Tag: advent (page 2 of 9)

The Adventure of Christmas

This week we had a big discussion about when exactly Advent begins, and I was certain that it started next weekend. I had looked at the schedule for Advent readings at our church—I knew what was up. I was sure.

Are you sure?” my daughter asked.

“Yes,” I answered. I was sure.

But at church the poinsettias were out, and the first candle was lit. As we sang the opening verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” I looked down the row at my daughter and sheepishly mouthed, Oops.

The Adventure of Christmas, by Ed Drew | Little Book, Big Story

We don’t start our family readings until December 1, though, so I had a few days of grace to break out the calendars and books. This year, we’re reading through Ed Drew’s new Advent book, The Adventure of Christmas. In our family, we have daughters on both sides of that curious divide between child and teen, so it’s hard to find devotionals that resonate with all four girls. But last Lent we read Drew’s Easter devotional, Meals With Jesus, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked for both age groups: he offered questions written for each age level from preschooler to teen and provided enough material with each reading to allow families to customize the conversation for wherever their kids are at.

The Adventure of Christmas follows a similar format. After a short Scripture reading come questions, from which parents can pick and choose, as well as “Optional Extras” likes crafts, deeper discussion topics for older kids, and resources for parents’ own Advent studies. It’s like a buffet with a little something for everyone! I love that about this book. And I hate to admit it, but I also love how short and to-the-point the readings are—perfect for discussing over dinner on a December weeknight and unlikely to make anybody groan.

One of the things I find most intriguing about The Adventure of Christmas is the fact that we won’t encounter Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day, but somewhere in the middle of the month—which leaves room for the stories of Simeon and Anna, and allows readers to look forward to who Jesus would when he grew up. Drew doesn’t present Jesus’ birth as the climax of the Christmas story, but as an event pointing toward a still bigger event; that is, I think, what truly sets this book apart from the many, many Advent resources our family has encountered over the years. (This is evident on the Advent calendar as well, which places the manger in the center of the timeline, not at the end.)

The Adventure of Christmas, by Ed Drew | Little Book, Big Story

And, mercifully, the readings begin on December 1—but the schedule is flexible. You’re not required to read all twenty-five throughout Advent, so if you also missed the first Sunday, never fear! You, like me, still have time to catch up.

The Adventure of Christmas: A Journey Through Advent for the Whole Family
Ed Drew; Alex Webb-Peploe (2021)

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver

To Santa, or not to Santa—that was the question. We were new parents raised with Santa-rich holidays, and that first Christmas with our first baby, that decision sat before us, ours to make. But how? The Christian literature on the subject was plentiful and opinionated: those for Santa argued against Christmases devoid of magic and wonder; those against claimed that inviting Santa to the party was akin to lying to our child. And so we sat in the middle, pondering (between diaper changes) how this momentous decision would affect our daughter into adulthood and whether she would, one day, discuss it with a therapist.

I overthought it, of course. It wouldn’t be a Rosenburg decision if I hadn’t.

It seemed to us that there must be a third option. Beneath the commercial Santa of our youths there was a saint of legend—a man imbued with the ability to defy time and space and celebrated long before Black Friday was a thing. Beneath the legend, there was a historical man—but who was he? After lots of research and conversations with friends, we landed on “not to Santa”—but to Saint Nicholas!

And so on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, the shoes in our house mysteriously fill with chocolate coins, and we curl up before breakfast with a book about Saint Nick. Right there at the start of Advent, we discuss who Nicholas was and what’s up with Santa. Then we spend the rest of Advent talking about Jesus.

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

Ned Bustard’s new release, Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, captures that whole spectrum of Nicholas’s story, from faithful Christian bishop to man of myth and legend. In this sweet rhymed book, Bustard—illustrator of Church History ABCs and Every Moment Holy—shares Santa’s origin story with the youngest readers and shows how the historical man became “Good Saint Nick.” This is a both/and book: we can tell our children the story of Saint Nicholas and we can celebrate Christmas in a way that holds Jesus at the center. Bustard’s linocut illustrations make this book feel both historical and magical. In his “Note From the Author,” Bustard writes:

“Both history and legend portray for us a man moved to action by his faith. The apostle John wrote that we love because God—the greatest Giftgiver—first loved us. And it was God’s generous love that filled Nicholas with gratitude, prompting him to respond with love and generosity to others.”

