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 B

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Today’s Readings

First Reading
2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16
The Lord promises David that he will raise from his descendents a kingdom that will endure forever.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 89:2-5,27,29
A prayer of praise to the Lord for his faithfulness to his covenant.

Second Reading
Romans 16:25-27
Paul praises God for making his revelation known.

Gospel Reading
Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.

Background on the Gospel Reading

This Sunday we read the story of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary about the birth of Jesus. This story is found only in Luke’s Gospel. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts our attention from John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during the season of Advent; they both played instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus. Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the Savior was among us, although not yet recognized. This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith and obedience to God, traits which permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born as a human person, as one of us.

We are familiar with the story of the Annunciation, and it is fitting that we recall how God announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the Incarnation. The angel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph. Mary greeted the angel’s news with awe and wonder and asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child. In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God’s own Son. The angel reported to Mary another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be unable to have a child. Mary’s response to the angel, which is called her fiat, is an example of complete faith and obedience to God.

The story of the Annunciation calls to our attention God’s wondrous action in human history. God chose a human person to give birth to his Son so that all humanity would know God’s salvation. Mary, already full of God’s grace, was able to cooperate in this great plan for our salvation. Thus Jesus was born as one of us, fully human and also fully divine. This is the mystery we prepare to celebrate at Christmas, the mystery of the Incarnation. In the model of Mary, we pray that we will be people of faith who recognize God’s saving plan for us and are able respond with obedience.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.


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

Young children have a natural inclination toward the wonderful and awesome. We help to foster this gift from God by helping them to identify God’s wondrous action in our world and in our lives.

Materials Needed

  • Ten nickels (You may wish to practice the demonstration suggested below before your session.)

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Stack the ten nickels evenly. Say: What do you think would happen if the bottom nickel suddenly shot out from under the stack? Do you think the stack would come tumbling down? Place another nickel about an inch from the stack and flick it with your forefinger so that it hits the bottom nickel with some force. If done correctly, the bottom nickel will slide out from under the stack, but the stack will remain standing.

  2. Say: We heard in the Gospel this week that an angel came from God and told Mary two impossible things were going to happen . Stack the coins neatly again as you speak. Take a nickel off the top of the pile. The first thing was that Mary, who was an ordinary girl, had been chosen by God to become the mother of his Son, Jesus. Mary thought this would be impossible because she was not even married yet. But the angel assured her that God has the power to do impossible things.

  3. Flick the nickel against the stack again. Hold up the nickel that shoots out from the stack and say: The other surprise that the angel told Mary was that her relative Elizabeth, who was too old to have a baby, was also pregnant. Hold up the two nickels. God took two ordinary people and did the impossible with their lives.

  4. Say: This story of the angel’s visit to Mary is an amazing and wonderful story. Listen carefully as I read this story to you from the Bible.

  5. Prayerfully read today’s Gospel, Luke 1:26-38. Say: God continues to do amazing, even impossible, things in our world and in our lives.

  6. Conclude in prayer together that you and your group will respond with faith like Mary’s when God works in your lives. Pray together the Hail Mary.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.


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

Many children dream of the great contributions that they might make to our world, but sometimes they need to be reminded that extraordinary things don’t happen automatically. Our greatest models of faith are ordinary human beings who have allowed themselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group: Who are some examples of people who have changed the world for the better by their work or contribution? (Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine, Thomas Edison and the invention of the light bulb, and so on) What prepared these people to make these great contributions? (Accept all reasonable responses.)

  2. Ask: Who are some people of faith who have made extraordinary contributions to the world? (Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Saint Francis of Assisi, and so on) What prepared these people to make extraordinary contributions to the world? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: Today’s Gospel offers to us another example of a person of faith who made an extraordinary contribution to the world: Mary, the mother of Jesus. This Gospel gives us several clues about what prepares a person of faith to do extraordinary things.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read today’s Gospel, Luke 1:26-38.

  5. Ask: What extraordinary thing was Mary asked to do in this Gospel? (to be the Mother of God’s Son, Jesus) What was Mary’s response? (First she asked how this would be possible, and then she answered yes.) What does this Gospel tell us prepared Mary for her most amazing job? (Mary was said to have been filled with God’s grace even before the angel visited her. The Gospel also says that the Holy Spirit would prepare her to give birth to Jesus.)

  6. Ask: What do you think prepares people of faith, ourselves included, to do extraordinary things in our world? (God’s grace, the Holy Spirit) It is the Holy Spirit working within us that enables ordinary people to make extraordinary contributions in our world. Because Mary was filled with God’s grace, she was able to cooperate with God’s plan for salvation by becoming the mother of Jesus.

  7. Conclude in prayer together for the awareness to be open to God’s grace and the Holy Spirit in order to be able to cooperate in God’s plan for salvation. Pray together the Magnificat.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

As young people learn to make their own decisions, we can guide them in understanding the factors that contribute to their decision-making process. As we do so, we can offer for their consideration the example of people of faith, such as Mary, who willingly said yes to God’s work in her life.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and pens

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Distribute paper and pens to each young person. Say: Every day, people make requests of us, asking us to help them or to do something for them. Give examples of ordinary requests that people make, such as “Please pick up your things,” “May I borrow a pencil?” or “Will you help me with a homework question?” Take a minute to review your day and make a list of things that people asked you to do.

  2. After allowing sufficient time for the young people to complete their lists, ask: Which requests did you agree to? Which did you refuse? What are some of the factors you considered when saying yes or no to these requests? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: As these examples show, we consider many factors when making our decisions: who is asking, our ability to perform the task, whether it is the right thing to do, and the consequences that might result in doing it.

  4. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear Mary’s response to the angel who announces that she is to be the Mother of God’s Son, Jesus. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  5. Invite one or more volunteers to read Luke 1:26-38.

  6. Ask: What was Mary’s response to the angel’s announcement? (First, she asked how this could be possible; then she said, “May it be done to me according to your word.”)

  7. Say: There are many factors that Mary could have considered in making her reply. However, in accepting God’s plan for her, Mary put her faith and trust in God. This faith and trust was her most important consideration.

  8. Say: In all of our decisions, we try to follow Mary’s example in making choices that reflect our faith and trust in God. What are some ways we might be called upon to say yes to God in our lives? (showing love and care for others, taking action for justice) We can be confident that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives to help us say yes to God.

  9. Conclude by praying together the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 89, praising God for his faithfulness.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.


Family Connection

One of the challenges of faith is to recognize God’s plan for us and to remain open to God’s will and God’s actions in our world. Filled with God’s grace, Mary models for us the kind of faith that is needed to cooperate in God’s plan of salvation. Like Mary, we are given the awesome opportunity to cooperate in God’s saving plan. On this final Sunday of Advent, our Gospel invites us to consider how our preparations for Christmas have made us more aware of God’s grace working in our lives.

Gather together your family and talk about what you have been doing as a family to prepare for Christmas. How have these preparations helped you to better celebrate the central mystery of Christmas, the Incarnation? Our Gospel today talks about how Mary was prepared for her role in Christ’s birth. Read today’s Gospel, Luke 1:26-38. Consider the question: What enabled Mary to say yes to God? Which of your Advent activities have made you more aware of God’s grace in your life? Conclude in prayer together that God’s grace will enable your family to be more faithful and obedient to God. Pray together the Magnificat.