Here are ideas for you to use in reflecting on the upcoming Sunday’s scriptures with your classes.
- Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
- 2 Peter 3:8-14
- Mark 1:1-8
“John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4)
John prepared people for the coming of Jesus.
Teaching for Primary Grades:
1. Describe John the Baptist: how he looked, what he ate, why he lived in the desert, and how he was baptizing people. Explain that he prepared people for the coming of Jesus, his cousin. Tell the children to imagine a scene in the desert,
near a small river, where John is preaching and baptizing. Imagine what happens when Jesus comes along and greets his cousin. What do the people do; what do Jesus and John say? Choose volunteers to act out the scene.
2. Afterward, tell the children to imagine another scene. This time they are in their classroom and their teacher is telling them to prepare for a visit from Jesus. What does the teacher say? When Jesus arrives, what does he say and do? Discuss what the children imagined. As they wait for Jesus’ coming at Christmas, how would they like to prepare their hearts?
Teaching for Intermediate Grades:
Gather the children in the Advent corner created last week. Light the Advent wreath and sing a hymn. Invite the group who created the scene with John the Baptist to explain to the class what they know about him. Then read this Sunday’s Gospel.
2. Discuss John’s unusual lifestyle and unique way of preparing people for the coming of Jesus. Sometimes God speaks to us in unexpected ways. Tell the students to think of times in their lives when they were inspired to do something kind, give help, regret a mistake, seek forgiveness, or give a gift. Did this experience touch them unexpectedly? How can they keep their eyes and hearts open during Advent for ways Jesus might want to come to them?
Teaching for Secondary Grades:
1. Invite a student to read Sunday’s Gospel. Find out what the students know about John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus. Tell them about the Essenes, a group of ascetic people who lived in a desert community at umran, near the Dead Sea. John may or may not have been part of that community, but he certainly had some things in common with them. Assign the class to research the Qumran community and its connection with the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.
2. Let students report on their research and comment on the importance of the Essenes’ work to preserve the sacred writings of the Jews. Use a map to show where the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea, the location of Qumran in relation to Jerusalem, and the desert wilderness in that region. Display pictures of the Shrine of the Book, the museum in Jerusalem which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Sr. Karen Berry is a Joliet Franciscan, a former teacher of high school religion and director of family programs of Religious Education, and currently a teacher of adult religion classes in several parishes in Tucson, Arizona.