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

This is the heart of Nicholas’s story—not the presents, the traditions, or the stockings, but his faithful obedience to the true giftgiver. Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver gets this just right.

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver
Ned Bustard (2021)

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

There’s a Lion in My Nativity!

When a young girl is picked to play Mary in her class’s Christmas play, she believes her big break has come! She is the star of the show. But as she tries to act out her iconic, Christmas-pageant scenes, things seem to go wrong: there’s a boat on stage. One shepherd carries a mop! And who cast a lion in the nativity play?

There's a Lion in my Nativity, by Lizzie Lafterton | Little Book, Big Story

But she is only one of the book’s two narrators. The other is Sam, a classmate who explains, as the show goes on, that each of these unlikely additions has something to say about the true star of the Christmas story (hint: it’s not Mary).

There's a Lion in my Nativity, by Lizzie Lafterton | Little Book, Big Story

There’s a Lion in my Nativity is a delightful Christmas book for young readers. It rhymes, it’s funny, there’s a bit of that chaos that always makes my daughters laugh—and yet it points toward a deeper truth, one that we need to hear around Christmas, sure, but also throughout the rest of the year. We are not the star of the show—Jesus is. Sometimes it takes a lion in a manger to help us see that.

There’s a Lion in my Nativity!
Lizzie Laferton; Kim Barnes (2020)

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.


Our family is in a funny spot, reading-wise. On one end, we have our seventh grader, whose school reading list includes Plutarch and Shakespeare and who loves a good adventure—the more intense the better.

On the other end, we have our four-year-old, who loves Star Wars but is also still solidly delighted by Fancy Nancy and Elephant & Piggie. Choosing a book that will appeal to both, as well as to those in between, is, as they say, rather tricky. Often I just skew toward one end and then the other. So we read Brambly Hedge at bedtime, as well as Emblems of the Infinite King. It’s a broad range, and not everybody likes everything we read (though everybody does like Brambly Hedge and will forever, I bet).

Peace, by Stephen Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

Our Advent reading this year illustrates this perfectly: for our younger readers, over dinner we’ll dip into the Advent conversation cards from She Reads Truth. For our older readers, before bed we’ll read Peace.

In Peace, Stephen Nichols (Church History ABCs) tells the whole story of Christmas, from Genesis 1 onward, interweaving quotes, commentaries, and hymns from Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and more. This is a big, from-above view of Christmas, drawn directly from Scripture and embellished by some of the best writers since the church began.

Peace, by Stephen Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

Peace also offers a variety of ways to use the book: as a personal devotional, or a family one; as a story in three acts, or in a series of nine readings. It also includes some liturgies for each Sunday of Advent, which we plan to read together when we light our Advent wreath. But all together, these readings are deep enough to give a seventh grader (and her parents) something to ponder and short enough for a four-year-old to complete a 12-piece puzzle while she listens.

Peace, by Stephen Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

A note on the price: If you are tempted, as I was, to hold off on this one because the price seemed a bit steep, please know what I did not: this is a big book, about 12″x12″, and it is gorgeous. It is clothbound, with full color illustrations and lovely bronze details. The price may seem high, but the quality of the book is definitely worth it.

Peace: Classic Readings for Christmas
Stephen Nichols; Simon Pemberton (2013)

“Behold the King”

Writing about Christmas is one of my favorite ways to skim the emotional stuff off its surface and to remember that Christmas isn’t meant to be a season in which we all make everyone we love happy for four straight weeks, but a remembrance: the One who “neither sleeps nor slumbers” (Ps. 121) became a baby, vulnerable and finite, for us. The One who is everywhere at every time became, for thirty-three years, a man bound to seconds and minutes—for us.

I need to spend weeks each year considering this, looking at it from new angles, and so I’m quick to volunteer for the Advent and Christmas writing assignments. This year, I explored (and at times, it felt like a true adventure) those silent centuries before Jesus’ birth and the way God worked out his plan through them and through Jesus’ coming:

Four hundred years of silence.

After the roars and pleas of the prophets, that silence rang—as audible, in its way, as a lament. The Israelites had grown accustomed to the prophets and their noise, which often ran behind the clamor of daily life, a muted hum. . . .

But then that steady hum ceased. The last prophet’s words hung in the air: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:5–6). The Messiah is coming, the prophet said. And before him, one will come running—a herald, announcing his arrival.

Those were the last words the people heard from God for 400 years.

You can read the full article here.