Happy New Year! This Sunday, Dec. 2, begins the new liturgical cycle, Cycle C, when we focus mostly on the Gospel of Luke. We also begin the season of Advent, when we prepare our hearts and our homes for Christmas.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.
To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
You can read this Sunday’s readings here:
Happy New Year! Well, liturgical new year, anyway. Our liturgical calendar has reset, and we are now in Cycle C for the readings. That means we’ll hear a good deal from the Gospel of Luke. Today is also the First Sunday of Advent — our time of preparation before Christmas. The readings are a strong reminder of what we celebrate in Christmas and what we should be doing to prepare our hearts and homes for this great feast.
Advent isn’t just a warm-up for Christmas, though — it’s its own season with its own dignity and importance. We find ourselves between celebrating Jesus as the king of the universe and Jesus the baby who will be our focus in a few weeks.
What’s in between? Everything. This is where our lives are — the present moment. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas prep, but Advent tells us not to get lost in it. Our Gospel warns us not to let ourselves lose focus from our mission — to make ourselves as ready as we can be for the judgment.
Our first reading promises that Jesus will bring safety, security and justice. Our second reading prays that we will grow in love for one another, and instructs us to strengthen our hearts, be blameless in our actions, and follow the instructions that we were given on how to live that justice that Jesus promises to complete for us. The first part of the Gospel ensures us that if we’re doing those things, Jesus’ coming will be good news for us — our “redemption is at hand.” But, if we get caught up in the cares of the world that distract us from working for justice and increasing love for others, then we’ll find God’s presence scary. Advent tells us to slow down. It calls us to take some time to reflect on what God is calling us to in the present moment, to prepare our hearts to really receive the gift that Jesus is to us — that life-changing gift that shapes our hearts to make us a gift to others.
Break Open the Word with Your Family
Do you ever feel sad? What gives you hope that things will be all right?
When you’re a teen you have to be vigilant a lot: in your schoolwork, in sports or school activities, in budgeting your time, perhaps in a job and in your friendships and family relationships. What happens when you stop paying attention to these important things, or when you don’t give them the appropriate focus? What happens when you don’t spend enough time in prayer? What are some things that you have to be vigilant about in your life right now? How will doing the right thing now impact your future?
If you do any gardening, you have probably seen that when you cut a tree down, it will often sprout back up if you don’t get the roots out. Trees are stubborn. God is also stubborn — when we’d rather stay in the bleak, he keeps hope quietly whispering in us. Think about the gentleness of the infant Jesus. How can you invite that presence into your heart this Advent?
Make and light an Advent wreath if you don’t have one. If you do have one, put it on the dinner table for ambiance and use it as a reminder of how you can prepare for Jesus’ coming at Christmas.
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”