Chalice Press, 128 pages
Reviewed by Lauren G. Cochran
This book is God’s gift to parents, pastors and Christian education directors for Advent 2020. Can it be used in church, at home, virtually and in combinations of all the above? Check, check and check! Traci Smith gives abundant options for people of all ages to incorporate faith into the craziness that is Advent in tangible, creative and meaningful ways. Each chapter has a short introduction, multiple activities and several prayers to tie it all in a bow. Nothing requires a big hunt for elusive or expensive craft materials, and unlike so many resources currently available, the theology used is progressive and doesn’t leave the reader with a bad taste in their mouth.
You might be thinking, “I don’t have time to read this before Advent or to plan things!” Friends, I am that person… and I read this book. What’s more is that when I read it, I did not get that sense of impending doom that clouds over parents and caregivers during December where we fool ourselves into thinking, “I must do all things and be all things for my family and my church.” Smith offers grace and guidance: “The effort you make is everything. … If everyone gets together and gives one of the practices a solid attempt, consider that a win.”
Some of the ideas offered in this book are familiar, and some are new — but largely they’re a reminder to me that many of the traditions my family practices in our home could incorporate our faith more directly — and I’m a pastor-mom who isn’t making these connections! I love that Smith encourages organic and thoughtful participation from the whole family, young to old, local to those video-chatting in for the tree decoration.
For the church professionals out there, this is a great book to point your families toward and for your ministry. It not only has ideas that folks can do at home if they aren’t able to come to church (so you aren’t reinventing the wheel), but it has nice ideas that could be used for children’s moments in worship, Advent devotions at meetings and there is an entire chapter devoted to “difficult moments” in this season.
I struggle to find anything that could be improved with this book, but it’s possible that if a church could only purchase one resource for all of Advent, some more mature readers might want a little more depth than offered here. However, the depth from this book comes from the practice and conversations it helps create, and the simple questions posed by Smith are good for anyone looking to reflect on this season.
I leave you with this good news of great joy: Traci Smith has shared with us all (church professionals and families and anyone seeking to have a “sacred season”) the perfect Advent gift — an easy to read and enjoyable to use Christmas companion. Your family and church family will enjoy using this book year after year, so get your copy and bookmark your favorite activities to start sharing!
Lauren G. Cochran is a Presbyterian pastor in the Chicago suburbs, mom to two kids and one dog, and always wants more snow.