Saturday, October 27, 2018

New Resources for Advent


I can't believe it's time to start thinking about Advent, but the new Liturgical Year will be here before we know it.  I'll definitely be pulling out some favorite tools and activities (you can find all my Advent posts here) but it's also nice to bring some new resources into both my classroom and personal prayer time each year.  Here are a few things I'll be using once Advent begins that I thought you might enjoy too!

(All of these items are new to me and I'm using them for the first time this year.  I only recommend things I love and think my readers might like to use in their homes and classrooms.  I received the Mosaic Jesse Tree and the Wee Believers resources for free in exchange for an honest review.  I won the Christmas Crazies book in a giveaway and liked it enough to share.  I ordered the Rejoice pack as a parish leader to review.)

The Mosaic Jesse Tree by Sara Estabrooks of To Jesus, Sincerely

Sara sent me a copy of her updated Mosaic Jesse Tree and reflection booklet (which now has the Imprimatur!) and I thoroughly love it.  The Jesse Tree is a perfect way to help keep Christ at the center of your preparations during the Season of Advent. Her full color ornaments give an awesome impression of texture and depth through the mosaic symbols, and while I have seen many versions of the Jesse Tree, I am particularly excited that the images are simple, but not particularly childish, meaning that they will work for a K-8 display in my school and not be too complicated for the primary kiddos or dismissed by my junior high students. I also love that the daily reflections about those in Jesus' bloodline contain a Bible verse from both the Old and New Testament, making it a great resource for my upcoming unit on Salvation History.  The reflections are well written but brief, making them a doable addition to daily prayer. 

The booklet is printed in full color on high quality paper.  The ornaments are on heavy cardstock and the art pops in vivid color.  I will probably laminate the ornaments so that they will last for years of use, but you can decide the best way to display and preserve yours.  You can order your own set to assemble, or ready to use, or a printable version to color yourself.  AND Sara is generously offering my readers 15% off any option of the Mosaic Jesse Tree in her Etsy shop using the code KATIEBOGNER2018, good until December 1st!



 Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Mary from Ascension Press

I'm always on the look out for new (and affordable) resources to use in parish ministry, so when I heard about Ascension Press' Advent series I ordered a review pack.  This isn't their typical Bible Study series- instead it is meant to be used more as a parish mission.  Gather your people, show a 30 minute intro video to capture their attention, and give out affordable copies of a journal that lasts the rest of Advent.

Instead of requiring groups to meet during the inevitably busy season of Advent, the participants can sign up to receive weekly videos through email.  The videos bring together the talents of a few speakers you might have seen through Catholic social media- Fr. Mark Toups, Sr. Miriam James, and Fr. Josh Johnson.  The meditations seek to guide us to see Advent through the eyes of Mary.  Each day offers a reflection, a Psalm, a Scripture reading, a prompt, and room to journal.  The books are also full color and offer a weekly piece of art showing the experiences of the Holy Family.

At the link above you can get a review pack for your parish, order bulk sets of books at great prices, download free phone backgrounds of the beautiful art, and preview some of the content and videos.  Participants can sign up to receive a new video by email each week of Advent to go along with the companion journal.  I'm excited to use this for my personal prayer this Advent and to share it with my parish.


Advent and Nativity toys from Wee Believers

I've written multiple times before of my love for Wee Believers toys, especially their Vocation Dolls and Mass Kits.  Their series of Advent and Christmas resources continues their reputation for superior quality, lovely design, and rich educational value.  The Nativity Paper Chain, Advent Calendar Clings, and Pop Out Nativity all utilize the same art (which is a beautiful watercolor/cut paper style that reminds me of Eric Carle), making them perfect to use to "count down" and pray during Advent and then continue to use during the Season of Christmas, showing the connection between our time of preparation and celebration.
You can see all of their Advent and Christmas resources at the link above, AND they have a site wide 30% off sale running right now, so it's a great time to order for the coming Seasons!
The Advent Calendar Clings include a set of heavy weight wall stickers that you can hang on your windows, wall, fridge, etc. Starting on December 1st, there are 24 numbered stickers, one for each day leading up to Christmas, as well as lots of little accent pieces to decorate with.  The stickers are sturdy enough that if removed carefully they could definitely be reused again another year.  The set includes a full color insert with a short meditation for each piece, telling the story of Christmas as your little one adds one sticker each day, ending up with a whole Nativity on display for Jesus' birthday.

Another option for encouraging the meaning of waiting during Advent is the sweet 120 piece Nativity Paper Chain.  This easily could be used as a way to count good deeds during Advent, or allow each family member to add a link during the days leading up to Christmas (no fighting over which kid gets to add the singular daily piece!)  The variety of links includes twelve different designs, and again includes an educational insert telling the story of Christmas using the images.  No glue or adhesive is required, as each piece is cut and notched to fit together easily, meaning after the Christmas season you can disassemble and reuse another year.  This chain would be fun to decorate a Christmas tree with, or drape around the living room as a festive and child-like reminder of the story of the first Christmas.

And finally, they also offer this sweet Pop Out Nativity (full picture above) made of sturdy heavy cardboard pieces on their own little stands.  The set is great for little hands as there is nothing to worry about breaking.  There is another educational resource telling the story of Christmas, and the storage folder opens up into a trifold stable.  All the pieces can be easily disassembled and stored flat, folding down to the size of a children's book, so this also would also be perfect to tuck into a book basket during the Christmas season.

The Cure for the Christmas Crazies by April Hartmann

This vibrant picture book is exactly what you might be looking for to remind your kids (and yourself) of what we are really getting ready for during Advent.  The book features a series of letters between little elf Norbert and Santa Claus (with an included biography on the connection between the names St. Nicolas and Santa Claus).  Norbert observes some "crazy" behavior in his family during the days leading up to Christmas, including super long gift lists, overwhelming baking, tons of Christmas decorations, and stressful shopping.  Santa writes back with the cure for these "Christmas Crazies," pointing Norbert to stories from the Bible that remind his family about the real meaning of Christmas.  I think kids will really like the bright illustrations, fun back-and-forth letter format, and relatable holiday "craziness," and the messages of truth will be heard loud and clear.
Visit the link above to preview the pages inside, hear more about the storyline, get free matching printables, and order your own copy. And if you follow @cureforthechristmascrazies on Instagram, April is giving away more copies leading up to Advent- you can go enter and win your own signed copy!

So those are some of the new resources I'll be using this Advent.  What are you excited to implement in your home or classroom?

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