Saturday, November 22, 2014

1st Sunday in Advent

Year B
First Sunday in Advent


Stay awake waiting

Points to note

This is the season of Advent, the season of waiting for the coming of Jesus.  All readings for this season would revolve around the same theme.

As the first Sunday of Advent, you would need to explain the significance of Advent before the reading and as such, the discussions will be a little shortened.

Today’s reading is easy for the children to follow – how many of us have seen children dozing off when trying to stay awake for an event they really wanted to be present for?  This is rich material for discussion but we will need to link it up with waiting for Jesus.

I once asked some children how long does Advent last and a little girl replied without hesitation “Forever”.  There is a lesson there for all of us.  Whatever we learn and do in Advent is meant for all of us throughout out lives.


Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia, alleluia!
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy
and give us your saving help.

Discuss with the children about the new season of the Christian calendar that we are entering.  This is available in the end panel of this leaflet & for a more complete explanation, at

The Lord be with you.
All:   And also with your spirit.

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All:   Glory to you O Lord
(Mk 13:33-37)
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’
This is the Good News of the Lord


Have you ever had to stay up for something?  Maybe, it was to greet someone “Happy Birthday” at the stroke of midnight.  Maybe, it was to watch the World Cup or Olympics in a different time zone in a faraway country.  What did you do to stay awake so that you will not be sleeping at that actual time?   Maybe they had hot chocolate to drink, games to play or things to do.  Maybe they had to sleep earlier in the day so that they will not be sleepy.

What would have happened if instead to staying awake, you were asleep at that actual time? Talk about the disappointment that they feel, and also the disappointment that others will feel.  What about all the effort at staying awake – wouldn’t all that be wasted if we do not stay awake at all despite having tried our best to stay awake?  Discuss if any of the children tried to do anything to undo the fact that they failed to stay awake?  Did any of those efforts work?

Discuss that the season of Advent teaches us about waiting for Jesus.  Discuss how in the same way we stay awake for an event, we also have to be awake spiritually (not necessarily physically) for when Jesus will come.  Discuss what we do to be ready – pray, doing all the good things that Jesus wants us to do.

Discuss also how we would feel if we missed Jesus’ coming.  Would we be able to turn back the clock if we missed it?  No, if we missed it, it is gone and all our efforts will be wasted.  So, we have to stay awake until the very end and let’s not end up with a disappointment.

Do we stop waiting after Advent?  No we continue to make sure that we are prepared if Jesus ever turned up because we can be sure that he will come at a time we do not expect.

This is the period of preparation for the arrival of Jesus at Christmas.  The word Advent comes from the Latin for coming.  It means a period of prayer and penitence before we are allowed to celebrate the birth of Christ.   Advent is also the new year for the church calendar and the First Sunday in Advent is our New Year's Day. 

Being a preparation season, the liturgical colour is purple, meaning the priest wears purple vestments at mass - only the stole (piece of cloth around his neck and down his chest), chasuble (the robe on the outside) or any other decor; the basic vestments underneath remain white.  The church may also be decorated with purple flowers, purple buntings and the like.  Purple is deemed the colour of penitence (It is also the colour of mourning - which is why the priest wears purple at funerals). 

Description: is an exception, though: the colour for the third Sunday of Advent is pink (or rose).  That Sunday is called Gaudate Sunday (Latin for Rejoice): to give us a little break after we pass the mid-point of a penitential season.

It runs for the four Sundays before Christmas day and so the last day is always Christmas eve.  It can be as long as a full four weeks starting from Nov 27 (if Christmas Day is a Sunday) or as short as three weeks and one day starting from Dec 3 (if Christmas Day is a Monday).

The Advent Wreath, with its four candles fixed on a circle of evergreens, has its roots in pagan northern Europe, which the Lutherans first adopted as a Christian symbol.  The circle represents the never-ending cycle of seasons while the evergreens symbolise the persistence of life even during winter.  Christian symbolism differ slightly: the circle represents the the eternity of God while the evergreens tells of Jesus, who death could not conquer.  The four candles are lit one every Sunday, causing all candles to be of different heights by the end of the season.  There are three purple candles and a pink/rose one for the Third Sunday of Advent.  Sometimes, there is a fifth white candle in the middle to symbolise Christ, and is lit on Christmas Day or Christmas eve.

The Advent Calendar that we have today seems to be a combination of two separate customs.  The original advent calendar notes the goals for personal prayer and penitence for the different days in this period of penitence.  This calendar is now merged with the Jesse Tree, named after King David's father and unfortunately a dying custom.  Symbols of saints and Old Testament prophets & patriarchs are hung on the Jesse Tree, one on each day of Advent.

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