"Called to be Holy"
December 22nd, 2013 (see other dates)
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Discussion Questions for Reading 1Today's readings bring us into the historical event of Jesus' coming among us, and we never forget that he came to us through Mary. This is why we honor her. In the Eastern Church, an icon called "Our Lady of the Sign" reminds us of this great event and of these verses from Isaiah. Our Lady is shown with her arms raised up in prayer, and in front of her is Jesus, drawn in a round circle, a symbol of her womb. Mary represents all of us, the Church. Jesus now comes to the world through us.
How can you bring Jesus to the world? How is the Church a sign that Jesus is with us today? How are you a sign that Jesus is with us?
Reading 1 Isaiah 7:10-14
Reading 1 ReflectionDoes your name have a special meaning? Today's reading tells us the special title, or name, of the Messiah. His virgin mother will call him Emmanuel, which means "God with us."
We have the joy of knowing that Mary was the virgin mother who gave birth to Jesus, Emmanuel.
Discussion Questions for Reading 2The liturgy gives us one last push to get ready for Christmas and the celebration of the coming of Christ to our world! Ask yourself: Am I ready to welcome the Son of God into my life in a deeper way? What do I need during these last two days to be really ready in mind and heart? How can I help someone else get ready for Christmas? Take a moment to ask Jesus for the gift of readiness for all he wishes to give you this Christmas. Holiness does not mean perfection. It means being ready for Jesus, being willing to live in "obedient faith." What does this mean for you this year?
Reading 2 Romans 1:1-7
Reading 2 ReflectionPaul was a master letter writer who had a great gift for opening people's minds and hearts to God. In this opening of his letter to the Christians at Rome, he identifies himself and his mission. He is an apostle sent by God to preach the good news to all nations. The apostle reminds us that we are called "to belong to Jesus Christ." We are called "to holiness."
Discussion Questions for GospelThere is an old saying, "The path of true love never runs smooth." This may not be true for everyone, but it seemed to be true for Mary and Joseph. However, they could be true and faithful to each other because they were true and faithful toward God. And God made the rough ways smooth! What makes for rough times in a relationship?between parents and children, husband and wife, friend and friend? What can smooth things out? Look at Joseph for an example?what did he have to do before he could move forward in a confusing situation?
Take a moment and pray: Spirit of God, help us to be ready to celebrate Christmas. Help make all rough ways in each of our relationships smooth. Help us to be like Joseph, who dared to listen, to believe, and to love. Amen.
Gospel Matthew 1:18-24
Gospel ReflectionAlthough Saint Joseph usually remains in the shadows of the gospels, in today's reading he emerges into the sunlight. We can see him clearly as a man who clearly loves Mary. When an angel assures him in a dream that Mary's child was conceived through the Holy Spirit, Joseph dares to believe.
Joseph's faith is richly rewarded. He becomes the foster father of Mary's child. And he receives the honor of naming the child Jesus, a name that means "Yahweh saves."
Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades
Thank you, Mary and JosephExplain to the children that this is the last Sunday before Christmas. Today we think especially of Mary and Joseph, the mother and the foster-father of Jesus. In today's gospel, an angel tells Joseph not to be afraid to take care of Mary and Jesus. We are very grateful to Mary and to Joseph for agreeing to take care of Jesus together. Invite the children to say a short thank-you prayer for all the people who care for them: parents, relatives, teachers, babysitters, etc.
Distribute the reproducible master of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in the nativity scene. Invite the children to color the picture and display it in a special place at home.
Angels We Have Heard on HighTell the children that angels play an important part in the story of the birth of Jesus. The angel Gabriel asks Mary to be the mother of God. An angel (in today's gospel) tells Joseph not to be afraid to take care of Jesus and Mary. After Jesus is born, angels tell the shepherds where to find him. Angels are messengers from God. To honor the angels today, you might want to teach the children the first verse to "Angels We Have Heard on High."
Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echo back their joyous strains. Glo-o-o-o-o-oria in excelsis Deo.
Glo-o-o-o-o-oria in excelsis Deo. (GLOW ree a in ex chel sis Day oh)
Explain that the last line is Latin and means, "Glory to God in the highest."
Proclaiming Faith Activities
What's in a Name?Names in Scripture are usually meaningful. Knowing the meaning of someone's name can help us understand his or her role in God's plan. And even our own names have meanings that we can explore. Below is a list of names from Scripture. The meanings are given. Add to the list your name, your parents' names, the names of your brothers and sisters, your teacher, your friends. Look up the meanings. Sometimes "Names for Babies" books can help. Then write a sentence giving a spiritual or faith-interpretation of that name. Even names that seem "non-religious" can have a faith meaning. For example, "Tiffany" comes from the name of a famous jewelry store. So being called "Tiffany" can remind the bearer of that name that she is a precious jewel in God's eyes!
Emmanuel-God with us. (The name Emmanuel or Manuel is still used for boys today.)
Jesus-God saves. (The name Jesus is used today too, especially for boys in Spanish-speaking cultures.)
Joseph-"He shall add." (The "He" refers to God. God will give more!)
Mary-related to mara, which means "bitter." Mary suffered because her Son suffered. We also relate Mary's name to the Latin for "sea," (mar) so we call her "Star of the Sea."
John-"gift of God." Juan is Spanish for John. Sean is Gaelic. The feminine is Joan, or Jean, or Joanne.
Add your own list of names!
Last-Minute GiftsIt's almost Christmas Eve! Eeks! Even if we are ready in our hearts, we may not feel ready in other ways! You may need to find a few last-minute gifts. Does someone you know need help in some way? Give a "gift certificate!" Sometimes accepting help is easier if it comes wrapped as a gift or tucked in a stocking.
To make a gift certificate, cut a plain piece of 8 ½ by 11 paper in half. Decorate around the edges with red and green swirls. Then write To: and a name, then From: (your name).
Write: A Gift Certificate and My gift to you is: ____________________________.
Then write an action gift that this person might appreciate.
Here are some ideas. Share ideas in your group so that you can help one another.
For a grandparent or other older person or neighbor: free snow shoveling as needed
For mom: all clothes or toys picked up in my room before going to bed
For dad: helping with house repairs, garage cleaning, or making refrigerator runs
during TV time
For a younger sister or brother: reading one storybook a day or helping with homework
For an older sister or brother: taking phone messages correctly, helping them with their
chores when they get busy
We give gifts at Christmas because God gave us the best gift of all, his Son, Jesus Christ!
For Bibles and other scripture resources, please see the Sadlier Religion Catalog.
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