Time to Get Close to God
Opening Question: What's the best thing you're heard lately?
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Juan didn't look very happy the day he can home with his grades. He worked hard, but only got C's. Now he had to face his mother, who expected more from Juan.
"Mom," Juan said quietly, "my grades aren't so good. You know I tried hard." Juan's voice trailed off. His mother just stood there. She didn't know whether to get mad or to hug him. She was disappointed, but he tried so hard. Even though it seemed forever, the few seconds of silence between Juan and his mother hurt both of them.
Suddenly, the phone rang. "Hello," Juan's mother said into the receiver. After she identified herself, she listened quietly. Juan didn't know what to think. His mothers face turned from a puzzled look to a half smile to concern. "Wait a minute," Juan's mother said. "Tell my son what you told me." Juan's mother handed him the phone.
"Juan," the person on the other end of the phone said, "this is Mr. Juarez, the principal. The computer a school has a problem we just found out about. We've trying to find the students who got the wrong grades on their report card. We think you've one of those students." Juan's face first registered surprise. Then a big grin came upon his face. After a few moments checking his identification number, the principal told Juan that his report card was wrong.
"What did I get?" Juan asked impatiently.
"Just a minute..." the principal responded, "three B's and two A's. Are those grades better than the ones on your report card?"
"You bet!" Juan said. "You bet!"
Like Juan, the people of Israel didn't feel good about their lives. They lived in a foreign land as prisoners. But the new ruler was going to set them free! Through the words of the prophet, God told his people to get ready! It was time to go home! Like Juan's phone call, the people received the news with joy. God didn't let them down. He would lead his people home!
Bridging Question: How is your family preparing for Christmas? Are your lights up? Do you have a Christmas tree yet? What will you do this week?
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
The good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, began this way.
God spoke through the writings of the prophet Isaiah:
Look! I am sending my messenger to walk in front of you.
He will prepare the way for you.
He is one voice in the desert shouting his message:
Get the way ready for the Lord!
Make it easy for him to arrive!
John appeared as the one who baptized in the desert. He told everyone, "Return to God and be baptized! Then, he will forgive you." People from all over Judea, including Jerusalem, went to see John. As they admitted the bad things they did, these people were baptized by John in the Jordan River. John wore clothes made from camel hair and had a leather pack around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He always preached, "Someone more powerful than I is coming after I leave. I am not worthy to bend down and untie his sandal straps. I baptized you with water, but he will baptize you in God's holy Spirit!"
Jasmine looked in the store window with eyes wide open. The glitter, the toys, the decorations light up her face. "Wow!" she exclaimed. "Christmas will soon be here!"
At home, Jasmine prepared her list. She wrote and rewrote what she wanted. At the same time, she waited to hear from others what they wanted. So, she saved up her money in anticipation of the shopping day she would have with her family.
Sometimes the season before Christmas was the worst time and the best time of the year. The lights on the houses, the trees adorned with ornaments and tinsel, the smiles on everyone's face seemed to make the holiday season magical. But, the stress of buying and wrapping, the hassle of waiting and hoping, seemed too much. Jasmine and her family always felt worn out by Christmas night.
This year, Jasmine's mother wanted to do something different. "I'm tired of the holiday run-around," her mom said. "I know we have to go shopping. I know the television will constantly remind us to hurry up and buy. But this year, I want us to take the time are remember who we celebrate a Christmas." This year Jasmine's mother wanted to have prayer time around an Advent wreath.
At first, Jasmine and her brother groaned. "Mom!" they complained. "We don't have the time. You know how busy we are, especially this time of year." But her mom insisted.
The table was decorated with a round wreath and four candles. Three were purple and one was pink. Jasmine's mother light the first candle and said the prayer. "It's actual short," Jasmine thought to herself when the prayer was finished.
After a couple of weeks, everyone in Jasmine's family got into a routine. They sat down at dinner, light the Advent candle, and prayed together. That short time of prayer began to mean a lot to Jasmine. It was a few moments away from the holiday stress. A few moments to be a family. And a few moments to be at peace with God. The holiday season seemed different to Jasmine because of the prayer. Jasmine thought a little more about the celebration of Jesus, and a little less about Santa.
Advent is a time to wait for Jesus to come and be with us. How we prepare, how we pray, will make a difference how we celebrate the day of Christmas.
Closing Question: How is your family preparing for the birth of Jesus? Do you have an Advent wreath? Are you saying special prayers with your family? What special time are you spending as a family together?