This episode first aired in December 2021 and offers ideas for preparing for Advent and Christmas. We thought you’d enjoy another listen.
Books Discussed in This Episode:
Transcript with Links:
Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today, I know it’s still November, but we’re going to talk about Advent because I want you to have plenty of time to prepare for Advent. And of course, the first Sunday of Advent is the last Sunday in November. So I’m trying to get a head start on this, so you have plenty of time to choose what you want to do with your kids this year. I want to introduce you to a few really special books that may help you in your plans.
One of those is by Traci Smith called Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas: 100 Ways to Make the Season Sacred. And Traci goes through many different ideas to help your family really celebrate this season of Advent and Christmas, to build memories, to do activities that will make this a special time focusing on Christ during the Christmas season.
And then we have some fun Advent books such as The Donkey in the Living Room by Sarah Raymond Cunningham. And this is “a tradition that celebrates the real meaning of Christmas,” and it is illustrated by Jessica Weible. It takes you through the nativity set. If you have a nativity set that you can use with your children, this is a good book to go through for your younger children to read through it. This one is shorter than some advent calendars. This one is for ten days rather than the full 25 days. And so if you don’t have a chance to do all 25 days or start with advent at the end of November, this would be a good one to use for the 10 days leading up to Christmas.
If you remember, when I talked to Nadia Friesen, she also has a devotional and an Advent plan that you can use from her website. And I’ll have that link in the show notes. So you can refer to hers as well. But her emphasis is that you get a nativity set that your children can handle and play with without worrying about breaking it. And I love her attitude because she said so often we want our children to connect with the Christmas story. And the Christmas story is very real and raw. And you know, Mary and Joseph are in the stable or the cave where the animals are in the story and it’s dirty. It’s not all pristine. To have a nativity set that our children can handle and play with and move around is important. Finding one of those either made out of wood or some of them are plushies, but to have one available that they can play with.
Then we have of course, Glenys Nellist’s book that just came out. And I had mentioned it before, and it is called Twas the Season of Advent devotions and Stories for the Christmas Season illustrated by Elena Selivanova. And she also illustrated the Twas the Evening of Christmas and some of her other books. She does beautiful illustrations. And so we’re going to read a little bit from this book in just a minute, but I want to share a few other books with you.
Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas, and that is by Laura Alary and illustrated by Ann Boyajian. Now in this book, it does talk about the Jesse Tree, the Advent Wreath, and different traditions that are common to Advent. It talks about Bible stories and the characters that are in the stories. And it is told from the child’s point of view. So it’s kind of a unique book.
One I shared last year that I think is just so unique and cute is The 25 Days of the Christmas Story and Advent Family Experience by Dr. Josh Straub and Christi Straub. And Jane Butler is the illustrator. And I really love this book. It’s really cute. It goes through the different characters of the Christmas story. I want to read a little bit to you from the first couple of days. The first one is Isaiah, and it has a character trait for each day. The one for Isaiah is hopeful and it says, “Isaiah and the Christmas story. The name Isaiah means ‘Yahweh Saves.’ Do you know what other name means Yahweh Saves? Jesus! As a prophet of hope, Isaiah was someone who brought messages from God to his people nearly 800 years before Jesus was born. God told Isaiah that he was sending a chosen one or the Messiah to deliver the people from their sin. 800 years! That’s a long time to wait. Isaiah was specific too. He spoke of the Messiah being born of a Virgin and called him wonderful counselor and prince of peace. (Isaiah 9:6). Isaiah also called him Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14). Emmanuel means God with us. Jesus is God, but he temporarily left his place in heaven to become a baby on earth. Jesus grew into a man and lived among other people. Why is this important? It means Jesus understands everything we go through because he went through it too. So when you feel sad, you know that God knows what sadness feels like. More than that, He’s with you when you feel sad. He’s with you when you feel angry. He’s with you when you feel happy. So no matter how you feel or what’s going on in your life, you always have hope that God is with you. He is Emmanuel.” And then it has a Life Lesson: God is with us. And then on the next page, still on day one, it has a family activity, “Ask everyone to draw a picture of a recent moment when they felt sad, scared, or alone. Then take turns talking about each moment as a family. After everyone shares, draw an image of Jesus beside you in the picture. Come back together and ask each family member: “The next time you feel sad, scared, or alone, how will it change the way you approach the situation if you picture Jesus beside you? Finally write ‘hope’ across the top of the picture. Hang all the on the refrigerator as a reminder during this Christmas season that God is with us.” And then it has a family time question. “Have you ever felt like God was with you in a particular situation? Describe that moment.” And then it has a verse and I would encourage these as memory verses Isaiah 7:14. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. See the Virgin will conceive, have a son and name him Emmanuel.” And then a prayer: “Emmanuel, give each of us the hope that you are God with us in whatever situation we may face.” And then day two is about David and the character trait is faith-filled. I love that. And it tells the story of David. And then day three is Zechariah and the character trait is prayerful. So it really is just a wonderful advent storybook. That is a real devotional for a family and gives some great ways for families to discuss things together and to do things together as they’re preparing for Christmas.
