Wednesday, December 21, 2022

3 Books for Winter Solstice

Some churches are having Winter Solstice or Longest Night worship services. They view this as an opportunity to acknowledge the darkness of the season, particularly for those who have experienced loss or those who don’t find the hope of Advent as easily as our culture expects. 

Below I give you links to a couple of PBT books that could inform your worship planning. Also, these books could be read or their stories told to worshipers. 

Next, I feature an extraordinarily beautiful new book about darkness and light. It nicely connects to Jesus’ lost parables, but it could also be read aloud on Winter Solstice, when a conversation about holy darkness is potent with meaning.

Owl Moon, a beloved classic, amazingly could be read anytime during Advent (It is about longing and involves patience and silence.) and for Epiphany (It is about a journey in the dark.) On the longest night, it has particular resonance because of the family's milestone ritual - a dark search for an owl.

Singing Away the Dark is the author's very personal childhood story about how darkness on her way to school was frightening, but singing helped her manage her fears.

Picture Book: Dark on Light

Author: Dianne White

Illustrator: Felicita Sala

Summary: This book begins and ends with the same view: The first at sunset & the last at sunrise. 

But the point of this story is "Even when it is dark outside, there is still so much light."  Three young children look out the window as the sun goes down. 
The 3 go out the front door despite the darkness, flashlight in the hand of the oldest, with no adults. With poetic verse, the book celebrates what and who (Many animals & plants!) are sensed on their night journey. Are they exploring? On a night hike? No. It becomes apparent they are searching, at least the 2 oldest are. The youngest is distractedly playing! 

Earlier, on the 2nd double page spread, a dog has wandered from the home. This is who the children are seeking! This is who they were looking for through that window!

The beloved dog is found and greeted. 
Then all are made aware of the glorious sky! (See image at top.) All 4 head home and are lovingly greeted by the 2 adults (parents? grandparents? You decide.), who take them straight to their shared bedroom. There loving security is present in every nook and gesture so that a sleepy peace comes to all, especially the one lost then found.
Hanna’s Comments: The goal of finding the missing dog can be easily missed at a first reading. Once the dog was found, I realized they had snuck out to search. I went back to earlier pages and saw what I had missed. I suggest you introduce the book by reading the author & illustrator's names (Always do this!). Then say, "This is a book about 3 children who decide to go out at night because someone they love is missing." 

As you read, point to the details you don't want missed and teach some new vocabulary (sage, noble, sapphire...). With young children, together count the animals before turning the page. Choose 1 animal to say a quick prayer of thanks or praise to God. 

Encourage natural wonder about other living things, the darkness, and God's mysteries. Components of the story that you might want to use in a lesson include flashlights, sage, and lavender. An experience with essential oils would be a nice touch! End with an imaginary journey prayer about the dark. Encourage being mindful of God's treasures in darkness and thankful that God is with us always, everywhere, in light, dark, and when both are present, as is often true. 

Update: This author has published a similar book about the cycle of a day. It’s called Blue on Blue. It would be a great book for teaching gratitude practices across a typical day.

Her book Green on Green moves through a traditional North American seasonal cycle, including Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions. Those holidays are not named. However, the usual rituals are evident. Therefore, this book would serve well as a component of a lesson on the importance of seasonal and holiday rituals. Be sure to tie such rituals to God’s provisions.

Original Publisher: Beach Lane Books, 2022

Age Appropriateness: 4 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Jesus' 3 lost parables (Luke 15:1-2) or any scripture about searching such as the "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:45-46) OR how the light of love gives us courage in metaphorical or real darkness such as Ruth and Naomi must have experienced on their journey to Israel. 

PBT Applications: Read this book on the Winter's Solstice or to a group of children anytime of year to explore Jesus' lost parables. Spend extra time on pages that show the children's bedroom. Discuss the comforts of bedtime rituals & objects that help us feel safe and loved. Ask about feeling God's presence in bed.

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