With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Advent will soon be upon us. During this time of year, we are so easily consumed with the preparations of cookies, preparations of gifts to buy and wrap, preparations for holiday entertaining, preparations for the Christmas tree, preparations for travel. And soon the preparation of our hearts for Christ's coming--both the remembrance of his birth and, more importantly, the anticipation of his return--can quickly be forgotten.
One of our favorite traditions as a family has been to read one of three advent books written by Arnold Ytreeide. The first of this series is called Jotham's Journey. This is a book with two threads woven throughout the book: first a fictionalized story set during the time leading up to Christ's birth and secondly a narrative that reflects on what has been read and the spiritual lessons you can draw from it. The book is divided into daily readings that continue through Christmas morning. There are a few intense scenes so parents may want to pre-read or do some editing as they read it aloud if they have younger children (e.g. we toned down the description of a bad guy for younger ones listening).
Through Jotham's eyes, you experience the place and time in history of Christ's birth. An act of disobedience on Jotham's part starts him on a journey fraught with adventure, suspense, danger and spiritual discovery. The characters he meets play a part in his physical and spiritual journeys. Biblical figures and interesting historical facts are woven throughout the story. Don't be surprised if your children beg you to keep reading just to find out what happens!
Last year was our third year reading Jotham's Journey so this year we'll again be returning to the second book in the series, Bartholomew's Passage. What is neat about the series is that in Jotham's Journey, the character Bartholomew has already been introduced to the reader. When you begin the second book, you are learning about Bartholomew's life and experiences and it's a real treat for the kids when his path crosses Jotham's.
The final book in the series is called Tabitha's Travels. Although currently out of print, this title will be returning in the summer or fall of 2010. Like Bartholomew's Passage, Tabitha's Travels highlights another facet of the story that connects all three youngsters together at various points in the story. If you have a daughter, she'll appreciate Tabitha's spunk and her desire to prove what girls are capable of (not sure how historically accurate that is for the time period but it makes for a fun story).
One of the best places to purchase either the Jotham or Bartholomew titles is from the wholesale company, Library and Educational Services. According to their website (http://www.libraryanded.com/), "Our wholesale customers are defined as Churches (includes pastors and other church leaders both paid and volunteer), Day Care Providers, Missionaries, Public Libraries, Public Schools, Private Schools, Home Schools, and Resellers." If you fall into one of those categories, I strongly suggest that you sign up for their e-mail newsletters so you won't miss the wonderful sales they frequently advertise.
At the back of each book, there is a chart that shows when Advent begins for each year up through 2075. This year, you'll want to begin Jotham's Journey on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, November 29. So get yourself a copy and be ready to make a delightful journey this Advent with Jotham and his unforgettable companions.