking article was written by Peggy Noonan, entitled “I Just Called to say I love you”. Her words focused, not on the images of destruction from that terrible day, but on the words of love. She highlighted that all the phone calls and messages that came from the twin towers that day were messages of love. She includes message after message of parents, children, lovers saying ‘I just called to say I love you.’ Something terrible had happened, and time was short, life was reduced to its essentials, and in the end people realised all that mattered was love. Noonan highlights that there is no record of anyone calling to say, “I never liked you,” or “You hurt my feelings. No when push comes to shove we know that at the end of the day only one thing matters and that is love. So let us stop waiting until it is too late to show our love or to let those we love know how we feel about them. Jesus’ life was all about love, it was his great commandment, he said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love.” Our goal is to remain in his love, trust his love and share his love. The next hymn invites the God who is love to seek out our souls, draw near and dwell in our hearts and set them on fire with his love.
Come Down O Love Divine
Prayers of the Faithful – John English to nominate
We pray for those who feel unloved and unlovable. Those who don’t feel that they deserve love, those who long for love and are searching for love, those who have been hurt by love. May love rise up in our hearts and heal our lives. Lord Hear Us
We pray for the people in our lives who love us and the people we love. We pray that we will be loving people, who try to respond in love to all and in difficult situations we pray that we will try to be first to love. Lord Hear Us
Lighting of the Candle of Love – Verse 4 ‘A Candle is burning’
The Christ Candle – James Connery
We have lit four candles to remind us of four things. These are like four virtues, four gifts given or four promises made by God: Hope, peace, joy, and love. The four come together and find completion in Christ. He is our hope, he gifts us with his peace, he wants us to be joyful and he loves us and wants us to love others. For this reason the final candle on the wreath is called the Christ candle. This candle reminds us that if Christ is not at the heart of our wreath, at the heart of our lives, at the heart of Christmas there is an incompleteness to us and all that we do. We light the Christ Candle and after the verse, we will take a moment to rest in Christ and to invite Christ’s light into the heart of our lives, at the heart of whatever is going on for us. We ask Jesus to shed his light and healing love into our hearts and lives and to centre us.
Lighting of the Christ Candle – Verse 5 ‘A Candle is burning’
The Angel Gabriel – Scoil Mocheallóg
We now bring together our prayers, our prayers for hope, peace, love and joy. Our prayers for Christ’s light in our hearts and lives. And so together we pray: Our Father
Lord we are an advent people, waiting, hoping, expecting, preparing for you to be born anew in our hearts and lives. May this season of advent provide us with an opportunity to experience your hope, your peace, your joy and your love. May the light of Christ dispel the darkness in our hearts and lives and we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
The Holy City
Blessing: We ask God to bless us with his light and love, the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Dismissal: This time of prayer is ended, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
All Glory be to Christ
Reflections based on the Crib
As you place the following items in the crib or as you draw attention to the following items in the crib, you could reflect on and pray the following.
Jesus was laid in a manger, a wooden box normally used as a feeding trough for animals.
We think for a moment of those who go hungry in our world, in our country and in our neighbourhoods.
May God nourish and heal us in body soul and spirit and may we in turn be a source of nourishment and hope for others.
The Donkey carried the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem.
We think for a moment of those we know who are sick or tired, lonely or weary. We also think of those who have carried us in our lower moments.
We pray for them all and we pray for the strength and generosity to carry others in their lower moments.
The star led the shepherds and then the wise men to the stable.
We think for a moment of those who have guided us on our journey in life – our parents, family, teachers, friends and neighbours. We think of decisions that are ahead for us, where we are not sure what to do.
We pray that God will guide us each day and help us to be the best we can be. As others have been guiding lights for us, may we live our lives in such a way that we will be a source of light for others especially those in darkness.
The word Angel comes from the Greek word ‘Angellos’ meaning messenger. We think for a moment of the messages that we have received this year, both the good and the bad, those messages that lifted our hearts and sadly those messages that broke our hearts. We think of the messengers of God’s love, light, joy and healing in our lives.
We pray in thanksgiving for these people and we pray that we will be messengers of love and hope to others.
A cow often features as one of the animals in the nativity scene.
We think for a moment about creation, the wonderful gift of life and nature.
How do we play our part in minding the planet? How could we do better? Some stories talk about the cow breathing on Jesus to keep the baby warm. We pray that we will live our lives in such a way that we bring warmth into the lives of others with our love and generosity.
