Monday, December 18, 2017

December Holiday Books 8 & 9

Today's PBT features are all about Christmas eve rituals. The first is a brand new book inspired by an old poem, the reading of which is a common Christmas Eve ritual. The second book, from a favorite author, involves a family’s ritual. On every Christmas eve, this generous family ventures into the dark woods. 


Picture Book: ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas
Author: Glenys Nellist
Illustrator: Elena Selivanova
Summary: In the tradition of Clement C. Moore’s poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Glenys Nellist has written verses that capture the beauty and power of Jesus’ birth.  
Below is just a sample with a few of my favorite illustrations: 
'Twas the evening of Christmas, when all through the town, 
Every inn was so crowded, no room could be found.
Tired Mary and Joseph, who went door to door,
At last found a place on a small stable floor. 
The pigeons were nestled all snug in their beds, 
While visions of breadcrumbs danced 'round in their heads.
The cows closed their eyes, and the oxen laid down;
The doves cooed so gently; the lambs made no sound. 
And out in their fields taking care of their sheep, 
Some shepherds were just getting ready to sleep.
When all of a sudden, they had such a fright, 
As a whole choir of angels lit up the night. 
 And to that small stable came three splendid kings
With gifts for the baby - all beautiful things. 
They jumped from their camels and knelt at his feet 
With their frankincense, gold, and myrrh that smelled sweet. 
The stable was filled with a wonderful light
As stars above Bethlehem twinkled so bright.
And high in the heavens, God whispered, "My Son,
You'll bring hope to the world and love everyone." 
As Mary laid Jesus, asleep in the hay, 
She thought of all that had happened that day. 
The mice heard her whisper, as she tucked him in tight, 
"Merry Christmas, my son, and to all a good night."
Hanna’s Comments: If you love the secular Clement Moore poem as much as I do, you'll also love this sacred poem. Here you have the story that is truly the reason for Christmas. Why not read both poems to your family at home or your family of faith at church? They will love the connections and just might create a new Christmas Eve ritual.
Original Publisher & Date: Zonderkidz, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: The Nativity stories are told in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book at a Christmas eve worship service or at home before nestling all snug in your beds for a long winter's night.

Picture Book: Night Tree
Author: Eve Bunting   
Illustrator: Ted Rand
Summary: You’ll find yourself wishing you were in the car with this family and not quite sure what they are up to on a Christmas Eve. Wherever they are going, it's obviously a joy-filled family tradition. 
The story is told by the big brother, Luke, who's excited to finally arrive in the quiet woods with all their supplies. A lantern makes sense, but food and a blanket? Off they go! To get a Christmas tree? Not quite. 
Surprises make the journey more fun despite the cold dark. 
When they arrive at "our tree," Luke says it has been their tree "forever and ever." Like the children, it has grown. 
Other animals are watching. Luke says there are secrets all around them in the forest. 
This loving family prepares for the work of the evening; everyone wants to play a part. Luke explains that for weeks they've been preparing the popcorn strings and balls of seeds, millet, and honey. They put treats under the tree for animals who don't climb.
Their tree is decorated as a beautiful feast for the forest so they circle it with pride. 
When their own picnic feast is spread, they sit in silence, hoping for creaturely companions. The animals are too shy to come, but this family knows their friends will arrive later. After supper, favorite songs of the season are sung. 
 
The cold and the late hour have them heading to their car, one child worn out, the other child's gaze and thoughts linger.  
Later in bed, Luke is settled in, but his mind isn't on presents. Instead, he thinks of their tree in the woods, made more beautiful and festive with generosity. 
Luke imagines a gathering reminiscent of the peaceful kingdom foretold in the book of Isaiah, singing their own Christmas carols while they enjoy the bounty.
Hanna’s Comments: I wish I had known of this book when my children were young. It might have inspired us to bring Christmas feasts to the many wild animals near our home. Rituals such as these ground children and give them crucial aspects of their identity that serve them all their lives until they are ready to create their own rituals. My summary above doesn't capture Luke's love for the beauty and wildness of his family's chosen sanctuary. If your family loves the wild, this is a book that will enrich your love for God's creation and the beauty of the season. 
Original Publisher & Date: HMH, 1994
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: The Nativity stories are told in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book during a children's Sunday school lesson about the faith aspects of rituals during Advent and throughout the year. Then ask your children to share about their own family rituals.