Aren't you happy Jesus is coming?
Many, many years ago, my first grade class was in charge of the preparation of one of our school liturgies for Advent. It had been a tough year, as our school was going through many changes and some heartache had come to our parish in the form of student and parental illness and accidents. Because of all those things, I really wanted our liturgy to be one of celebration, one full of hope!
When I told my class that it was our turn to be the readers and the gift bearers at liturgy, they were very excited. As with all first graders who are given the charge of preparing for the very first liturgy that they will lead, anticipation was in the air! We learned about Advent and talked about its meaning. It was easy to see that my students were anticipating not only Christmas and the birth of Christ, but their first liturgy, too. When I questioned them, I could tell that they were learning the lessons, and I was very pleased. The next day, I went to review the lesson. Before I could really do any reviewing, I heard one of my students ask his friend, "Aren't you happy that Jesus is coming?" At that moment the theme for our liturgy was born.
I took an unorthodox approach, but our pastor gave me the green light, so we went ahead with our planning. My students practiced their readings, we discussed what they meant, they wrote the petitions and we were ready on a cold and frosty December morning.
Before Mass began, four of my students dispersed themselves to the corners of our church. From these corners each child rushed to the front of the church, much like a child rushes to a Christmas tree on Christmas morning. When they got to the front of the church, they put their arms around each other, smiled broadly, looked into the faces of the school community and said in unison, "Aren't you happy Jesus is coming?"
The enthusiasm those four first graders created astonished me. The whole church smiled! Some laughed out loud. The energy created by them was unbelievable. All because they asked the most fundamental of questions: Aren't you glad Jesus is coming?
Sometimes, as adults, we overthink things. We make them complicated. Perhaps it is sometimes better to think about our beliefs and to reflect on them more simply. The joy that Advent brings is such a gift. I want to experience the gift of Advent, like my students did when they were in first grade, with awe and wonder.
I want to focus on the question, "Aren't you happy Jesus is coming?"
Every day in Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of Boston, teachers are teaching their students about Jesus, the one who came to save us. In a true partnership with parents, they are teaching our students that they are known, they are loved, they are forgiven, and they are saved. Such powerful lessons of hope and love for all of us!
One of the students who was sitting in that church 30 years ago recently asked me about this liturgy. She asked if I remembered that Mass, because she did. She said she thinks of it each Advent and it helps her to remain focused on the importance of the season. She has a child now, and she told me that every year, she is going to use that question to help her child understand the meaning of Advent.
Many would probably say there is more to Advent than that question and they would be right. The question does not cover all of the theology that we want our students to know about Advent. Yet, for at least one student, that question helps her to remember the joy and anticipation that Advent provides. It reminds us that the joy of the season is not to be forgotten. It reminds us of the promise that our Savior, Christ the Lord, will soon be born.
So, I ask you.
"Aren't you happy Jesus is coming?"
- Kathy Mears is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.