The Shepherds and Sheep
The shepherds came to worship the wonder of God becoming man in the least likely of places and in the least likely of forms, a helpless infant. They could see in this bleak stable and in a new born child the presence of God.
We think for a moment of where we see God in ourselves and in our daily lives.
We pray for those who see the best in us and may God help us to see the best in others and may help us to see beneath the surface and see the depths of everything.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph – the Holy Family.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph are referred to as the Holy Family. Their first moment as a family was pretty much as homeless refugees away from home and family. We think for a moment of our family – the people we love and the people who love us. We think of family members who are sick or struggling or living with division or separation. We think of family who are at a distance and those who have died. We think of refugees.
We pray that there will always be room and a welcome in our homes and hearts and we pray that we will never take family for granted and that we will strengthen the bonds of love that knit us together as family.
Random Advent Ideas
Here are a few random Advent Ideas that I had included once for a project – I haven’t tried all of them!
This tradition usually involves the drawing of a name from a hat. A group of people, either a class, a family or even a group of fellow workers place their names in a hat. Everyone draws a name and that person becomes your ‘Advent Friend’! The idea is usually that you try to be nicer to that person throughout the season of Advent, while keeping it from him/her that she/he is your ‘Advent Friend’. If you do not belong to a group you can decide on someone that you hope to be nicer to. Sometimes we can challenge ourselves to choose that person who drives us daft. You can pray for the person or just try to more positive and friendly towards that person, you could be surprised by the results. At the end of Advent you can give a small gift to your ‘Advent Friend’ if you like. So think about it and begin today.
St. Nicholas’ Day
On the sixth of December each year we celebrate St. Nicholas Day. The significance of gift giving varies from one country and custom to the next. These stem from religious beliefs, or gestures of goodwill, to wishes for good luck! Each child puts out a shoe the night before St. Nicholas Day in the hope that the kind bishop, with his mitre, staff and bag of gifts- will pay a visit. St. Nicholas should be familiar to us all, or at least his nickname St. Nick! St. Nicholas is known as the anonymous benefactor. Today be an anonymous benefactor! Take the opportunity to leave a small gift or token of appreciation for someone, or maybe do an anonymous favour for someone, keep the tradition of St Nick alive!
Create a calendar that encourages people to pray certain prayers, read certain pieces of Scripture or do certain things – all that would make Advent a holier and better season for you.
There is a tradition (in Germany I think!) whereby young people strive to make sure that the manger will be comfortable for Baby Jesus. As a result they do kind things throughout Advent and each time they do a kind thing they put a piece of straw in the crib. By the time Christmas comes they hope to have ensured that Jesus is laid on a comfortable bed of hay.
Through the school, send the figure (or a few figures) of the Baby Jesus home with accompany prayers. A family gets to ‘house’ Jesus for the night, say a particular prayer together and bring him back to school the next day.
Christmas Gift Bag
Another advent possibility is to create a Christmas gift – using everyday things that carry a ‘wish’ for someone. The verse explains the different things you could put in the bag.
Verse for Gift Bag
This year has been a mix of things both joyful and blue,
But the promise of Christmas remains tried and true.
It’s a promise of God’s presence and incredible love,
A God who’s within and not simply up above.
Because of the lessons this year has taught me,
My Christmas gift is different, wait ‘til you see.
Each gift carries a wish from the bottom of my heart,
A wish to sustain you when we’re together or apart.
The marble is for joy to brighten up your day,
The plaster is for healing to help you on your way.
The heart is for love to give meaning to your life,
The cross is for faith to help in times of strife.
The candle is for light when challenges you face,
The seed is for growth and the gift of God’ grace.
The watch is for time, make the most of each day,
The eraser is to rub out those moments we stray.
The shell is to remind you to go with the flow,
As to resist every struggle isn’t wise you know.
Without doubt it has been a challenging year,
But seeing things differently may bring some cheer.
So this gift carries wishes and peace like a dove,
A gift with a difference, a gift full of love.
Two Christmas Poems
If you look for me at Christmas,You won’t need a special star.I’m no longer just in Bethlehem,I’m right there where you are.
You may not be aware of Me,Amid the celebrations.You’ll have to look beyond the stores,And all the decorations. But if you take a moment,From your list of things to do,And listen to your heart, you’ll findI’m waiting there for you.
You’re the one I want to be with,You’re the reason that I came.And you’ll find Me in the stillness,As I’m whispering your name.
