The first week of Advent begins on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. While that is usual, it forces me to make a choice in how to introduce Advent: Do I talk about the season early, before Thanksgiving? Or do I wait until after the holiday break, when the season has already started? I’ve alternated my approach through the years, but I usually like to at least introduce Advent before the holiday, inviting the young people to start the new season—and the new Church year—as they celebrate Thanksgiving. This year I will talk about Advent and Thanksgiving, but the main focus for the session before the holiday will be the Sacraments of Initiation.
To invite the young people to learn about the Sacraments of Initiation, we’ll use the learning stations available here on Catechist’s Journey. I used them last year with success and look forward to seeing how this new group of young people responds to the learning stations format. This is a session that takes additional planning to be sure all of the materials are ready and set up before the group arrives, but it’s time well-spent if the young people take away a better appreciation of the sacraments.
After some discussion on the experience with the learning stations, I’ll use the fact that Eucharist means “thanksgiving” to transition into a brief discussion on the American Thanksgiving holiday. While the kids know about the idea of being thankful, it’s important to help them tie gratitude to God, who is the source of all gifts. I learned recently that most of my group is unfamiliar with the Prayer Before Meals, so I plan on using that prayer as part of our time together. I will also send the young people home with a worksheet that helps them create a personal litany of thanks they might use with their families. That litany concludes with the Prayer Before Meals to reinforce this as a family prayer.
Finally, I’ll tell the young people that Thanksgiving isn’t the only thing we’ll celebrate over the long weekend. This will allow me to introduce the Advent season. The discussion will be brief, as we’ll continue exploring the season during our December gatherings. I will alert the young people to pay attention for the music and liturgical décor that changes at this time of year, and I will give them the “coming attractions” for the weeks of December when we discuss Advent as the season of waiting and preparation. I’ll also introduce our Advent Prayer Grab Bag.
This is a lot of material to work with in one session, but I am fortunate to have 90-minute sessions that allow us to cover a lot of ground. Hopefully we’ll lay the foundation for a lovely experience of Advent.
Do you teach the basics of Advent before or after Thanksgiving break? What’s in your Advent lesson plan?
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