Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle C Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.


Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle C

Sunday, December 20, 2015


This Sunday's Readings


First Reading
Micah 5:1-4
The ruler of Israel is promised to come from Bethlehem.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
A prayer for God's salvation

Second Reading
Hebrews 10:5-10
Through his obedience to God's will, Christ consecrated all.

Gospel Reading
Luke 1:39-45
Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.

Background on the Gospel Reading

On this the last Sunday before Christmas, our Gospel reading prepares us to witness Christ's birth by showing us how Jesus was recognized as Israel's long-awaited Messiah even before his birth. The Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist to the events that preceded John the Baptist's birth. The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke's Gospel. Luke pairs the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, establishing John's early connection to the Messiah.

Our Gospel reading recalls Mary's actions after the announcement of Jesus' birth by the angel Gabriel. Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also with child. Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles that they and their unborn children will play in God's plan for salvation. If we were to continue to read the verses that follow in Luke's Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth's greeting with her song of praise, the Magnificat. Both women recall and echo God's history of showing favor upon the people of Israel.

In Luke's Gospel the Holy Spirit helps reveal Jesus' identity as God to those who believe. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and sings Mary's praise because she bears the Lord. We sing these words of praise to Mary in the Hail Mary. Even John the Baptist, the unborn child in Elizabeth's womb, is said to recognize the presence of the Lord and leaps for joy.

It is appropriate in this season of Advent that we consider the role of Mary in God's plan of salvation. Elizabeth describes Mary as the first disciple, as the one who believed that God's word to her would be fulfilled. Mary's faith enabled her to recognize the work of God in her people's history and in her own life. Her openness to God allowed God to work through her so that salvation might come to everyone. Because of this, Mary is a model and symbol of the Church. May we be like Mary, open and cooperative in God's plan for salvation.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:39-45
Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

Young children are born with an innate trust for parents and caregivers. We can help them learn extend this spirit of trust to God.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Before class, choose two children and go over with them how to act out a frightened child jumping into a swimming pool and being caught by a parent.

  2. Invite the two children to dramatize the situation and ask the group to guess what's happening. Ask them how the child who's jumping feels. Ask them to talk about how they learned to swim. Lead into a discussion about trusting the instructor.

  3. Then say: Mary trusted God when she agreed to be the mother of Jesus. She wasn't sure what it would be like, but she knew that God would take care of her. After Mary said yes to God, she went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also going to have a baby. Listen as I read from the Gospel and hear what Elizabeth called Mary when she saw her.

  4. Read today's Gospel, Luke 1:39-45.

  5. Ask: What did Elizabeth call Mary? (blessed) Why do you think that Elizabeth called Mary blessed? (because she was to be the mother of Jesus; because Mary trusted God and said yes when God asked her to be the mother of his Son, Jesus) Say: There is another word that we use to call someone blessed; that word is happy. We can be happy like Mary if we trust that God is always taking care of us.

  6. Conclude in prayer together that we will always trust God and therefore be happy like Mary. Pray for Mary's help by praying the Hail Mary.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:39-45
Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

One way that older children learn to trust God is by witnessing the ways others in their lives trust God. In the story of Mary's visit to Elizabeth, we find an opportunity to observe ways in which people show their trust that God's promises will be fulfilled.

Materials Needed

  • Beanbag

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: You know that Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus. We will understand today's Gospel better if we take some time to remember the story about how Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Let's work together to tell this story.

  2. Pass a beanbag among the children. Tell them that when they have the beanbag, they can offer one sentence telling how Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Help as needed until the story of the Annunciation is told (Luke 1:26-38).

  3. Say: Mary trusted that God's promises to her would be fulfilled. Today's Gospel tells the story of what Mary did next. Let's listen carefully to this Gospel.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read today's Gospel, Luke 1:39-45.

  5. Ask: What did Elizabeth call Mary? (blessed) Why do you think that Elizabeth called Mary blessed? (because she was to be the mother of Jesus; because Mary trusted God and said yes when God asked her to be the mother of his Son, Jesus) Say: There is another word that we use to call someone blessed; that word is happy.

  6. Ask: Are there people in your life who trust God? Who are they? How do you know that they trust God? (Accept all reasonable answers.) We can be happy like Mary if we trust that God is always taking care of us.

  7. Pray together that Mary will help us trust in God's promises as she did. Pray the Hail Mary.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:39-45
Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people are still learning how to put the events and circumstances of their lives into perspective. One way we can help them learn to do this is to teach them to look for and recognize God's action in their daily lives.

Materials Needed)

  • A word search or a hidden-picture puzzle

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Show the young people the word search or hidden-picture puzzle. Ask if anyone has ever done this kind of puzzle before. Talk about their experiences doing these kinds of puzzles. Ask questions such as the following: Has anyone ever gotten stuck when trying to do these kinds of puzzles? What helps us find the hidden words or pictures? How can others help us when we are doing these kinds of puzzles? Is it easier to work on these puzzles alone or with others?

  2. Say: Sometimes finding God in our lives can feel like doing a word search or hidden-picture puzzle. Our faith tells us that God is present in our lives, but we may not readily see God or God's actions. When that happens, we may need help to find God. Often we can find that help from other people. In today's Gospel, we hear about Mary's visit to her cousin, Elizabeth. These women helped one another see God working in their lives. Let's listen to this Gospel.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read today's Gospel, Luke 1:39-45.

  4. Ask: Do you remember what led Mary to visit Elizabeth? (The angel Gabriel told her that her cousin, Elizabeth, was with child.) What was this a sign of? (that Mary herself was to bear a child; that nothing is impossible with God) What did Elizabeth say happened at the sound of Mary's greeting? (Elizabeth's child leapt for joy.) Note that this child was John the Baptist.

  5. Say: Mary traveled to see Elizabeth because Elizabeth's pregnancy was a sign that everything the angel told Mary would truly happen. Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives. We too are blessed when we have people who help us recognize God's action in our lives. Think now if there are people in your life who help you in this way. This is one of the things people try to do for one another in our Church community.

  6. Conclude in prayer thanking God for people who help us recognize God's presence and action in our lives. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:39-45
Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.


Family Connection

In the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth described in today's Gospel, we learn that other people can help us recognize God's presence and action in our lives. Mary traveled to see Elizabeth because Elizabeth's pregnancy was a sign that everything the angel told Mary would truly happen. Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her Lord because her unborn child, John the Baptist, leapt at the sound of Mary's greeting. Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives. We too are blessed when we have people who help us recognize God's action in our lives. We pray that our family can be this for one another.

As you gather as a family, work together on a word search or hidden-picture puzzle. Help one another until everyone has found each of the words or pictures in the puzzle. Talk about this experience, noticing how some people found words or pictures more easily than others and how easy it was to see the word or picture once someone else pointed it out. Observe that sometimes we need the help of others to recognize God's presence and action in our lives. Read together today's Gospel, Luke 1:39-45. Ask: What did Elizabeth recognize about Mary? (that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the Lord) How did Elizabeth know this? (Her baby, John the Baptist, leapt with joy at Mary's greeting) Pray together that as we share our faith together as a family, we may help one another recognize God's presence and action in our lives. Pray together the Hail Mary.