The Promise of Christmas
Sadly Christmas is, so different this year,
Missing a loved one, so cherished and dear.
‘Get through it’, ‘get over it’, we wish it away,
Wondering how, we’ll get through the day.
Broken hearted and lonely, looking for hope,
Amid festive cheer we struggle to cope.
What we don’t realise in the midst of our pain,
Is that it’s for people like us that the Lord Jesus came.
In the dark of our winter along comes this night,
Just when we thought we’d never be right.
Out of the chaos, came a gift from above,
God became man, to fill us with love.
‘Emmanuel,’ ‘God is with us,’ it’s more than a name,
It’s a comforting promise, it’s the reason he came.
A promise that tells us that we’re never alone,
God’s promise to be with us, wherever we roam.
It speaks of pain passing, a new dawn, a new day,
It speaks of a love that death can’t take away.
It speaks of strength when we’re feeling weak,
It speaks of light when things seem bleak.
It speaks of hope when we feel despair,
It speaks of joy, when life’s a nightmare.
It speaks of healing in the midst of pain,
It speaks of faith when all seems in vain.
God became man, on a bleak winter’s night,
to be with us always and to gift us with light.
So remember this if you are feeling blue,
The promise of Christmas is especially for you.
May God lift your spirit and may God heal your heart,
And help you to trust that you’re never apart,
The love of your dear one will be always with you,
Thanks to Christmas, we know this promise is true!
Two Fun Christmas Ideas
- The Christmas Story In Chocolate (Chocolate, sweets, biscuits)
Once upon a time, over 2000 years ago, a young girl called Mary, heard a wispa from the angel Gabriel. The angel told her that she was to be the mother of God’s son and she was to call him ‘Emmanuel’ a name which means God is with you. These words continued to echo in her heart. How could this be?, she wondered. She wasn’t even married and she was sure that this news would ripple through the village like wildfire and everyone would judge her and probably snicker. An angel appeared also appeared to Joseph in a dream and reassured him that this was all part of God’s loving plan.
A census was being carried out at that time and so Joseph had to return with Mary to the town where he was born, Bethlehem, which was miles away. With hardly a dime to their name they had to walk most of the way. It was a long journey for a young girl, so heavily pregnant. Joseph was afraid that Mary might catch a cold and thought that some time-out would do them good. Because they also had the munchies he kept an eye out for a place where they could stop and have a picnic as they had packed some Fruit and Nut.
It was a cold night to be making such a journey. The frozen grass was crunchie under their feet. Their cheeks were cold and were as red as the roses. There was a stiff chill in the aero and to make things worst it got really windy and in places there were twisters and hurricane. Joseph desperately tried to find a place to stay, but every club and inn was full. They were offered the chance to stay in an old stable. It wasn’t great and it definitely wasn’t situated on a quality street but it was better than nothing. And so it was there in the stable that the baby was born. He was named Emmanuel, a name which means God is with us, to remind us that we are never alone.
That night some shepherds and some other drifters heard music in the sky. They were kinder surprised by the angels. The angels sang as sweetly as minstrels. The Shepherds decided to go to Bethlehem to see what had happened there. Before they left fed the animals. They went into the dairy-milk was plentiful there and they also left them a wholenut log and other types of food to chomp on. When they arrived, they found Joseph, Mary and the baby who was laid in a manger. They stood in lion and entered and they were filled with great wonder, could this vulnerable little baby be God? It was getting late, after eight in fact, and so the shepherds returned to the hills, but they sang all the way back as the whole experience had given their spirits a boost.
Meanwhile, in a far country, some astrologers (they were real smarties) were busily scanning the galaxy, when they saw a starburst. There was a particularly bright star near the milky way. Originally they thought it was mars? Then they realized that it was a star shining with extraordinary brilliance, way out to the east, a star that signaled the birth of a new King. They quickly climbed on their caramels and set off. They travelled hard, and arrived at King Herod’s palace on their way.
They were not embarrassed to hob-nob with royalty and Herod was really interested in what they had to say. But these wise men knew what Herod was like and so they tried to change the topic. They managed to fudge the issue by avoiding his questions and saying that they had to go. They got one of the Jesters to perform some magic for the king. It wasn’t Black Magic but it was very distracting. By doing this they stopped Herod finding the baby Jesus and so they were real heroes.
