Prepare Your Hearts — An Advent Prayer Service

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SISTER JENADA FANETTI, SDS

In this prayer service, Jeremiah, Ruth, and John the Baptist come to life and share their stories to urge children to prepare for Jesus’ coming by finding everyday ways to follow him.

Sister Jenada Fanetti, SDS, pastoral care minister for St. Isidore Congregation in Mount Calvary, WI, has written scripts for each of these biblical figures. She wants children to see that God continues to send prophets to prepare the way for the Savior. Sister Jenada has played the roles of all of the biblical figures. But you may wish to ask adult leaders or older students to take the parts of Jeremiah, Ruth, and John the Baptist.

Prepare Your Hearts

Materials: 

  • lamp to be used as a spotlight
  • small Christmas tree lights hanging around the outer edge of the room
  • small tree with large Christmas tree lights, each loosened so they do not light
  • hearts cut out of paper, each with the statement of a practical way to follow Jesus during Advent
  • medium-size stone
  • large paper or cloth heart
  • simple costumes for prayer leaders—Jeremiah, Ruth, and John the Baptist
  • the hymnal or CDs Rise Up and Sing, Third Edition, for the song “Jesus, Come to Us,” and for the song “Walk in Love,” or the recordings of similar songs. (Hymnal and CDs are available from Oregon Catholic Press)

Preparation:

Allow students or adults who will play the parts of Jeremiah, Ruth, and John the Baptist time to read and prepare their scripts. Scripts do not need to be memorized. If they are comfortable doing so, the “actors” can just ad lib their parts based on the central ideas of the scripts. If possible, have words of the songs written on large sheets of newsprint displayed where all can see them. Darken the room except for a light that will shine on the biblical character speaking.

Jeremiah: (Enters, looking up and talking to God) Oh, no! I can’t be a prophet. I don’t know how to speak in front of groups. And I’m too young.

(Looks at the audience) Hi! I’m Jeremiah. You would never believe what God has called me to do. He told me that I should not say that I’m too young. I should go before the people and tell them everything that he commanded me to say. He said not to be afraid because he would be there to protect me.

Just think of that—a kid like me, being called to be a prophet. If you were told to go out and tell people they shouldn’t gossip and spend so much time in the tavern, wouldn’t you be afraid to do that?

But then God touched my lips and told me that he would give me the words to speak. I went to Jerusalem and spoke God’s message: “Remember how faithful you were as I led you out of the land of slavery.” I had to tell the people to change their ways. They were all caught up in power and money and the amount of land they owned. I told them they had to turn from their evil ways. They were not living according to the law of God.

The people got very angry. They wanted to put me to death. They brought me before the court and I told them that God had told me what to say. Only one person spoke up on my behalf.

I had to suffer many times to tell the truth and speak God’s message. It was not easy.

(Jeremiah picks up the medium-size stone.) Another time I told them they had turned their hearts into hearts of stone. They didn’t help the poor, nor did they care about being honest or truthful. God had no place in their lives. Their hearts had turned into stone.

(Jeremiah holds up the large paper or cloth heart.) I told the people that God would give them hearts of flesh if they were open, honest, and compassionate. This is the heart that our God is calling all of us to have. God wants you to have hearts of flesh. Are you willing to be open, honest, and compassionate? (Jeremiah exits.)

Ruth: (Enters and addresses the audience) Have you ever had bad things happen in your life? Somehow you always get through it. God is always there to give us the strength.

Hi, I’m Ruth. I came from a poor family, but God blessed me with good people in my life.

I married a wonderful man who was the son of Naomi and Elimelech. My father-in-law got very sick and died. My sister-in-law and I looked after Naomi, caring for her needs.

Just a few years later my husband died and my sister-in-law’s husband also died. Because we had no children, there was no one to support us. Many widows have starved to death because they had no one to support them. Naomi encouraged us to go back to our parents so we would have someone to take care of us. She said she would go back to Bethlehem.

My mother-in-law was elderly. She was such a good woman that I could not leave her.

I told her, “Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” So I traveled with Naomi to Bethlehem. When we arrived, the whole town was excited and happy to see Naomi.

We found her old home. No one had lived there for many years so I cleaned the house. Then I went out into the fields. Poor women were allowed to pick up the wheat that was left on the ground after the harvest. I asked one of the hired men if I could join those poor women so Naomi and I would have something to eat. Every day I would go out to the field to gather what wheat I could find. Boaz, the owner of the field, saw me. He had heard that I was taking care of my mother-in-law. He told the workers to bundle up some wheat and give it to me.

One day he invited me to have a meal with him. Later he asked me to marry him. We were very happy and we were blessed with a baby boy. The people in the village named him Obed. Naomi was happy to have a grandson. Obed became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David. (Ruth exits.)

John the Baptist: (John comes running in and goes out into the audience.) He’s coming! He’s coming! Prepare a way for the Savior! Get your hearts ready! Turn away from sin! Prepare a way for the Lord! Make straight a path for him to travel. Prepare a way for the Messiah! Now is the time to change. He’s coming!

Hi, I’m John the Baptist. My mother was Elizabeth. I was growing in my mother’s body when Mary came to help my mother. She knew that Mary was pregnant with Jesus.

When I grew up, I felt called to get people ready to follow Jesus. I walked from village to village, reminding people to change their lives. Some people were like the people are today. Yes, they were cheating on their taxes. Some people were judging others. They would spread stories that were not true. Some kids would bully others. I challenged all of them to repent.

I called them to come forward and be baptized with water as a sign that they wanted to change. And people were turning their lives around. But they thought that I was the Messiah. So I told them that someone was coming who was much greater than I. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Then one day Jesus came to me to be baptized. I did not want to, but he asked me to. When I poured the water, I saw the Spirit of God come down like a dove. Then I heard a voice say, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (John the Baptist exits.)

Prayer Leader: Jesus is calling you to follow him just as God called Jeremiah, Ruth, and John the Baptist to follow him. Show you are a follower of Jesus by your words and actions. Announce Jesus’ presence in your life by the way you act. Let’s make a place for Jesus in our hearts!

(The Christmas tree lights strung around the room are turned on.)

All: Sing “Jesus, Come to Us”

(The children are invited to come forward. Each child turns one light on the Christmas tree until it lights and then takes a paper heart. Explain that the statements on the hearts will be the children’s challenges to follow Jesus during this Advent.)

Closing Song: Sing “Walk in Love”

*The scripts in this prayer service were adapted and shortened from the original.

 

Sister Jenada Fanetti, SDS, pastoral care minister for St. Isidore Congregation in Mount Calvary, WI.

This article first appeared in Catechist magazine, November/December 2011

Photo: LightFieldStudios, istock

 

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