Advent and the visible signs of the season

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Advent begins on Sunday, November 28. It is a time of joy, peace, and preparation in our liturgical year. There are many visible traditions throughout Advent that remind us we are indeed preparing for Christ’s birth and the season of Christmas that follows. 

At Holy Spirit Catholic school:

  • Students in Grades 3-8 have the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • In their school entrance, an Advent wreath is displayed. Classrooms have a verse from the Sunday gospel displayed on purple paper and, on Fridays, students receive a preview of the upcoming weekend Gospel message.
  • In 6th grade, students study the Old Testament and do a Jesse Tree. Kelly Clancy, the religion teacher describes, “For the season of Advent we are creating a Jesse Tree! Jesse is the father of King David and it was prophesied that the Messiah would be a descendant of Jesse & David (from the stump of Jesse a bud will blossom). The Jesse Tree is composed of ornaments with various symbols on them that represent stories from the OT (from creation to the birth of Jesus).” Each student is assigned a specific ornament on a specific date.
  • Another annual tradition has the whole school participating in a penny war during Advent. The money collected buys water filters for people in Haiti. Each year, Holy Spirit collects nearly $5,000 in this effort. 

In many Catholic homes, parents make the story of the nativity visible for their children. Many Catholic makers have also created: 

  • Mary on the mantel. Families help Mary “nest” and prepare for baby Jesus. 
  • Shepherd on the search. Thousands of years ago the angels visited the shepherds and brought them good news. When the shepherds heard this good news, they set off on an epic journey to search for the newborn baby Jesus
  • The Giving Manger. A piece of straw is placed in the manger for each kind deed or act of service performed. On Christmas Day, the Baby is placed in the manger filled with service and love.
  • Shining light dolls. The Shining Light Dolls set comes with TWO Blessed Mothers! For Advent, Mary is visibly with child and on Christmas morning the Virgin Mary will be holding Baby Jesus.
  • Another visible tradition is moving the 3 kings from your own nativity set around your home. This highlights the great lengths the king went to to find baby Jesus on Epiphany. DJ Florian, Director of Pastoral Care in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, continues this tradition throughout the year and describes its importance here.

Throughout the Diocese of Grand Rapids, there are opportunities to focus and find peace:

  • Here is a schedule of Eucharistic Adorations. During Adoration, you may find yourself sitting in silence, simply heightening your awareness of the presence of God around you.
  • Dominican Center at Marywood has a virtual event ADVENTure 2021 on December 7. “Through prayer, songs, and words of encouragement, we will celebrate all that is good in our world, and in each other.”
  • Catholic Information Center is hosting an online series Journey to Bethlehem, 2021. “Using the imaginative method proposed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, we will have the opportunity to create a quiet space and spend time reflecting on each of the Gospel passages proclaimed during Advent.”

Catholics throughout the nation are preparing for the birth of Jesus:

  • Click here for Advent resources put together by the USCCB. The resources include blessings for Advent wreaths, Christmas trees, and nativity scenes.

However you celebrate Advent - in school, in your home, or in union with other Catholics - we pray you find joy and peace. 


 God, who is more than we can ever comprehend, help us to seek you, and you alone. Help us to stand before all that we could do and seek what you would do, and do that. Lift from us our need to achieve all that we can be and instead, surrender to what you can be in us. Give us ways to refrain from the busyness that will put us on edge and off center, give us today your peace. Amen.



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