Fourth Sunday of Advent
Click here for a printable version of this story.
Click here for a printable version of this story in Spanish.
- Online video clip, “Christmas in July”
- Picture of St. Francis
- OPTIONAL: crèche
- Because online videos often take a few minutes to download, play the related video before the story begins to ensure that it will be ready when needed.
- Prepare any necessary materials.
- Invite children up to steps of altar.
- Reader of story sits in a chair with children sitting on floor in front of her.
- Include children’s story, even if there are no children in your congregation, to welcome families who may come to the service.
- You can add your own creativity to the stories. You may feel comfortable using puppets, props or presenting them just as they are written.
- Feel free to adjust the content to fit your time frame. However, for the spiritual development of the child, we encourage keeping as much of the Ascended Master’s Teachings as possible.
Good morning and welcome. Today we celebrate the fourth and last week of advent. In many churches this is the week in advent in which they pray for Peace. This week as part of the ritual to purify our four lower bodies, we will focus on the physical body and celebrate the victory of the coming of the Christ into our own temples. Many people think that their body is who they really are, their real self. But the body is just the home for our soul for a time. The soul will occupy many other houses or bodies until it has fulfilled its course and made its ascension.
Can you think of ways that we can purify our bodies? (Allow children to answer.) Yes, we can eat healthy food, give the violet flame, exercise, go to Mother Mary’s hot springs, etc.
Our story today is about St. Francis and the honoring of the Christ child on Christmas Eve. St. Francis understood the true meaning of Christmas. He understood that the Christ can abide in each of us.
Does anyone know some of the things St. Francis is known for? (Allow children to answer.) (love of nature; working with animals or the elementals,; being poor; building Christ’s church; stigmata; and he loved to sing praises to God.) Saint Francis is often pictured surrounded by birds and other animals. That’s because the animals were his friends. He saw the presence of God in nature and had a great love and respect for all creatures. “All created things,” he said, “are our brothers and sisters because we all have the same Father.”
Here is a well-known picture of Saint Francis preaching to the birds. (Show picture.) He loved the swallows and the wolf whom he dutifully counseled and convinced to be tame! But above all he loved the Christmas Christ Child. St. Francis had lived as that wise man Balthazar.
We are now going to listen to a short clip from our Messenger Mark L. Prophet. You know him today as the ascended master, Lanello. He tells us that it is important to understand the meaning of Christmas or the Christ-mass. It is Christmas when the Christ manifests as it did with Jesus 2000 years ago, and it must also manifest within us all year.
(Play online video clip.)
Saint Francis understood the message that we just heard. The message of the birth of the Christ is an event that we should celebrate all year long as the birth of the Christ in all individuals.
Saint Francis is also credited for bringing the crèche into our homes as part of the Nativity scene we display at Christmas. Do any of you have a Nativity scene in your homes that you display at Christmas time? Do you know what a crèche is? (Allow children to answer.) It is a manger. A manger is a trough or openbox used to feed livestock like cattle. Jesus was laid in a manger when he was born in a stable. (Hold up crèche for children to see.)
We probably think that Christians have always celebrated Christmas Eve, a time to sing carols and exchange gifts. Some people open their presents on Christmas Eve so that they can spend Christmas day celebrating the birth of Jesus.
The truth is, early Christians probably didn't celebrate this event, or if they did, the practice died long ago before the 13th century. Our modern celebration of Christmas Eve dates back only to the 13th century.
Here is the story of how this came to be.
St. Francis and the Crèche
In the town of Greccia lived a certain man and leader by the name of Giovanni who stood in high esteem. Francis loved Giovanni with a special affection and visited him often.
Now this year was during the crusades, a time when men were fighting over their religions. Christians were discouraged from going to Bethlehem because the Turks were now in control of the Holy Land and they did not welcome the Christians. Giovanni wished to celebrate Christ’s birthday in his town.
“Dear Francis, we cannot let these wars stop us from honoring the baby Jesus.”
Francis said that he would do this but wanted to celebrate in a special way. Francis said to Giovanni:
“If you desire that we should celebrate this year's Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the infant who was born at Bethlehem. He was deprived of all the comforts babies enjoy. He was bedded in the manger on hay, between an ass and an ox. For once I want to see all this with my own eyes.
“Invite the townspeople, gather the hay and animals and a crèche. And bring a young infant who will play the role of our Lord.”
When Giovanni heard this, he departed quickly and prepared everything that Francis had asked of him. The joyful day approached. The Franciscan friars were called from many communities. The men and women of the neighborhood prepared candles and torches to brighten the night.
So it was that on December 24, 1223, in the very center of Italy, a group of barefoot monks led a merrily singing throng of local residents up the slopes of Mount Lacerone to Greccio. Up they walked to the simple monastery that was little more than a few interconnecting caves.
The night was made radiant like the day, with the men and woman carrying their candles and torches, filling all with joy. The crowds drew near and rejoiced in the novelty of the celebration. Their voices resounded from the woods, and the rocky cliff echoed the jubilant outburst as they sang in praise of God, the whole night rang with exultation.
Saint Francis led the procession and continued walking until he stood before the crèche. Overwhelmed with love and filled with a wonderful happiness and moved by the Light radiating from the infant, Francis instantly dropped to his knees in honor of this Christ child as if he were baby Jesus himself. Francis stood and tenderly lifted the baby, presenting him to the crowd for all to see. All the people fell to their knees for they too recognized the Christ.
Then, Francis dressed in deacon's vestments, preached a meaningful and beautiful sermon to the people who stood around him about the birth of the Christ 1200 years ago and how He continues to live in our hearts today if we will receive him. And thus, the celebration of the birth of Jesus was born in small town with the humble monk Francis leading the ceremony.
Today, we have been told to have a Nativity scene on our altars year-round. It is to be set on a table at a right angle to the altar on Saint Germain's side.
We truly can celebrate Christmas all year long to imitate Christ and develop more of the Christ consciousness and follow in the footsteps of St. Francis.
Thank you and Merry Christmas.