Getting Ready for the Real Christmas

Disclosure: I was sent these products free of charge. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation. As always I am providing links to the book for your convenience.

Yesterday I was the storyteller in our church's Goldy Play classroom. I got to share with the kids the first two weeks of Advent since the kids will be upstairs in the service for the second week. (Click here to see the Godly Play story of Advent.) As I told the kids about the mystery of Christmas and the busyness of people at this time of the year I realized that my early holiday preparations that I have been sharing since the beginning of November are so my family has the time to prepare for the glorious mystery of Christmas. My shopping is mostly done and my holiday cards are just about ready to mail, so now I can slow down and enjoy and reflect on the season. I have even shared some new Advent books that are also calendars and the gifts I bought for Hazel's big Advent calendar. Today I am going to share five books that help us focus on the true meaning of Christmas. The first three books are part of a series by Arnold Ytreeide. I reviewed the newest one last year: Ishtar's Odyssey. This year we get to read the other three books in the series. Jotham's Joruney, Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels. Hazel was so excited to read one about a girl so we started with Tabitha's Travels and have been reading it each night. She LOVES this story!!

  This story follows Tabitha. A young daughter of a shepherd who does not think girls should not be able to do all the things that boys can. She has quite the adventure when she is left behind as her father and uncles are arrested by the Romans and she is the only one who can help them. Through her story she meets others from the Bible including Zachariah and Elizabeth and their baby, John, who becomes John the Baptist. She hears about the great miracle of Elizabeth's cousin, Mary and she even meets the other characters in the other many of the other books. We have not completed the other two books, but are enjoying them now as Advent is upon us. Hazel gets so excited to read these stories and has trouble with reading only one part each night. She wants to know more about the adventures of these brave kids.

Jotham's Journey is about a young shepherd boy who wants to be treated like his older brothers, but soon realizes he is not as old as them. Unfortunately it is after his family presumes he is dead and moves on. Now alone in the world he has to find his family and begins a great journey that includes terror, new friendships and miracles. He finds his way to be in the field when the angels announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and goes with his family to see the newborn king.

Bartholomew's Passage is the story of a young son of a fisherman. His adventure begins when the Roman soldiers destroy his village and he is sold into slavery to an evil master (the same villain in all three books). He is saved by a new friend and meets Jotham in his story as well. He finds his way to Bethlehem and his family to witness the first Christmas. 

I love how all four of these stories share the Christmas story from the point of views of four different children.They each have their own views and stories. Each one of their stories are then related back to current lives and gives thoughts of reflecting on how God worked in the story and how He works in our own lives. The stories are powerful and engaging. They make the Christmas story come alive and seem like you are part of it. These books are a must for anyone who wants to bring the focus of their family to the real Christmas story. 

Are you ready for Advent? Take the time to prepare yourself and your family for Christmas!! Yesterday Hazel made the Advent wreath on the left above at church. It is made with an oval wooden frame and votive holders. Our new church uses blue at Advent, but I am still a bit stuck on purple so I have purple candles in my new Advent candle holder that I shared last week. For more Advent wreath ideas click here.
Our next book tells the Christmas story with amazing pop-ups. The simplicity of the pictures just makes the reader even more engaged. The book is The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda. And the only word I have is breathtaking.
The Annunciation
The words are there to tell the traditional story, but Hazel really just enjoys looking at the pictures.

On the Road to Bethlehem

The use of monotones and neutrals just make the story come to live within the readers imagination. I love this book!!

Now Hazel has been telling the Christmas story since she was two or three. We have made creches for her to play with and she LOVES setting them up. In fact I found nine throughout the house this year (well ten if you count her Advent calendar). Several of these are in her bedroom and she plays with them when she first wakes up each morning. Love how she starts her day with the Christmas story each morning in Advent!! Some of the pieces are missing because she was playing and/or have been lost over the years.

You may recognize some from our past years like our wooden, cloth, needle felted, toilet paper rolls, and simple wooden nativities. I also just realized I left one of our store bought ones out of the picture so make it eleven. Needless to say she is in love with the Christmas story!!

Our final book tells the story from a different point of view. It is The Christmas Horse and the Three Wise Men by Isabelle Brent. This sweet story tells about the journey of the wise men from one of their animal's point of view. The horse meets the camel and elephant of the other wise men and each animal has its own time to shine on the treacherous journey. They work together to get their masters to see the amazing gift in the stable. Even the animals realized the miracle was occurring and this story just tells it so well. 
The illustrations are beautiful. They are colorful and detailed and it is just a gorgeous book. The tale shows working together and just shares the warmth and peace of Christmas.

I hope you will find the time to enjoy these books with your family and bring your focus on Jesus during this busy time of year. I know we are loving them!!