4th Graders Understand the “Darkness”

Last evening, we did an Advent procession (to a recording of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) in our classroom, carrying all of the objects and symbols needed to set up our prayer table/Advent wreath. With the lights dimmed and the first candle lit, I asked them what is happening this time of the year in terms of light and darkness. Of course they noted that darkness is increasing and the light decreasing each day. I mentioned that December 21 will be the day with the least sunlight and the most darkness. I told them that, at the same time, in our homes and churches, the light of our Advent wreaths will be increasing each week right up until we celebrate the birth of the Light of the World on Christmas.

I explained that we often use the image of darkness to refer to times of sadness in our lives and I shared how I found out just before class that a friend of mine with whom I had lost contact had lost her husband to cancer a few months ago. I said she was experiencing darkness and that I plan to call her as a way of trying to bring some light into her darkness. I asked if they could think of examples from their lives where people are experiencing or have experienced darkness. Without hesitation, they began to share stories of people in their lives who have died or who are terminally ill. It was very touching but I was impressed with how they were able to talk about these things so maturely. I explained that I didn’t bring this up to depress them 🙂 but to show how much we need the light of Christ in our lives. I said that the darkness is very real but the light of Christ is also very real and more powerful! I then reminded them that this is why we sang the closing song at our Advent prayer service in church just a half hour earlier: This Little Light of Mine! I said that we really do need to let the light of Christ shine through us to help dispel the darkness.

How have you introduced (or plan to introduce) the concept of Advent to your classes?

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Hi Joe- I’m planning on it this Sunday with my 9th graders- I plan to have them create the wreath/candles- sort of an art project- and then have a prayer service (where they each have a part to play). Our ‘candles’ will be covered tissue rolls (pink & purple)and our ‘flame’ will be yellow tissue paper! (a safe light!) – altho I think I’ll include the battery tealight to give it a glow. I like your discussion and think I’ll incorporate it while they create the parts of the wreath. Thanks for the ideas.

  2. Joe,

    I faithfully follow and much appreciate your blog. Thank you for all your gifts!
    I do have a comment with regard to Advent as a “season of darkness.”
    For many years I worked in the black community of a large center-city; later I spent years with refugees in another large urban center. I worked and lived with many peoples — most of them people of color, to one degree or another. The experience made me very aware of how much we, unintentionally, contribute to the “demonizing” of whatever is dark or black. Our English is full of such language, from “black-lists” to Darth Vader to “shady deals.” In the meantime I learned to love so many beautiful dark faces, and the people behind them. It’s not that we can’t ever use images of darkness and light, it’s just that we need to be sure that darkness is not always associated with only the sad, the bad, the fearful.

    The night can be beautiful. Christ was born in the night; he arose in the night.
    Creativity germinates and rises in the chaos. And too much light can be blinding!

    Thank you for letting me share these words with you.
    Many blessings on you during this quiet season of growth and change!

    • Judi, thanks for your thoughts. I came to the same realization when working in an integrated community years ago and the thought occurred to me as I was putting up today’s post. I decided to go ahead with it but your caution is well-taken. I think that with reference to Advent, one can safely draw on the image of light and darkness as it appears in Isaiah and in John’s Gospel.

      • Thanks, Joe, for your reply. I appreciate your thoughtfulness — and, as I wrote, it doesn’t mean that we can’t use light/dark imagery; it’s just that we need to be sensitive with it.

        May you Advent journey continue to be a “walk in beauty.”

  3. ” Darkness” means to suffer. And to suffer all the misfortunes in life, means to give our complete resignation to God, whatever we lost in our life. I am very thankful to God, of all the sufferings I have encountered in my Christian life. I now realized that long suffering is a gift. I am given a share of Christ sufferings for the salvation of our souls, to gain eternal happiness and to enjoy paradise for all eternity. This advent season I ask Jesus to shine in my life for others to see the glories of God outpoured in the innermost labyrinth of my soul. Thanks for this catechitical journey wherein I can share Jesus light to all the kids in my classroom.

  4. I mention John the Baptist and Jesus being 6 months apart; John’s feastday on June 24; the shortest and longest days of the year; and John’s quote about increasing & decreasing.

  5. Hi Joe,
    This afternoon I taught my Advent lesson to my 4th grade class. We started by taking a quick tour of the church to see how the church looks different during Advent than ordinary time. They really liked having a “mini” field trip. When we got back to class the kids talked about the advent wreath near the altar and how the altar had a purple stole on it as well as everything else they noticed. We then did an Advent Prayer Service. I loved yours however, I needed to do an abbreviated one due to time. After discussing Advent and it’s meaning, I asked the kids if any had Advent wreaths at home…none did. Next we proceeded to make our own advent wreaths from hand prints while we listened to O Come, O Come Emmanuel and other Christian hymns. In generally, a good class session. As always thanks for all your ideas! Enjoy joy your Advent and remember “Love is coming to us all!”

    • Josie, thanks for sharing your lesson with us…sounds wonderful. Love the mini-field trip idea…that’s always good. Your wreath-making sounds like it was very prayerful with hymns being played in the background. Indeed, love is coming and just keeps on coming!

  6. Hi again Joe, Todays all our FF classes participated in the Posada. I had about 15 mins. to teach a lesson before the Posada began. We talked about the colors of Advent. Red for Santa Claus who is St. Nicholas. St Nicholas was the bishop of Myra and bishops wear red. Purple for royalty…Christ the King. Pink (pink candle) for joy – Guadete Sunday. Green for life etc. The kids seemed to really like this. But what stood out most to me today was that one girl said after making our advent wreaths in class last week (out of paper) she went home that day and made a real wreath with real branches. This made me glad. I thought that maybe some of what I teach does not fall on deaf ears! God is good. Christmas blessings!

    • Josie thanks for the update on your class. What a wonderful thing to hear from a student – that your lesson reached home! Tell us about the Posadas if you have a chance.

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