Family Catechesis at St. Barnabas: Welcoming the Seasons of Advent and Christmas

Advent wreath

Our next monthly session for our Finding God Family Catechesis program at St. Barnabas will take place on Sunday, December 3, the First Sunday of Advent, which means that our focus for the adult session will be on the seasons of Advent and Christmas, with a particular emphasis on the theme of God’s Promise: The Covenant. Here is the plan for that session:

  • Our opening prayer ritual will reflect the season of Advent as we feature a purple prayer cloth and an Advent wreath (and maybe a Jesse tree and an Advent calendar) among the sacred objects to be brought to the prayer table to the sounds of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I will most definitely draw attention to these Advent flourishes!
  • We’ll begin together with the children present by talking about making and keeping promises and inviting families to talk about examples at their tables.
  • We’ll explain that, today, we are going to see that the seasons of Advent and Christmas recall and celebrate how God made a promise to his people long ago to send them a Savior, who would show them how to love and how to be saved from the dangers of sin. God kept that promise by sending us his only Son, Jesus Christ, to be with us forever.
  • Next, we’ll send the children and their catechists off to their lessons.
  • With the parents, we will first look at the word covenant and explain that another word for this kind of solemn promise is testament. This explains why we have an Old Testament (God’s covenant with his people, Israel) and a New Testament (the new covenant in Jesus Christ) in our Bibles.
  • We’ll watch a brief video about how God established and renewed his covenant four times in the Old Testament: “Covenants: An Animated Walk Through the Covenants.”
  • We’ll talk about how the fulfillment of the covenant—the coming of Jesus—provides us with a great light to dispel the darkness and how our Christmas traditions emphasize Jesus’ birth taking place at night in the darkness. Think of “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.”
  • We’ll use that as a springboard to talk about examples of people experiencing darkness in our world: sickness, poverty, violence, injustice, war, terrorism, hunger, natural disasters, etc.
  • Our focus will turn to the notion of hope and anticipation—waiting with excitement and preparedness for something good that has been promised to us. We’ll focus on the following elements of the Advent season:
    • the Advent wreath, which symbolizes the light growing in our midst and dispelling the darkness, even as the daylight diminishes with each passing day leading up to the winter solstice.
    • the prophets of Advent, who spoke words of hope that we continue to need to hear today.
    • the meaning of the name Emmanuel (God with us) and how we, through our words and actions, can help others to recognize that God is indeed with us.
    • the traditions of Advent calendars and Jesse trees to teach about the fulfillment of God’s promise.
  • We’ll watch a brief video, “Tips for Making Advent a More Holy Season.
  • Our conclusion will focus on how God has kept his promise by sending us his only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. We’ll briefly touch on the following:
    • the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
    • the story of the Magi.
    • Christmas as a season, not just a day.
  • Our closing prayer will draw from the O Antiphons.

Pretty ambitious, I must admit, but we’ll trust the Holy Spirit to guide us! As always, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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


    • Hi Stacey, the children will be working with their catechists on the chapter on Advent/Christmas in the Finding God textbook while the parents are in the adult session.

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