Several years ago, my husband and I began reading a book to our children each night of the Advent season. Beginning the first of December, we sit the colorful book at the center of our white dinner table. Every night, we take turns reading the daily story from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp as the other parent eats dinner. Our children take this tradition very seriously. They’ve become rather devoted to our Advent readings, in fact!
At times, we rush to get to soccer or church. Other times, we read several pages at once to catch up, but we try to read it as often as possible during the month of December. We’ve read the book in the presence of dinner guests, grandparents, and our dear friend, Miracle who joined us for weekly dinners (ie: “Miracle Mondays”) for a precious season of our lives together. We’ve packed the chunky book in my purse for dinners away from home and in suitcases for the days just before Christmas when we’re often traveling.
Each day’s devotion encompasses a different Biblical account of the lineage of Jesus. From Creation to the Manger, every story points to the heart of God and His plan to redeem people through a Savior. We have worked through the book with a Jesse Tree of various forms, and we have done the book by itself. (If you are unfamiliar with the tradition of a Jesse Tree, rest assured that I plan to share that Advent activity in another post.) Last year, I had the privilege of utilizing Unwrapping the Greatest Gift each day with the students in my classroom. (I currently teach a multi grade classroom in a private, Christian school.) My students absolutely loved this devotional! In fact, one of this year’s Sixth Graders (whom I taught last year as a Fifth Grader) has already requested that we read this book together again during the month of December.
How precious that a book can be so beloved by the tweens in my classroom, the preschooler in my home, and can still be one of my own, personal favorite books as an adult. This book is the epitome of the quote by C.S. Lewis that says, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally, and often far more, worth reading at the age of duty and beyond.” There are very few books that I want to read and reread, not to mention on an annual basis. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is an exception to that rule. I want to read it year after year, fully knowing that I will grow deeper and deeper into an understanding of God’s heart for His people.
No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally, and often far more, worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” ~C.S. Lewis
The pages are beautifully illustrated and each Biblical account is preceded by a passage of scripture. As a parent, I appreciate the application questions at the end of every day’s Advent writing. Our family uses these to launch discussions around the dinner table about things that matter most. Prompted by the book’s questions, we’ve asked our children questions similar to these:
“How can you show kindness to someone who seems lonely at school?”
“How could our family work together to love our neighbors?”
While I own a copy of the book, I was able to reserve another copy from the public library to use with my students in my classroom. A newer edition of the book comes with a small, pop-up Jesse Tree and ornaments. While this post isn’t dedicated to the Jesse Tree tradition, specifically, I can’t resist the urge to suggest that this newer edition might be the perfect choice for families that want to engage in a simpler form of the Jesse Tree. This edition has made its way onto my Amazon wishlist.
Sweet friends, I’m so glad we are having this chat in the earliest days of the fall season. If you are going to invest in one resource to focus your Christmas celebration and family culture on Jesus? If you desire for this Christmas to be more sacred than other years? I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas for your own dinner table. If your budget is tight, as mine has often been during the Christmas season, be the first to put this book on hold at your public library.
May your children grow in an understanding of the good news of Jesus as they learn the truth of the Gospel, the very best news. May your family dinners be seasoned with conversations about the love of God this Christmas. May your heart draw nearer and nearer to the One who created you and loved you from the beginning of Creation.
From my heart to yours,