I’m excited to say that it was necessary to have a second printing of Welcoming the Christ Child! That gave us an opportunity to switch up the cover a bit —
I’m so excited to be offering this beautiful book and the matching ornament set again, so that Orthodox families can count down the Nativity Lent while truly preparing hearts to receive Christ on His birthday! The set is sold online at Sebastian Press and Ancient Faith.
Draw Near Designs is again offering their beautiful felt Advent calendar which fits the ornaments perfectly!
The Nativity Fast is almost here. We’re still working on getting back-to-school, but the calendar won’t wait for us to catch up.
Every year when Christmas approaches, it is important for parents to think about how we’ll lead the household this year. Too often, the people around us are swept up in shopping and decorating — not that there’s anything wrong with that, but famously, Christ often gets lost in the celebration of His own birth.
If we want to keep our children focused on Christ this year, then we should start thinking now about how we’re going to keep the fast. Rather than running from party to party and gorging ourselves on rich foods and gifts (pre-celebrating Christmas to the point that the feast itself loses it luster and becomes the last day before the great returning of gifts at shopping mall sales), let’s follow the healthier rhythm of the Church: let’s fast for forty days, slowly and peacefully preparing prayerful hearts to receive Christ on the feast of His Nativity.
Long before I was Orthodox, I grew up with the Scandinavian tradition of the Advent Calendar: every day we counted down to Christmas and ate a piece of chocolate. It really did make the countdown to Christmas exciting, and kept us focused on the idea that Santa Claus would soon be here with gifts for all the good little girls and boys, and of course on the promise of more chocolate to come!
As a parent, I’ve given more thought to how we engender this same countdown excitement, without breaking the spirit of the fast, and how to move the focus from gifts and treats back to Christ, where it belongs.
I really like the idea of the ‘Jesse Tree’ which counts down to the Nativity with a series of Old Testament prophecies; we prepare our own hearts by tracing the ways that God prepared His people to receive Christ. It’s beautiful.
Without an Orthodox Jesse Tree, most of us adapt Western models — which is tricky, and not just because our Advent is 40 days long while theirs is only 25. Our Orthodox Old Testament includes books that the West has rejected and forgotten, and they don’t appear in a Western Jesse Tree, and our Orthodox understanding of the Scriptures is fuller: we find Christ in these stories, in ways that others may miss.
There are free Orthodox Jesse Tree lists on the internet, but they tend to be lists of readings, requiring the parents to look them up and then try to explain these verses to our children. Many of these prophecy verses are hard to understand and harder to explain.
Over the years, I wrote a Jesse Tree for my children and for my friends, and it has now become an actual book: Welcoming the Christ-Child: Family Readings for the Nativity Lent. It’s a collection of forty Bible Story readings, one for each day of the Nativity Lent. These short, beloved stories from Scripture are followed by a few thoughtful questions and answers to encourage family discussion, and can be used any of time of year to help bring the Holy Orthodox Faith to life in our homes. We see how Old Testament events and prophecies point the way to the birth of the Christ Child, preparing our hearts to celebrate the feast of Christmas with greater understanding and inspiration.