The Gift of Self: An Advent Tradition

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advent wreathWhen I was growing up Advent was never a big deal. I went to Catholic school, but to be honest our Catholic education was lacking. I remember learning about Advent, but the beauty and necessity of readying our hearts and minds was never stressed to us. Our Catholic home was even worse. We prayed before we ate and we went to Mass each Sunday, but outside of that, our faith life was non-exsistent. I remember the Advent wreath in the Church but I never knew what the candles were for. To be honest, I had no idea that Advent even heralded in the new liturgical year (heck, I had no idea we even had a liturgical year!).

As I have grown older, and specifically as my faith as grown and matured, I realize what I missed out on as a child and young adult. The beauty of our Catholic faith is so vast. The traditions, the prayers, the imagery, the Sacraments, and so many other elements add to the sacredness of our faith. I want so much to pass on this beauty to my children.

Faith fills my family’s life- from prayers at all meal times, family prayers together at night, family rosaries, attending celebrations at our church, fulfilling the corporal and spiritual works of mercy together, offering up our sufferings for others, honoring our patron saints, talking about how as Christians we should handle certain situations we encounter with love and mercy, learning about our faith, preparing for and celebrating the Sacraments together, and of course attending Mass together- and that faith help our lives to be incredibly full and meaningful.

I love that we are passing on so much beauty and love to our children.

faith without works is deadOne of the ways we strive to incorporate our faith in our everyday lives is to help our children realize that faith and love require action. Our faith without works is dead. Christ wants us to share our faith with everyone we encounter.  One way we can do that is through service to others. We want our children to naturally want to serve, honor, and love others. One of the ways we do this is by allowing them opportunities to serve others- those in our own home, but also in our community.

If you are looking ways to instill a love of service to others in the hearts of your children, Advent is a great time to begin!

This very simple craft can help you teach how important it is to give a little bit of ourselves to others each day. Not only will your children be giving a gift, but I promise they will get a gift as well. When we give to others we also receive a blessing. It’s a wonderful feeling!

Once your kids try it they will be hooked. But don’t blame me if your children decide they want to continue with this activity long past Advent!

A Craft that Keeps on Giving

We took colored popsicle sticks and wrote various “good deeds” we could do on each one.

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Some of these are continued on the back like “Do something nice for… a neighbor” or “help with a chore you don’t… like”. We plan to add more this year since some of the kids are older and they now have more things they want to do. Some of the ideas the kids have are to hand out gift cards for meals to the homeless, bring a meal to a homebound neighbor, send snail mail to people to brighten their day, to fast for the day, or to offer up their sufferings for those in need.

Each day draw a new stick and pray about how you can accomplish the task.

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Once your children begin to serve others in “little ways” their hearts will desire to serve in bigger ways. If we start teaching our children at a very young age that being humble and giving a piece of ourselves to others is a wonderful gift, then we will raise children who not only give freely, but who long to give of themselves to others. They will help our world become a better place.

So as Advent begins, give your children a precious gift; help grow their faith through the gift of self-sacrifice. The gift of faith, love, and service is one that will benefit not only your child but everyone they encounter. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

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