Local Schools

Preschoolers learn the meaning of Advent

Children of the Early Education Center at Holy Trinity in Lenexa learn the meaning of Advent by gathering around the Advent wreath each morning and participating in traditional rituals, including praying and singing. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

LENEXA — Each morning during Advent, a bell rings in the hall of the Early Education Center here at Holy Trinity.

At the sound of that bell, preschoolers pour out of their classrooms in joyful anticipation of the morning’s ritual.

“Anticipation” is exactly what they’re learning here as they gather and wait for the lesson to begin — a figure to be added to the Nativity scene, prayers to be said and a song to be sung as Advent candles are lit in expectation of the Messiah.

Children of theEarly Education Center at Holy Trinity say a prayer as part of their Advent ritual. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Fourteen years ago, the preschool was moved into a new building. For the first time they had a center hallway. And this tradition began.

“This was something we had wanted to do for years,” said director Mary Kay Scanlon. “When we moved into this building, we could develop this tradition as part of our program to make it more family-like.”

Parents are encouraged to join each morning as a new figure is added to the Nativity and children hear a Scripture-based story about that figure.

“Last week it was the shepherd and we talked about the story of the Good Shepherd,” said Scanlon. “Today we talked about Mary.”

The children at theEarly Education Center at Holy Trinity often remember the stories and songs they learn at the center during Advent. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

The lessons are sinking in. Children in the program from previous years remember the stories and the songs.

“They can tell us Mary was his mother and Joseph was his father and that Advent means waiting,” said Scanlon

The children also remember their responsibility for filling baby Jesus’ bed with hay — long pieces of yellow paper representing good deeds.

“We encourage them to do good deeds,” said Scanlon. “They’re getting the manger ready for Jesus.”

Mary Kay Scanlon, director of theEarly Education Center at Holy Trinity, leads an Advent ritual at the center. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

When the children return after Christmas break, Jesus is nestled in the hay, and the lessons of the Christmas season continue as more figures are added to the scene.

And the children continue to sing about lighting candles for hope, peace, joy and most important, love:

Light One Candle for Love
One bright Candle for Love
He brings love to every heart, 
He comes, He comes.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

Leave a Comment