Sunday, December 11, 2005

Read-Alouds for Advent and Christmas

When You Just Can’t Wait
Some great reads-alouds for Advent
By Mary C. Gildersleeve
published in The Catholic Miscellany (December 15, 2005)

Advent – the season of waiting for the coming of the Christ-Child and all the blessings Christmas brings. As you fill your house with the lights and the smells and the goodies and the gifts, don’t forget to take some time to read out loud to your family.

A classic and very timely read-aloud is of course Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is the classic story of the character redeemed through blessings bestowed. Growing up, my mother read this book to us as we finished our dinner, with the advent candles flickering and the story unfolding a bit more each night. I can still see the small, hard-bound copy, bought with Mom’s own money when she was in high school, and read every year since.

What could be a more appropriate read-aloud than the story of a place where it is always winter and never Christmas? C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe tells the story of how Christmas finally comes to Narnia. A Disney movie version is sure to be the talk of the season, with a release date of December 9th, but nothing can compare to the rhythm of Lewis’ words and the beauty of his descriptions. You’ll add to the sounds of the season in your own house: squeals of laughter when the children meet the Beavers, or the quick intake of breath when the White Witch slithers up on her sled, or the spontaneous outburst of cheers that result when Edmund finally redeems himself – all to be heard as the fire crackles in the fireplace.

Lesser known Christmas read-alouds abound. One that can help you prepare the way for the Christ Child is, The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean (Eerdmanns Books 2003). A lovely story of a cranky wood-carver, carving a new Jesse Tree for a Church, and the little boy who wants to know all about the tree. A Jesse Tree takes 24 Bible stories to create Jesus’ own family tree. This year we’ll be making our own Jesse Tree ornaments and hanging them on a bare tree as we read the appropriate chapter from this book each night.

A Christmas season wouldn’t seem right without a story about a Christmas miracle. A beautifully written and illustrated book which will delight the family is The Miracle of Saint Nicholas, written by Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Judith Brown. This is the story of a Russian Orthodox Church in a small village that has been closed for over 60 years; years when the Communist would arrest anyone for going into the Church, years when the village almost forgot about how to celebrate Christmas. This is a lovingly written story of how a little boy changes all of that with his determination and his faith in making things right.

So put away the wrapping, the shopping, and the baking for an hour or so and read together as a family.

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