I didn’t grow up celebrating, or even recognizing, the Advent season. But over the past few years, it has become my favorite time of year. Learning about the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, the anticipation of his birth, and finally celebrating the arrival of the newborn King. Just beautiful.
For many years, we have used the Advent Devotionals written by Arnold Ytreeide — Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, Bartholomew’s Passage, and Ishtar’s Oddessey — to guide us and focus our hearts and minds from the very beginning of the Christmas season. What an incredible blessing to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ-child with these beautiful stories.
It has been our experience that the books do not have to be read in any particular order, however, Jotham’s Journey is our favorite.
Throughout the past few years, we have used a variety of resources along with the Ytreeide books. I think you will enjoy any or all of these Advent resources for families.
Advent Resources for Families
Jotham’s Journey — In this widely popular, exciting story for the advent season, readers follow ten-year-old Jotham across Israel as he searches for his family. Though he faces thieves, robbers, and kidnappers, Jotham also encounters the wise men, shepherds, and innkeepers until at last he finds his way to the Savior born in Bethlehem.
Bartholomew’s Passage — Bartholomew’s Passage is an engaging story that guides families through the Advent season. Young Bartholomew’s adventures start when Roman soldiers destroy his village and disperse his family, continue through his enslavement to a tyrannical master and his escape with his new friend Nathan, and end with a reunion with his family in Bethlehem. Along the way Bartholomew makes a new friend, a young boy named Jotham!
Tabitha’s Travels — Curious, competent, and courageous Tabitha is the daughter of a shepherd who is taking his family on caravan to his birthplace. Along the way, she meets and becomes friends with Jotham and Bartholomew, watches as Romans take her father prisoner, spends time with Zechariah and Elizabeth, helps Mary and Joseph just before Christ s birth, and ends her travels at the stable in Bethlehem.
Ishtar’s Odyssey — Ishtar’s Odyssey follows the ten-year-old son of a Persian wise man as their caravan follows a star across the desert. Ishtar would just as soon stay in the comfort of the palace, but slowly he learns that there’s much to see, do, and learn in this world that can’t be experienced in school. He eventually meets Jotham, Bartholomew, and Tabitha as he follows his father and uncles in their search for a newborn king.
Nature Studies through the Holidays: Advent from Shining Dawn Books — While not your typical full-fledged NaturExplorers study, this mini-unit will be just what you need to prepare your hearts for Christmas through a unique, Christ-centered nature study tied into the themes of Advent.
Jesus Light of the World: Praying the Scriptures Through Advent by Candace Crabtree — 31 days of Praying the Scriptures through the Advent Season. Each day in December you will read 1 Scripture passage about LIGHT from the Bible, a short devotional reading, a prayer about that Scripture and journaling lines for your own prayers. We will focus on the importance of light and Jesus as light throughout God’s Word and in our own lives.
The Greatest Gift and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp — In what is certain to become an instant holiday classic, Voskamp reaches back into the pages of the Old Testament to explore the lineage of Jesus — the greatest gift — through the majestic advent tradition of “The Jesse Tree,” each day featuring its own exquisite ornament highlighting the Biblical story (free download of each of the 25 ornaments available from Voskamp’s website, annvoskamp.com ).
Based on the overwhelming success of The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp has expanded her presentation of the timeless Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree so families can celebrate together. Each day, families can read the provided Scripture passage (in connection with the original book), engage with a specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme.
We have also used an Advent Wreath at the centerpiece for our kitchen table for many years. It is such a meaningful way to prepare for Christmas. I love beginning our evening with lighting the candles before we begin reading our devotional. I decided this year to purchase a brand new wreath for our table, and chose this one: Journey to Bethlehem Advent Wreath. Each candle has a specific meaning:
The Hope (or Prophecy) Candle: This candle represents not only the Biblical prophecies about Christ’s birth, but the very feeling of anticipation which God’s people experienced over hundreds of years as they awaited His coming. Advent is a time when we can, in our own way, join the generations of God’s children in awaiting our Messiah. Of course, Advent encompasses both the arrival of the Christ child and His second glorious coming which is yet to occur!
The Peace (or Bethlehem) Candle: This candle represents the preparations made for the coming Christ child. Bethlehem is an appropriate place to signify preparation because, even though no room was available for Mary and Joseph when they came, God had orchestrated events so that Caesar Augustus called for a census to be taken. Joseph and Mary had to leave Nazareth so that they could register in Bethlehem and the Scriptures below were fulfilled!
The Joy (or Shepherds’) Candle: The shepherds represent the message of great joy that is brought to the world about Jesus’ birth!
The Love (or Angel) Candle: This candle represents the love which God shared with the world when He sent His Son, Jesus! Another theme for this week is sharing–the angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds and they shared it with others. The magi also left the baby Jesus and probably shared the wonderful news of the Savior with everyone they met! So this week, as we read through the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 1 and 2 and light all four Advent candles, remember that the light of Christ can only shine brighter as it does on your Advent wreath if we SHARE the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world!
The Christ Candle: This white candle represents Christ! Our Messiah, Jesus, Light of the World is finally here!