With the help of catechist Vicki Pavalko, third graders at St. Nicholas Church in Struthers, OH, wrap their Advent good deeds up into a gift for Baby Jesus.
Vicki, who has been teaching at St. Nicholas for several years, is impressed with how open third graders are to the world around them. This openness makes them ready for their lessons, which center on the Creed (what we believe) and community (praying together, sacraments and celebrations, and doing good deeds for one another). A special Advent activity allows Vicki to connect the children’s lessons with their genuine interest in helping others.
“Just before Advent,” she explains, “we talk about all the nice things we can do for others. We can hold doors open for people; we can visit a sick grandparent; we can give away the last cookie to a younger sibling; we can do our chores without being told. The list is truly endless. Then I tell the class that we are going to work on a very special gift for Baby Jesus.
“At each weekly session during Advent, I give the children sheets of blank paper on which to write the good deeds they did during the last week. Instead of good deeds, some children will write notes to Jesus saying that they love him; others will draw him nice pictures.
“I collect the children’s papers throughout Advent and tell them that their papers—with their good deeds, notes, and pictures—will be part of our gift. Some of these papers tell the most heart-warming stories you would ever want to hear.
“I have a beautiful, sturdy box, about 12” high. The box isn’t too big to handle, but it is big enough to hold all the children’s papers. I wrap the box in the most beautiful paper I can find, usually gold foil of some sort. I finish by putting big, beautiful bows on the package. I also include a nametag that reads: ‘To Baby Jesus, from the children in third-grade CCD.’
“Our pastor graciously allows us to place the box next to the manger scene at the front of the church. The children are so excited to see their gift there for Baby Jesus!
“This is one way to integrate the spirit of giving gifts with the true reason for the season! This activity incorporates both what we believe and what we do for one another.”
Vicki Pavalko was a winner of Idea of the Month, hosted by Catechist’s Facebook page, with this entry which she used with her third-graders at St. Nicholas Church in Struthers, Ohio.
Image: Rich Vintage, istock