Two days down, quite a few more to go! May you and your family be richly blessed during this time of Advent.
Don't forget the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th and two days before that, the Feast of St. Nick which is such fun and such a homeschooling favorite. I will have ideas for that as we get closer to it.
The Prophet Isaiah continues the theme of the judgment of Israel in the reading for the first Tuesday of Advent. Because of the sins of the people, God will humble Israel, and only the "bud of the Lord"—Christ—will shine in glory.
We speak to our children alot about gaining the world and losing their soul:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coHKdhAZ9hU&ob=av2e That is the Tobey Mac Video from the song we hear alot on Christian radio. Isaiah (not a particularly easy place to find kid-friendly, kid-appropriate, kid-level messages..........about Advent) 2:6-8 is a good place to launch a discussion with kids about self-love, pride, love of material things, and those things being idols who take the place of the Lord in their hearts. In a liturgical season and time of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the stable must be swept clean (to borrow the imagery used Sunday night). For older kids, it's a good time to have a discussion about all of the gadgets and e-things that their friends have, that they mnay want, and perhaps why you, as a parent, have decided to limit such items. Again, for older kids, it's a good time to explain the 'slippery slope' and why we want to keep them off it -- and how 'pride' (mentioned specifically in Isaiah) can put one right on that slope.
In keeping with the message of preparing, sweeping clean the stable of our heart and making room for Jesus, my kids also love this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVNgI9yhgqA Remedy Drive -- ALL ALONG -- another simple to understand message about all the stuff that takes up the precious space that is to be saved for Jesus. Depending on the age of the child, a parent can decide where to go with this -- the message being, of course, that there is nothing more than Jesus Christ and He is all we need. I would add that if we (any of us - not just kids) are not careful, we can miss Him and give items and objects the place that He is to have in our life and in our heart. An examination of conscience, an accounting, an awareness of what needs to be removed from our 'stable' and placed at the curb for junk pick up - well, Advent is a perfect time to get busy with that. I have encouraged my children to make certain that their heart is emptied and ready to be filled with Christ. And of course the vitally important message that your child's heart was MADE to be filled with the love of the Lord. They are precious, and they are the pride and glory of the Lord. (Isaiah 4:2). Isaiah 4:6 goes on to talk about the glory of the Lord, the protection that will bless His followers, the shelter He will be for each and every one who takes Him into their heart. Another good place, to mention the stable, the protection it provided Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus. It was no accident that Our Savior was born in a stable -- it is no accident that our children are being called to open their hearts and let them be filled with the love of the Lord. THAT is what they are preparing to do this Advent season.
In this passage for the first Wednesday of Advent, Isaiah discusses the vineyard that the Lord has built—the house of Israel. The passage calls to mind Christ's parable of the vineyard, in which the vineyard owner sends his only son to oversee the vineyard, and the workers in the vineyard kill him, foreshadowing Christ's own death.
Isaiah 5:4: 'What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?' This is a powerful verse for tweens and teens. After explaining that the vineyard in Scripture here is the House of Israel, one can explain to the children the love with which we tend to them, much like vineyard owner (the Lord) showers on his vineyard. "He...cleared it of stones.....planted it with the choicest of vines.....and looked for a crop of good grapes." How very much are we like that with our own children: we feed them healthy food, we monitor what they see and hear, we make certain they are learning and learning well, we love them, we model appropriate behavior for them. In this season of preparation, Advent, we are (every single day) preparing them to become G-dly men and women. We teach them to pray when they are little, we take them to Church, we pray with them, we instruct them and do what is necessary so they receive the sacraments --all of this is preparation. For younger children, the message from us to them might be how interminably long the time of preparation seems until Christmas Day when we joyously welcome the Baby Jesus when we see Him in the manger in the creche at Church. Advent calenders, times of prayer, saying the Rosary, St. Nick's Day, St. Lucia Day -- all of these things bridge the time between the first and last day of Advent for younger children and break the four weeks into more manageable pieces of time for them.
In this reading for the first Thursday of Advent, we see Isaiah prophesying the purification of Old Testament Israel. The Chosen People have squandered their inheritance, and now God is opening the door of salvation to all nations. Israel survives, as the New Testament Church; and over her sits a just judge, Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 16:1-5: "In love a throne will be established, in faithfulness a man will sit on it - one from the house of David." Isaiah makes it easy here to enter into a short family talk abut love, our hearts, room for Jesus and how this is all an unfathomable gift from G-d. Older children (teens) may understand that we are the New Testament Church. How utterly important this makes their actions and convictions as young people! Young people, of course, have that spirit of invincibility, they have the concept of 'do-over' tattooed on their psyche, many of them totally live 'in the moment.' What an eye opener for them to be reminded of last night's reading regarding the vineyard and the time it takes to plant, nurture, grow and harvest a vineyard of grapes. How similar is that process to learning that one is having a baby, giving birth to that precious soul, and then embarking on the road to parenthood. Mary and Joseph set out to Bethlehem over 2000 years ago -- here we are, still talking about it. How similar is it to prepare for a mere 4 weeks to celebrate the birth of Our Savior and prepare our hearts for His coming.
Isaiah 17:7-:8: "In that day, men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made." Let's go back for a moment to 'no room in the inn,' 'no room in the world,' 'no room in one's heart.' The message here is a basic one -- this is the time to clean from our heart what shouldn't be there. Make room for the Lord. With our tweens and teens, it may be as simple as what words fall from their lips, their manner of dress, the music the hear, the shows they watch.
I challenged my kids on Sunday night to consciously and prayerfully clean their hearts. I told them that one year from now, I wanted to sit with them and light the first candle on the Advent wreath and be able to give thanks to the Lord for wonderful changes He had wrought in all of us. I challenged them, my husband and me to make this time meaningful, purposeful, and to lead us on an eternal path of Advent and preparation to empty ourselves of the world and fill ourselves with the Lord.