Not knowing which advent book my kids will get the most pleasure out of, this year I bought 2 books.
Last year I used The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper for our night time advent devotional. I really enjoyed it but my kids, well, not so much. The vocabulary Piper used to elaborate and stress certain topics or ideas was perfect for my husband and I to understand but as I read it out loud to my children, then aged 8 and 13, many times the words and concepts went over their sweet but easily distracted heads. I found myself having to interchange and interpret easier explanations from more difficult concepts or words so that they could comprehend overall what I was reading. Even though Piper penned each devotional reading to be relatively short and it was probably geared for an adult attention span and comprehension, attempting to interpret as I read out loud to my kids made it a tad cumbersome. Saying "now, what that means...." for almost every reading turned our devotional time into full blown lectures and lessons. Not fun for the kids.
So this advent season, I have learned from last year's mistake and have ordered 2 books.
The First Days of Jesus by Andreas J. Kostenberger
Piper's new advent book, Good News of Great Joy.
I am a hearty fan of Piper's writing so I know full well that if the writing doesn't appeal to my children, we have a back up for them and I will still get to continue the great pleasure of reading Piper's book personally.
We read Kostenberger's book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, for lent this year and my kids absolutely loved it. They could not get enough of it and actually wanted me to keep reading ahead. At the onset I created a reading schedule so that our final day of reading landed on Resurrection Sunday, which helped my children understand, with somber and heightened anticipation Christ's death and resurrection. I highly recommend it.
Naturally, without much consideration as to whether or not we should read Kostenberger's new book for this advent season, it was a given, or shoe in, or whatever that saying is. If his advent book is as good as his lent book, then it's a must read! Here is the reading schedule for that book. What a blessing!! READING SCHEDULE FOR THE FIRST DAYS OF JESUS
Reading books to my children for advent and lent are new traditions our family has embraced. I oftentimes wonder if there are older books we should be reading but I've not found any, nor would I know where to look.
The first couple of churches that our family were members of, one in Virginia, then one in Texas, advent was completely overlooked. I knew nothing of this season where there is reflection of the 25 days leading up to the birth of Christ. Yes, I know it's common knowledge that Jesus was not actually born on December 25th, but throughout church history, for whatever reason, this is the month and date that orthodox Christianity has set aside to honor and celebrate the birth of our Savior.
The first time I sat in a church setting where activities related to advent were done, I was confused. When that first candle was lit, I felt a bit embarrassed that I had no earthly idea what any of it meant. It provoked me to go home after the service and look up the word "advent" and do a little research. I learned that advent simply meant "coming" in Latin. Nice!
Discovering that advent was another reason to honor and celebrate the coming of Christ, I was immediately hooked. As Christians, I know we should daily live our lives with a sense of anticipation for Christ's second coming, as well as deeply reflect on the reason for Christ's first coming. Letting the truth that Jesus voluntarily left the right hand of the Father and stepped down into a sinful world to redeem and make new a sinful people to call his own, its an unfathomable gift that we should let permeate every cell in our sinful natured bodies. Knowing that Christ will come back a second time, we should live in such a way that reflects our anticipation of that reality. Truly, these are great reasons to set aside some time to purposely meditate on both comings of Jesus, past and future.
As parents, we should also use advent as a teaching tool to help our children grow an anticipatory spirit in their own hearts and minds. We would fail them if we made them think that Christmas was all about what we can buy them in a store without ever making an effort to teach them the real gift of Christ's coming, and not in half hearted after thought kind of way, but with more vigor and intentionality than we do our Christmas shopping or Christmas activities. That means we might have to scale back on our external festivities so that we can fit in a consistent, quiet and meditative time to help our own immediate family refocus.
In my research I also learned that different denominations did their own spin for advent and that there were some pretty extravagant and liturgical traditions that existed. Typically candles were used. Several years ago, a Presbyterian pastor asked me to sew an advent flag to hang on the pulpit and in making it, I learned that in certain denominations specific colors were used symbolically. Once I discovered that there were churches that actually made an intentional effort to usher in a meditative spirit prior to Christmas day, I was completely on board to try to figure out how our family can take advent and make it ours.
Unsure how to start our own way of heralding advent we initially copied a toned down version of what others were doing. The first year we attempted it, we gathered around our dining room table every Sunday evening for 4 weeks and did the once a week candle lighting ceremony. We also read a short devotional from an advent book for 25 days. As nice as it was to light candles, it seemed contrived, not to mention that the act of lighting the candle gave my boy a reason to become mesmerized with fire. He attempted to light more things than just the candle. Needless to say, I did way more re-directing than reflecting.
Last year, we dropped the candle lighting thing and just read a book. Everyone seemed to like it better, even if the book was a tad mature for the kids. The simple act of reading a book felt a bit more organic to our family. Since I've made it a habit to gather my kids nightly and read to them, it just felt more "us".
As usual, this slacker mom bought our advent books too late so we are still waiting for them to arrive in the mail. This mom is extra thankful that Crossway has a link to download the first chapter of The First days of Jesus - for free! YAY! You can get that first chapter HERE!
Like I said, if Kostenberger's advent book is anything like his lent book, we are definitely in for a treat.
Speaking of treats......
I picked up this chocolate advent calendar last week. I keep forgetting that I still have a child under 10, well, he will be 10 in a few days. I know that I want to hold his attention during our reading session so I have to have something that is a little on the "fun" side. After our night time devotional, he will get to open one of these little windows and get a piece of chocolate before we pray.
Now I just need to remember to make him brush his teeth before he goes to sleep.