When we’re talking about Advent, of course, you don’t have to buy a book. You don’t have to go out and spend money. You can use just things you have at home and create your own simple Advent calendar or plan. You could even set up candles, even the battery-operated candles, and have, you know, at the end of the time, 25 candles lit. You could have little bags with a piece of candy in them and numbers on the little bags and hang those up on a little clothesline, like, you know, the Christmas card clothes lines that you can get with the little cute clothes pins on them. You could do 25 boxes and then kind of glue them together. And in each box either have an ornament or you could have a treat for the children and simply open each box that’s numbered for each day that you’re leading up to advent and then read a scripture for each of those days. And so to make it simple for you, I will provide in the show notes, a link to the different scriptures you could read for the 25 days, I’ll do it for the 25 days of Advent. You could also just do a weekly Advent meeting. If your church does not do that tradition, then on Sundays, you have a different theme for each Sunday and tell a different part of the Christmas story from scripture. I will give you some links and ideas for that in the show notes as well. So it shouldn’t be something that stresses you out or is difficult to do.
There are many creative ways to celebrate Advent and observe that special time and help focus your family on the true meaning of Christmas throughout the entire season, without spending a lot of money or a lot of time. These books are really special and they’ve been made specifically for that purpose. And if you have the money to do that and to buy a book, I recommend these, especially. I think they’re great, but if you don’t have a lot of time and money, look in the show notes, and I will have some links that hopefully will help you make this a special season without too much prep work or time. And if nothing else, just reading through the scriptures, leading up to Christmas and talking about the gospel and the story of the reason Christ came, that’s what your family needs and to not get so caught up in the shopping and the different trappings of the commercialization of Christmas, but to spend time with God and with your family.
Now, one book I want to share last of all with you is specifically for the parents, or if you have older children and you just want them to read a novel during this time. I love having Christmas literature to share. When I used to teach Brit lit and American lit, I always chose the different stories authors have that are Christmas stories, and there are a lot of great ones out there, but I just recently finished a book. It actually took me two days to read it. This book is called Nicholas: You will believe, and it’s by Michael J. Scott. And it is a fun novel to read. It is totally just for entertainment and enjoyment. And it is the story of an Abbot in Norway that is named Nicholas. And this reporter is sent to interview him. What I love about this book is that the gospel is shared repeatedly throughout the story. It tells the story and the legend of Saint Nicholas, and it depicts him as a man who simply wanted to glorify God with his life. I love that about this book. Michael Scott says he originally wrote this story or told this story for his children because they are teenagers and they are older and started questioning the whole Santa Claus thing. He shared the legends of Saint Nicholas. But what I love about this story is that it’s fun for the most part, that it deals with the gospel in a very real way, and shows the conversion of many people through sharing faith through our actions. And so I love the message, the overall message of the book. There are definitely some situations in the book that you have to suspend disbelief, but it’s still fun. And it’s still interesting to read today for our devotional.
I thought it would be fun to read the first day’s reading from Glenys Nellist book Twas the Season of Advent. And so this is the December 1st devotional for the first day of Advent. It starts out, “It was the season of Advent. When all through the earth, people were pausing to ponder Christ’s birth. The bright lights were hung around the doorframes with care in hopes that Christmas time soon would be there. Welcoming Advent: Prepare the way for the Lord, Isaiah 40:3. Welcome to the wonderful season of Advent. Do you know what advent means? It means the arrival of a notable person thing or event. Advent is a time when we wait, prepare for, and look forward to the arrival of God’s son, Jesus, but the word Advent is part of a bigger word too–adventure. Over the next 25 days, we are going to share in a wonderful adventure together. We’ll begin each day in the quietness of our own homes, perhaps gathered around the Christmas tree while all the lights are twinkling in the darkness, and we’ll read together and learn about God. We’ll meet angels and shepherds, Magi and Mary. We’ll spend time with Isaiah and Elizabeth and Joseph, and we’ll end up back where we began–at the manger where God is waiting to introduce us to Jesus. And there at the manger we’ll worship and wonder.” And the prayer is, “Dear God, thank you for this book we hold. Thank you for inviting us on this wonderful adventure together when we will draw closer to Jesus.”
And that is our goal for this advent season, that we would simply draw closer to Jesus and make sure that we keep time for him in our Christmas celebration, because that’s what it really is all about.
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to join my mailing list, you can find me at TerrieHellardBrown.com. And if you would like to have access to this podcast, remember to download it and keep it handy. God bless you and have a wonderful week.
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Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.