Enjoy this Advent lesson plan, suitable for young people in grades 7–8.
The young people will be able to
Student Handout A (O Antiphons)
Student Handout B (Prayer Service)
Family Handout (Advent Preparations)
Begin the class with a discussion of the act of waiting. Ask the young people: What kinds of feelings do you have while waiting for a special event or celebration? (excitement, eagerness, nervousness) What kinds of things do you do to prepare for the event? (Clean the house, buy special food, decorate, make sure that everything is ready for the event.) Then say to the young people: The people of Israel waited many centuries for a special event—the birth of the Messiah. During the Advent season we can learn from their experience of hope.
Divide the young people into small groups and give each group one of the following readings. Tell them that these are the first readings from the four Sundays of Advent in each of the three liturgical years.
2 Samuel 7:8–11
Ask each group to pick the most hopeful lines from their readings and proclaim those lines in unison to the group. After each group proclaims their lines of hope, have them make banners with the lines they selected written on them. Use these banners to decorate the room during Advent.
Pass out Student Handout A, O Antiphons, and lead a discussion of the images found in the O Antiphons. Then ask the young people: What are some of the hopes expressed in these prayers? (to be set free, to be shown the way to salvation, to be led to freedom) In the first Antiphon we ask God to show us the way to salvation. What did Jesus tell us to do to be saved? (Keep the two great commandments—love of God and love of neighbor.) Continue by asking the young people: When we ask God to set us free, from what do we need to be set free? (selfishness, anger, pride, whatever leads us away from God) Conclude by asking: We also ask God to shine on those who dwell in darkness. What can we do to bring the light of Christ to others? (pray for them, seek justice, reach out to them in love)
Then lead the young people in the Prayer Service, Student Handout B. Have the young people pray using the O Antiphons.
Print out the Family Handout, Advent Preparations, and have the young people take it home to share with their families.
Enriching the Faith Experience
As a reminder of Mary’s expectation of giving birth to Jesus, the Light of the World, decorate a candle with white or blue ribbon. Place it before her statue or picture. Light the candle during prayer. Remember to check with the proper authority regarding local regulations for using candles in a classroom setting.
Organize a food drive during Advent. Ask the pastor for a list of persons in need and encourage the young people to adopt a person or family and make presents for them. Ask the families of the young people (or an organization such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society) to deliver the food and the presents.
Follow the Hungarian custom of planting blessed wheat for Advent. Prepare small flower pots decorated with Christmas symbols. Have the young people pledge to perform secret acts of virtue. Instruct them to plant a grain of wheat for each promised act. By Christmas, wheat shoots should begin to appear. The pots can then be placed at the crèche as gifts for Jesus. A packet of wheat may be obtained by sending a small offering to Christmas Wheat, Sisters of Social Service, 296 Summit Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14214.
Have the young people learn a Bible story related to the coming of Jesus and hold a Bible storytelling festival for younger children. Tell the young people to think of a way to retell the story in a way that will be entertaining and easy for children to understand. Give the young people these pointers:
Absorb the story’s message until it is part of you.
Tell it over and over, pausing in the right places.
Use a conversational voice.
Look at your audience.
Use gestures to help hold the children’s attention.
The following is a list of stories the young people might use:
Luke 1:5–24, 57–80 (Zechariah)
Luke 1:26–38 (Mary and the angel)
Luke 1:39–56 (Mary visits Elizabeth)
Matthew 1:18–24 (Joseph and the angel)
Luke 1:57–80 (Birth of John the Baptist)
Luke 2:1–20 (Birth of Jesus)
Matthew 2:1–12 (Visit of the Wise Men)
Luke 2:21–40 (Presentation of Jesus)
Matthew 2:13–21 (Flight into Egypt)