Celebrating Advent with Martha and Mary
by Lee Danesco
You are familiar with the Gospel about Jesus' visit to the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). This Gospel, although not read during Advent, can be used to enrich your students' journey through Advent. Making that connection, you can create a unique lesson that will enable your students to distinguish between what is central and what is marginal to the Advent Season as, together, you prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas
You are familiar with the Gospel about Jesus’ visit to the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). This Gospel, although not read during Advent, can be used to enrich your students’ journey through Advent. Making that connection, you can create a unique lesson that will enable your students to distinguish between what is central and what is marginal to the Advent Season as, together, you prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
Explore the Story
Read Luke 10:38-42 to your class and then discuss the details with students: the characters in the Gospel (Jesus, Martha and Mary, who are sisters and friends of Jesus); the setting of the Gospel (the home of Martha and Mary); and what happens in the Gospel (Jesus visits the sisters and there is a conversation that takes place).
Enter the Story
Invite the children to put themselves into this Gospel by closing their eyes and imagining they are with Jesus as he arrives at the home of Martha and Mary. Urge students to concentrate on the actions and words that stand out to them as you slowly read the passage to them again.
After you finish reading and the children open their eyes, review their imaginary visit. Invite them to share their observations and experiences. Then complete the following teaching aid on the board.
Draw three concentric circles: small, medium, and large, leaving enough room to write in the space between each circle. In the middle of the smallest, center circle, write JESUS. In the space between the center circle and the next circle, write MARY. Then ask students to name what Mary does during Jesus’ visit (listens, sits at Jesus’ feet, pays attention to Jesus) and write their responses in that same space. In the space between the middle circle and the outer circle, write MARTHA, and ask students to name what Martha does during Jesus’ visit (serves, feels burdened and anxious and worried, asks Jesus a question). Write their responses in that space.
Use the children’s responses to clarify what Mary chooses to do and what Martha chooses to do:
* Mary decides that the most important thing to do during Jesus’ visit is to be near Jesus, to sit at his feet, to pay attention to him, to listen to him speak. This choice brings her close to Jesus.
* Martha decides that the most important thing to do during Jesus’ visit is to serve, to be anxious and worried about many things. This choice keeps her from being close to Jesus.
Explain to the students that Jesus is grateful for Martha’s efforts but that he asks her to think about her priorities. By encouraging her to follow Mary’s example, Jesus invites Martha to come closer so that the friendship between them grows stronger.
Like Martha and Mary welcoming Jesus into their home, we, too, prepare to welcome Jesus into our hearts when we recall his birth at Christmas.
Have students work in small groups, pairs, alone, or as one large group to create a list of things they will do at home, in school, and with their friends to prepare for the coming of Christmas.
Then draw a second set of three concentric circles on the board and again, write JESUS in the small, center circle. Ask a student to share an item from his or her list and then, as a class, determine if that activity is geared to bring us closer to Jesus (if so, write it in the space between the center circle and the next circle) or if it is less likely to bring us closer to Jesus (if so, write it in the space between the middle circle and the outer circle).
Give each student a chance to mention one thing from the list. To help students think more clearly about each activity and where it should be placed within the diagram, you might ask: “Who would be more likely to choose this activity: Martha or Mary?”
At the end of this exercise, the students have a visual reference that can help guide what they choose to do during Advent to bring them closer to Jesus.
Plan a closing prayer that asks God the Father to guide us all as we carry out our Advent choices.
Lee Danesco holds a Master of Arts degree in teaching from Brown University. She has served as a DRE and a pastoral associate, and she is a published author. Her first book, Planning a Youth Service Week, was published by Twenty-Third Publications in 2001. The Confident Catechist was published by Saint Mary’s Press in 2007.
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