Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Books: never too early to start planning for Advent

You probably don't want to hear this ... but it is just 87 days until the first Sunday of Advent and 89 days until the first day of December!  Advent is coming soon ... are you ready?

Here's a book I just finished that we'll be using this year ... and for years to come ... to help us on our Advent journey.  Destination: Bethlehem – A Family Advent Adventure, steeps the reader in this idea of a journey, a pilgrimage we undertake each year to understand more completely the event that occurred in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

Mother and daughter authors, Sharon Altman and Christine Winkelman, teemed up to write this book which they say is a gift “for the children in their lives”. And it is a gift that gives every day of December!  Broken into 24 bite-sized chapters (each only taking 10-15 minutes to read aloud), the book tells the story of 10-year-old Isaac, who lives west of Bethlehem, and his cousin Jediah, who lives near Zippori north of Bethlehem. The story begins the Advent journey with Isaac traveling to Jerusalem with his neighbor, Zachariah. The ensuing events of Zachariah being struck dumb in the Holy of Holies, of Elizabeth conceiving John the Baptist, and of Mary’s visit to her cousin are all told from Isaac’s perspective.

The story than shifts to Zippori and Jediah’s family hearing about the Roman census. Jediah's father is of David's family, so they must return to Bethlehem to “be counted”. For Jediah’s family, this is a long, arduous journey that includes meeting up with fellow carpenter, Joseph and his wife Mary, a shepherd family (where the reader gets a very good idea of what a shepherd must do to protect his sheep), meeting Simeon  and finally arrival at Bethlehem where they connect with Isaac's family and help Mary and Joseph find shelter.

I love how the authors kept the chapters light, but meaningful, so that each night of December, the chapter can be read, discussed and we can join in the journey. The book is packed with information about the social mores of the time, the cultural ins and outs that are so different from today.  I learned so much reading the end notes!  I highly recommend this book which you can get from Hillside Education.
I’m excited to use this with my own family as part of our Advent celebrations this year (and many more after). The authors suggest 24 items, one for each chapter, that can be used to reinforce the events of the journey. I think we’ll use this list (with slight changes), to fill our Creche as we near the birthday, using the book almost like an Advent Calendar or Jesse Tree.  For instance: when we read the chapter about the shepherd family, we'll add shepherds and sheep to our Creche; when we read about the Roman soldier, we'll add a horse to our scene. 

How are you going to do Advent this year?
Author(s): Sharon Altman and Christine Winkelman
Copyright: 2008  ISBN: 978-0-6152-1800-7 
Publisher: Bella Maria Books
Binding: Softcover
Number of pages: 187 pages
Subject(s): Advent
Grade / Age level: Grade 4-High School, Adults, Family read-aloud
available at Hillside Education

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