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December 01, 2010
Telling the Nativity Story
Faith Formation Update continues to offer free monthly encouragement and direction for catechetical ministry within the classroom and beyond. I’m Jeanne Hunt. In each issue I offer a brief starter and my “ Every Family” column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers media resources and ideas in her “ Seen and Heard” column. Our co-worker Angela Glassmeyer suggests other faith formation resources for adults in her column, “Sowing Sampler.”

The days of Advent are the perfect time for a good story. The coming of the Christ and all the traditions surrounding this are the stuff of good catechesis. Join us for a few pointers on sharing the story of the Incarnation and preparing for the celebration of Christmas through the weeks of Advent.

What are some of your Advent traditions—in the parish or at home? Please share these ideas as well as your questions in our Faith Formation Forum.

The Spirituality of Waiting

Every home and classroom needs to remember to keep Advent. While the secular world started Christmas months ago, we Catholics are caught up in a different spirit. We are in a gestating mood. We wait in joyful anticipation.

Advent is a necessary prelude to Christmas. Learning to be still and stand in the mystery of the Incarnation is a catechetical moment. We must teach the sacred grace of waiting. Without it, we will miss all of life’s amazing waits: waiting for a new sibling, waiting for supper, waiting for the movie to be released, waiting for our marriage and on and on.

The spirituality of waiting needs to be taught in this age of instant gratification. This Advent, let us teach our families and students how to wait. Use Advent calendars, a serial story about Christ’s birth, an Advent wreath or anything that proclaims, “He is coming, soon and very soon.”

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A Brown Christmas

The Franciscan tradition is rich with Nativity stories that prepare our hearts for Christmas. It was St. Francis of Assisi who first created a Nativity crèche with a live scene at Greccio, Italy. A wonderful project for home and classroom is to create your own Nativity scene. On the first day of Advent, put out the stable. Each day through the month, add one more part of the scene, ending with the Christ Child on December 25.

A beautiful way to enhance your unfolding story is to use A Franciscan Christmas by Kathleen Carroll, foreword by Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz. This gem of a book gives the history, tradition and spirituality of each piece of the crèche. As you add the figures, share the pages of this book and bring a touch of brown to this enduring holiday tradition through the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi.

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Many Ways to Tell the Story

There are many ways to tell the story of the Incarnation. Even the Gospel writers who provide us with the original Nativity narratives included different elements according to the messages they wanted to convey to their particular audiences.

A Mexican custom called Las Posadas (shelter) helps participants connect their own stories to Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter in Bethlehem. The final night of the nine-night custom is a celebration of finding a welcome shelter for the Holy Family. The search for shelter reminds participants of the need to keep their hearts open to Christ — not just at Christmas, but all year long.

The key to sharing the story of the Incarnation is in helping those hearing it to see that this isn’t simply a story of long ago and far away. This is our story. We must offer Jesus shelter in our hearts. During the days of Advent, we wait and prepare in joyful anticipation for the celebration of Christmas — remembering the Incarnation event, welcoming Jesus into our hearts today and preparing for Christ’s coming again in glory.

A DVD program to use with children throughout the weeks of Advent is Celebrating the Seasons of Advent and Lent (Windows Media). The custom of the Advent wreath is the focus of the Advent portion. Other Advent activities and traditions such as Las Posadas, the Jesse Tree, an Advent Friend, Straw for a Crib and an Advent House are suggested for helping young people appreciate the spiritual dimension of the Advent and Christmas season.

Order Celebrating the Seasons of Advent and Lent now. Use it for the final weeks of Advent — and pull it out again in Lent to use the Lenten portion.

May you keep your focus on Christ during these busy days of Advent. I wish you peace, my friends.

Franciscan Radio
Hope for Divorced Catholics

Know someone who needs good counsel after a divorce?

A person going through a divorce or having already experienced a divorce has watched life fall apart, seen dreams end and known that the future will not be remotely what was imagined. Yet, says Susan Rowland, author of Healing After Divorce: Hope for Catholics and a survivor of divorce after 30 years of marriage, there is hope.

Rowland offers practical ideas for living without marital love, taking care of yourself, telling others, crafting a legal settlement, grieving when a marriage is over, learning to live loved, making decisions, forgiving, building a foundation for your future, trusting in love, facing financial realities, finding your balance, learning to fly and more.

Pick up a copy for yourself or someone you care about. Make sure to have several copies available in your parish lending library as well.

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