It’s difficult to live the liturgical year when the world around us is already celebrating Christmas. As soon as Halloween was over, the orange pumpkins were whisked away from store shelves in favor of all things holly, tinsel and peppermint. When my children were little, I’d answer the several-times-daily question of “When are we going to decorate the Christmas tree?” with “When Father lights the pink candle on the Advent wreath.” That started a tradition in our home, and Pink Candle Sunday became a special day.
It’s hard for little children to learn to wait through Advent when they’re surrounded by Christmas everywhere they go. Paraclete Press recently published two new picture books that will help children understand Advent, Christmas, and the Baby Jesus.
Look! by Laura Alary is a lovely and engaging book that brings together Bible prophecy, the liturgical year, and spiritual practices in a way young children can understand. This is a book you can read with your child bit by bit during the season of Advent, perhaps a few pages each Sunday. Look! introduces practices like the Jesse Tree, comparing it to looking through old photo albums or family videos. It encourages children to pray, to share, to create, and to surprise others through generosity. The final few pages are dedicated to Christmas, explaining how it is the culmination of all we have been waiting and preparing for during Advent.
I was struck by the peaceful cadence of the writing in Look!, the softly-colored illustrations, and the emphasis on Scripture.
Do you prefer to teach your children through narrative? That Baby in the Manger by Anne E. Neuberger tells the story of a group of children who wonder why the Baby Jesus in their church’s manger scene doesn’t look like they look. An elderly man praying in the church overhears their conversation with the priest, who grants that unlike the statues for the parish manger scene, Baby Jesus and the Blessed Mother probably did not have blond hair. Remembering a similar conversation with his own daughter decades ago, Mr. Gonzales finds his daughter’s old baby doll, dressing it in swaddling clothes like the Baby Jesus statue. Then he leaves it in the Nativity scene in church with a note, explaining that his own daughter had the same questions as the parish children.
I won’t give away what happens when the priest finds the baby doll and the note, except to say that it’s a beautiful story of what it means to be made in God’s image. Grownups: you might want to keep tissues handy when you read this touching tale.
Both of these books are perfect read-alouds for home or the classroom.
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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
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