After a long journey the wise men came to Bethlehem. They stopped as they stopped for a snack and it renewed their energy. It is always good to stop for a refresher on such a long journey. They found Joseph, Mary and the child and offered their bounty of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The baby was as cute as a button and Mary smothered him with kisses. The wise men were wise because they could see the wonder of God in this newborn baby. Mary and Joseph admired their fancy clothes, and so they gave them a twirl so they could see the detail on the back of their cloaks. Then God warned them in a dream that Herod was up to his old twix again, seeking the child’s life. So they returned to their own country by another route.
It is a very familiar story; we often get distracted by the Santa and his reindeers making his journey amidst great flakes of snow. And yet without the birth of Christ nothing in life would make sense and so because of him Christmas should be one of the biggest celebrations ever!
50 bars Required (but more really as when people buzz in at the same time you might give a bar to each team)
Firstly, divide the group into teams and get them to sit on the ground in their teams. Get them to devise a buzzer sound for their team – short and snappy is best! Once they have come up with their team buzzer sound give them instructions for the game:
I am going to tell you the Christmas story and whenever you hear the name of a sweet, chocolate bar or biscuit call out your buzzer sound. The first team to buzz in get a bar. If a few teams buzz in at the same time you might each get a bar.
For example, a sentence might read as:
Joseph and Mary made their way to Bethlehem. It wasn’t like New Yorkie but they didn’t mind.
So you should have buzzed in for ‘Yorkie’ as it is a bar. Also a bar or sweet or biscuit is only mentioned once and so if you buzz in for a second time or even if you buzz in incorrectly I will take back a bar from you. So don’t get carried away!
Read the story in a manner whereby you pause for dramatic effect by way of trying to trick the children into ‘buzzing’. After each correct or incorrect guess re-read some or all the sentences again by way of trying to trick the children into buzzing incorrectly for a second time.
- The 12 Days of Christmas
You are familiar with the 12 Days of Christmas song. There are two ways of turning this into a fun activity.
- Birthday Jump
Everyone sits down for the song and they jump up and shout/sing out their line at the right time. The song talks about the ‘true love’ bringing a certain number of things – A partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens etc. Tell the children to think of the number of the month of their birthday – so June is 6, September is 9 etc. So whenever the song gives the number and the associated items the children whose birthday falls on that month stand up and sing/shout out the line and then they sit down. This will happen a lot for some, 12 times for the January babies and only once for the December babies! So when the lines says ‘Five French hens’ – the children who have their birthday in May, will jump up and sing/shout out ‘Five French Hens’ and sit back down again and the April birthdays will should up and sing ‘Four Calling Birds’ etc.
- Action Song
Sing the song and do the actions. You can make up your own or you can find a few versions of this on Youtube. I have included two hear – one that is sedate and the other that is a bit more fun!!
Classroom Treasure Hunt (Suitable for Senior Primary or Junior Secondary)
This is a treasure hunt type activity whereby clues (numbers/letters) are collected and at the end are put together to form two mystery words (Be Kind). The clues are hidden on regular items in the classroom. These items can teach us valuable lessons about life. I have led this session on zoom but teachers can do it all themselves. Here are the instructions that I have shared with the teachers.
- You will need to print off the clues below.
- Decide whether you want to go with an easy, hard or cryptic version of the puzzle!
If you feel your class would prefer a greater challenge put numbers instead of letters on the back of the clue (you can write the numbers on the board as they find them but they won’t know and in theory you won’t know why the numbers are on the clues). The numbers correlate to the position of each letter in the alphabet (A=1, B+2 etc) but you would have figured that out!
To further challenge the class you could put different numbers on the back of the clues. For example instead of going with the stereotypical A=1 etc you could change the order of numbers – Z=1, Y=2 etc…that could make it more challenging and time consuming and frustrating for the class but we can always give them a clue to help them get it across the line. This might be too tricky for many.
The final clue tells the children that by putting the numbers (or letters) together they will make two words that encourage us how to live well (Be Kind).
- Write a number/letter on the back of the clues (any order will do)
The numbers or Letters you need to put on the back of the clues below:
If you go with letters write one of these letters on each clue – K D B E N I (be kind)
Write these numbers in any order under each clue (asides from the first clue)
11, 9, 4, 2, 5, 14 (if you want to go with A=1 formula)
Write these numbers in any order under each clue (asides from the first clue)
16, 18, 23, 25, 22, 13 (if you want to go with z=1 and A=26)
- Hide the clues in the places stated below (stick them to the items) and sit back and enjoy!
