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Advent Poems, Books and Activities for Christmas Time

Emma Cummings

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Advent Poems, Books and Activities for Christmas Time

The season of Advent is the four weeks in the run-up to Christmas. Traditionally it begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The word Advent is derived from the Latin adventus  “coming; arrival”; and therefore is the period of waiting before the coming or arrival of Jesus Christ. For centuries, it has been a key time in the liturgical calendar of the church. However, for Christians of different denominations, we can draw from the traditional routes and use the season of Advent to draw our gaze toward Christ in an age where Christmas has before increasingly commercialised. Within our family this has looked like creating a simple Advent Wreath, having a stack of beautiful books, and delving into Advent poems.

Every year we create a very simple advent wreath. For those who, perhaps belong to a less traditional church, it looks like a circle with four candles attached, in the centre is another candle. Each of the four candles is lit on the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day. The central candle – the Christ candle – is lit on Christmas morning. Different churches have slightly different meanings imbued into the candles, and often the candles are different colours to represent these meanings.

As a family, we have created a version of this that is very simple. I place four candles on a plate, and surround them with evergreen foliage from the woods. On the Sunday evenings as a family we do a short devotional and listen to a carol. We look at hope, peace, joy and love on the different Sunday’s; and sit quietly in the candlelight mediating on the birth, life, death of Jesus and the awaited coming of Christ. Within our Advent Worksheet and Poetry Pack are instructions to do this for your family, complete with appropriate biblical texts.

Advent Poetry

The advent season is rich with poetry, whether it is the beautiful In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti, or the contemporary poet Malcolm Guite. Within our Advent Poems and Workseehts activity pack there is a selection of poems to enjoy.

As we try to slow down to ponder the beautiful gift of Christ, and like Mary ponder all these things in our heart, perhaps have a family poetry tea time. Bake some Christmas treats, invite a few friends, have mugs of hot chocolate topped with luscious whipped cream and read a few poems. If there are young children this can be in the form of short verses. Older children may want to discuss the poetry and the deeper meaning of Christmas. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poignant poem The Christmas Bells is one that can lead to profound discussions, and is applicable today as it was over a century ago.

Advent poems can be a word of solace in a season that for many brings pain and yields to a lot of emotions; or it can bring back previous reflections of the year past, or times past. For parents delving into poetry at this time can be a life enhancing exercise for our own souls. For parents struggling to “get-into-the-mood-for-Christmas” I include here Sylvia Plath’s poem “Black Rook in Rainy Weather.” I have not included it in the activity pack, as it does not a first seem like an advent poem. The poem deals with seeing beauty in the mundane; the divine in the ordinary. And is that not what Christmas is about: seeing the Word become flesh in an ordinary manger, with poor parents, who were nobodies in their society?

“Black Rook in Rainy Weather,” by Sylvia Plath

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, I seek
No more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Leap incandescent

Out of the kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then —
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); skeptical,
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait's begun again,
The long wait for the angel.
For that rare, random descent.

Books for Advent

As Advent approaches I raid the bookshelves and gather our Christmas books. I collect these trasures over the years, and enjoy revisiting them each year like old friends. There are a multitude of wonderful living books that are suitable for all ages at Christmas. I will try to find a new one each year to add to our collection.

  • Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp This is an advent devotional. Voskamp is a beautiful writer. We come back to her devotional every year. One year I planned on a change, and at the beginning of December I tried something different, but one son was not happy with the change. He missed Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Voksamp also has an adult devotional for advent as well. She looks at the Christmas story through the genealogy of Jesus; in particular exploring the lives of the women who’s names feature in the genealogy. Her writing is lyrical and deeply insightful.
  • I Saw Three Ships, by Elizabeth Gouge. Gouge is another outstanding writer. I Saw Three Ships is a short novel, about a little orphaned girl who has to live with her old spinster aunts. The tale is woven around the famous carol I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In. It is a tale of reconciliation, redemption and healing in the face of grief. I have read this to my children, for my own pleasure, and I’ve gifted it to my mother. I cannot tell if it is a child’s book or for adults, but is that not the testimony of a great book!

Advent Picture Books

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