This week I listened to At Home with Sally Clarkson podcast and she and a friend described how wonderful celebrating Advent with our children can be. Sally described reading Scripture, poetry, and favorite Christmas picture books throughout the the month of December with their kids. While she reads to them, they snack on special treats and color Christmas pictures. She said that her goals were to give her children special family traditions that made them feel safe and grounded and to teach them the sweetness of the true story of Christmas. Lovely!
After listening, I felt so inspired to give this gift of Advent to my kids. I looked up all of the titles that she recommended, and luckily our library and Amazon had a lot of them. So for the last few days, we have been having a little Advent in the Afternoon time around the kitchen table. On some days we have something homemade, but other days we’ve had celery sticks or vanilla wafers- you just can’t do everything!
We start out with the daily Bible reading from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and cut out and hang the accompanying ornaments on our tree. (Ann Voskamp supplies free ornament download to go with her book.) I love that we are learning about Jesus’ lineage and God’s redemption plan.
Then I choose a picture book or poem to read to the kids. We have found some new favorites! Beware: several of them are tear-jerkers!
We also read this poem- Willie and Annie’s Christmas Prayer, about two children who have lost their mother at Christmas time and how God still meets their needs. I’m including it below for you to enjoy!
This little Advent in the Afternoon time has been so precious. Do you read special Christmas books to the kids in your life? What are some of your favorites? I highly recommend setting aside a few minutes today to share some of these special books.
Willie and Annie’s Christmas Prayer
‘Twas the eve before Christmas. “Good night,” had been said,
And Annie and Willie had crept into bed;
There were tears on their pillows and tears in their eyes,
And each little bosom was heaving with sighs,
For tonight their stern father’s command had been given
That they should retire precisely at seven
Instead of at eight – for they troubled him more
With questions unheard of than ever before:
He had told them he thought this delusion a sin,
No such creature as “Santa Claus” ever had been.
And he hoped after this, he should never more hear
How he scrembled down chimneys with presents each year.
And this was the reason the two little heads
So restlessly tossed on their soft, downy beds.
Eight, nine, and the clock on the steeple tolled ten,
Not a word has been spoken by either till then,
When Willie’s sad face from the blanket did peep,
And whispered, “Dear Annie, is ‘ou fast as’eep?”
“Why, no, brother Willie,” A sweet voice replies,
“I’ve long tried in vain, but I can’t shut my eyes,
For somehow it makes me so sorry because
Dear papa has said there is no ‘Santa Claus.’
Now we know there is, and it can’t be denied,
For he came every year before mamma died;
But, then, I’ve been thinking that she used to pray,
And God would hear everything mamma would say,
And maybe she asked him to send Santa Claus here
With that sackful of presents he brought every year.”
“Well, why tan’t we p’ay dest as mamma did den,
And ask Dod to send him with p’esents aden?”
Four little bare feet bounded out on the floor,
And four little knees the soft carpet pressed,
And two tiny hands were clasped close to each breast.
“Now, Willie, you know we must firmly believe
That the presents we ask for we’re sure to receive;
You must wait very still till I say the “Amen,”
And by that you will know that your turn has come then.”
“Dear Jesus, look down on my brother and me,
And grant us the favor we are asking of thee.
I want a wax dolly, a teaset, and ring,
And an ebony workbox that shuts with a spring.
Bless papa, dear Jesus, and cause him to see
That Santa Claus loves us as much as does he;
Don’t let him get fretful and angry again
At dear brother Willie and Annie. Amen.”
“Please, Desus, ‘et Santa Taus tum down tonight,
And b’ing us some p’esents before it is light;
I want he should div’ me a nice ‘ittle s’ed,
With bright shinin’ ‘unners, and all painted red;
A box full of tandy, a book, and a toy.
Amen, and then, Desus, I’ll be a dood boy.”
Their prayers being ended, they raised up their heads,
With hearts light and cheerful, again sought their beds.
They were lost soon in slumber, both peaceful and deep,
And with fairies in dreamland were roaming in sleep.
Eight, nine, and the little French clock had struck ten,
Ere the father had thought of his children again:
He seems now to hear Annie’s half-suppressed sighs,
And to see the big tears stand in Willie’s blue eyes.
“I was harsh with my darlings,” he mentally said,
“And should not have sent them so early to bed;
But then I was troubled, my feelings found vent,
For bankstock today has gone down ten percent.
But of course they’ve forgotten their troubles ere this,
And that I denied then their thrice-asked-for kiss:
But, just to make sure, I’ll go up to their door,
For I never spoke harsh to my darlings before.”
So saying, he softly ascended the stairs,
And arrived at the door to hear both of their prayers;
His Annie’s “Bless papa” drew forth the big tears,
And Willie’s grave promise fell sweet on his ears.
“Strange – strange – I’d forgotten,” said he with a sigh,
“How I longed when a child to have Christmas draw nigh.”
“I’ll atone for my harshness,” he inwardly said,
“By answering their prayers ere I sleep in my bed.”
Then he turned to the stairs and softly went down,
Threw off velvet slippers and silk dressing gown,
Donned hat, coat, and boots, and was out in the street,
A millionaire facing the cold, driving sleet!
Nor stopped he until he had bought everything
From the box full of candy to the tiny gold ring;
Indeed, he kept adding so much to his store,
That the various presents outnumbered a score.
Then homeward he turned. With his holiday load,
With Aunt Mary’s help, in the nursery was stowed.
Miss Dolly was seated beneath a pine tree,
By the side of a table spread out for her tea;
A workbox well fitted in the center was laid,
And on it the ring for which Annie had prayed,
A soldier in uniform stood by a sled,
“With bright shining runners, and all painted red.”
There were balls, dogs, and horses, books pleasing to see,
And birds of all colors were perched in the tree!
While Santa Claus, laughing, stood up in the top,
As if getting ready more presents to drop.
And as the fond father the picture surveyed,
He thought for his trouble he had amply been paid,
And he said to himself, as he brushed off a tear,
“I’m happier tonight than I’ve been for a year;
I’ve enjoyed more pure pleasure than every before;
What care I if bank stock falls ten percent more!
Hereafter I’ll make it a rule, I believe,
To have Santa Claus visit us each Christmas Eve.”
So thinking, he gently extinguished the light,
And, tripping down stairs, retired for the night.
As soon as the beams of the bright morning sun
put the darkness to flight, and the stars one by one,
Four little blue eyes out of sleep opened wide,
And at the same moment the presents espied;
Then out of their beds they sprang with a bound,
And the very gifts prayed for were all of them found.
They laughed and they cried, in their innocent glee,
And shouted for papa to come quickly see
What presents old Santa Claus brought in the night
(Just the things that they wanted,) and left before light:
“And now,” added Annie, in a voice soft and low,
“You’ll believe there’s a ‘Santa Claus’, papa, I know”;
While dear little Willie climbed up on his knee,
Determined no secret between them should be,
And told him in soft whispers how Annie had said
That their dear, blessed mamma, so long ago dead,
Used to kneel down by the side of her chair,
And that God up in heaven had answered her prayer.
“Den we dot up and prayed dust as well as we tould,
And Dod answered our prayers: now wasn’t He dood?”
“I should say that He was, if He sent you all these,
And knew just what presents my children would please.
(Well, well, let him think so, the dear little elf,
‘Twould be cruel to tell him I did it myself.”)
Blind father! Who caused your stern heart to relent,
And the hasty words spoken so soon to repent?
‘Twas the Being who bade you steal softly upstairs,
And made you his agent to answer their prayers.
-Sophia P. Snow