- To begin simply read the first clue (the one you didn’t hide). The class will figure out what the object of the clue is. Get someone to check what they thought the clue was referring to. If they are right they will find another clue that also has a letter/number on it. You don’t say why the letter or number is important yet but you can suggest that you write these numbers/letters in case it might help.
The messages in a nutshell are:
- Ruler – Don’t measure your love, love without measure.
- Clock – Time is a greatest gift, don’t take it for granted, be generous to others with our time and be patient.
- Ball – Be a source of joy to others, especially those who need it.
- Calculator – Be faithful, somebody others can count on when they need you
- Colouring Pencils/Markers – Brighten up the live of other as best you can
- Glue/Sellotape/Blutac – help fix what is broken, especially broken hearts, stick by others
By the end of the puzzle they will have a collection of letters or numbers and you encourage them to put them in an order to spell two words. They should end up with the words ‘Be Kind’.
To bring it to prayer you could pray a prayer of the faithful around each of the seven messages and pray a prayer together. You can print off the clues below – front and back depending on what you choose to go with (numbers/letters).
Opening Clue (not hidden)
I’m not a king but we’ve a similar title,
For drawing straight lines I can be vital
Unlike a King, I don’t have great treasure
My order to you is to love without measure.
- This clue is stuck behind a ruler or metre stick
I’ve three hands but I cannot lift
I’m definitely life’s greatest gift.
You look at me throughout the day
Wondering when you can go out to play.
- This clue goes behind a clock
I fly up high but fall back to the ground,
Spinning and rolling my way around.
I’m thrown and caught, by girl or boy
I remind you to give others great joy.
- This clue goes on a ball
My buttons might seem different to most,
I’m really smart but I don’t like to boast,
I’m lost for words but one thing you’ll see
Is that you can always count on me.
- This clue goes under the calculator
I don’t like to leave things looking plain,
I brighten up anything that is mundane.
Just as I paint many rainbows in the sky,
Brighten the lives of others, help them to fly.
- This clue goes under a packet of markers
I bring things together that have come apart
Teachers sometimes use me to display your art
I like to stick broken things whether old or new,
I hope you will stick by those who are feeing blue.
- This clue goes under sellotape/glue/blutac
Congratulations! You did it! You are so clever!
Your teacher was right, you are the best ever!
Now use the letters(numbers) that went with each clue
To spell two words whose advice is so true.
Possible Lenten Ideas
- A Lenten Cross or Lenten Wreath
Each week of Lent you can light another candle – similar to the Advent Candle idea. You could use each candle to focus on a particular Lenten theme. Repentance, Forgiveness, Peace, Fasting, Action/Kindness, Letting Go.
Give Up – Take Up
Create a ‘Post It’ was of things that youngsters are committing to give up or to take up for lent.
The Cross – Two Poems
- Hang It on The Cross
If you have a secret sorrow,
a burden or a loss,
an aching need for healing…
Hang it on the cross.
If worry steals your sleep
and makes you turn and toss,
if your heart is feeling heavy…
Hang it on the cross.
Every obstacle to faith
or doubt you come across,
every prayer unanswered…
Hang it on the cross.
For Christ has borne our brokenness
and dearly paid the cost
To turn our trials to triumph…
Hang it on the cross.
- Holding Cross
A holding cross is often a small wooden cross that you can hold in the palm of your hand. It can be a way of praying and it is particularly more helpful to people who are sick and are unable to pray and they miss it. Sometimes all we can do is hold on… you could reflect with the young people what are the things they can hold onto in life that will help them on their journey – family, friends, hope, faith, light, love etc
Youngsters could make crosses in other classes – fabric crosses in Home Economics, Artistic crosses in art, wooden crosses in construction. Here is a verse that can go with whatever holding cross you go with.
When life is difficult and things go wrong
Believe in yourself and strive to hold on.
When broken-hearted or struggling to cope,
Trust that there’s always reasons to hope.
When hurting and questioning and life is unfair,
Seek those around you who love and who care
They can’t take your pain or know how you feel
But their love and their light will help you to heal.
When you’re missing friends and family you love
Trust that they’re at peace with God up above.
Love cannot die and friendship’s forever,
So draw on this love and never say never.
And remember God loves you, he feels your pain,
He will hold you close until your strength you regain
And when life is tough and your joy seems to be gone
Trust that things will get better if for now you hold on.