Sunday, December 8

A Light in the Lantern

We made a well from self drying clay and filled it with gold paint the day I took this photo.  The story was about a girl finding that the starlight made the water glisten like gold even when she drew it and took it to show her elderly grandmother.
This is our forth year reading through The Light in the Lantern and I come to love it more each year.  The stories are whimsical and imaginative and Jim and I love the emphasis on all of creation preparing for the coming of the Christ child.  I have written briefly about this before (here and here), but have always wanted to share a little more fully why we chose these stories (along with our Jesse tree) to read through advent. 
There are so many advent devotionals available, and I've looked at quite a few of them over the years.  There are lots of good resources, but thing that I've found is that most devotionals delve into the Christmas story itself instead of on the waiting before Christ's birth (especially children's devotionals).  Obviously there is nothing wrong with this and learning about the Christmas story is a very good way to prepare oneself.*  Some of the adult devotionals I have loved the most take this approach, but for our family right now I want advent to be a journey both through God's great story as a whole (thus why we do the Jesse tree which journeys from Genesis to the birth of Christ) and a journey to Bethlehem (thus The Light in the Lantern.)  I want advent to be a time of fasting and waiting, a time of preparing ourselves for the great mystery of Christmas that spills over into twelve days of reveling in the newness of the Christ child!   
Anyway, we love The Light in the Lantern because it is daily stories about Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem.  I love joining them on this journey through the imaginary stories, which are truly imagined (there is no biblical account of the journey itself) but also hold some very sweet truth in them.  I know that this sort of story isn't everyone's cup of tea and, honestly, would make some Christians rather uncomfortable and if that is you, then by all means, find something else to read (there are lots of good materials out there).  But I would encourage anyone to think of these sorts of stories as a way of engaging the imagination and entering the biblical narrative on another level.  My children know that these stories aren't in the Bible itself, but I am a firm believer that God's story is not fragile and our imaginations are important essential to our understanding of the larger story and our part in it.
 The main thing that we love is that The Light in the Lantern is divided into four weeks and each week focuses on another part of creation preparing for the Christ child. 
The first week focuses on the mineral kingdom.  So there is the forming of ice for Mary to cross a stream, the sharp rocks turning to smooth stones so that she can walk without bruising her bare feet, the gift of her starry cape, the giant rock that  blocks the path and cannot be moved until Joseph taps it with his staff (then it opens to show beautiful crystals - we crack a geode on this day), the winds song for Mary...
The second week is about the plant kingdom preparing for the Christ Child.  There is the gift of the sloe tree, the Christmas roses, the apple tree's gift, the pine forest...
The third week is about the Animal kingdom preparing for the Christ child.  The spider spins a web over a mouth of a cave to keep the Holy Family warm, the donkey overcomes his stubborn nature, a squirrel and a rabbit help Mary and Joseph, the lamb gives its fleece for Jesus...
And the fourth week is about human preparation for the Christ Child.  A beggar woman shares her soup, the shepherds witness the wolf lying down with the lamb in the presence of the unborn Christ child, a boy plays his flute for the Holy Family...
Each story is about two pages long, so they are quick to read and our boys look forward to this reading every night!  We are using a small table to build the journey this year. 
* Note: I do want to say that we read lots of books and the biblical account of the Christmas story almost daily through advent.  Because if we are waiting, then we must, at least to some extent, know why we are waiting.  My wee boys and I need to hear about the mystery of the incarnation over and over to prepare for it; to the littlest of them it is a new story that needs told and retold during this time. 
** The Light in the Lantern is for sale on Steiner Books in the US.  It can be purchased directly from Wynstone Press in the UK.
There are twenty-four candles on the sill behind the table and we light one more each night.  I love the glow of candlelight as we read!


Sheila said...

Hi Emily, We bought this book in German this year, because it is recommended for older children, and I needed somthing new for my 10-year-old. I had no idea that it was available in English! I am so glad that you and your children are enjoying it as much as we are! So sweet to think that our families are enjoying the same thing on different sides of the globe!

Watkins said...

It is sweet to think of sharing the stories across the globe! I wish I read German; it would be fun to read it in the original language.
I can see why it is recommended for older children, there is so much meaning and beauty in it! That said, my 4 and 7 year old are crazy about it too.