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I know that many people read the story of the three trees at Christmas, but for me the story is one that evokes especially poignant emotions at Easter. While several retellings of this story exist, I really like this new, beautifully illustrated picture book version by Elena Pasquali and illustrated by Sophie Windham.
"Long ago, on a hillside, stood three trees ... Under the cold night sky that glittered with stars, they dreamed their dreams."
The Three Trees folktale is one with a Christian message that tells of Jesus' life journey from cradle to cross from the perspective of three forest trees. Each of the three trees stand together on a hill and dream of greatness: the first wants to be made into a chest and hold a fine treasure, the second yearns to be a proud ship and carry a king and the third tree hopes to remain forever on the hillside pointing to heaven. One day, woodcutters climb the hill and chop down the trees. The three trees lament over their situations as the forms they eventually take are not as they had dreamed. However, overtime the trees each realize they play a greater role than they could ever imagine. They are each part of God's plan and play a part in Jesus's life.
I like several things about this version of the familiar tale. First of all it provides a wonderful example of how God's will may not always be the same as our will, but God does have wonderful plan, a purpose in mind for each and every one of us. Also, in Windham's illustrations each of the trees is different, just like each of God's children. The text is not overly long and slightly simplified when compared to alternate retellings, and Pasquali retains the heart and emotion of the story. For this reason, this retelling is particularly suited for younger children. Windham's folksy artistic style definitely is a good fit for this story. My kids remarked at all the extra details in Windham's colorful illustrations, and we especially like the elaborate borders and different sized panels.
"The tree that had borne his death was now a symbol of his life. And the third tree knew that it would stand for ever, pointing to heaven."
Because of the way the final sentences are worded, the book can be used as a useful tool in talking about the symbolism of the cross in Christianity -- the cross is not only a symbol of the suffering and death of Jesus but, as it stands empty pointing toward heaven, it also serves a reminder of the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. Windham's final illustration shows a cross superimposed over a tree full of life, a lovely image showing the Easter blessing of new life through Jesus Christ.
Good Friday and Earth Day fell on the same day this year, a rare occurrence. Our focus was on Jesus, our Savior, and God the Father, creator of Heaven and Earth. We made a handprint Earth craft encircled with the powerful message found in John 3:16.
I volunteered to help out with crafts at our church's Vacation Bible School this summer. Our church is small, and I needed crafts that were simple and appropriate for all ages. I was happy to find several great craft ideas online, including a Beaded Cross Necklace. Glue Dots helped make this project easy to assemble and quick because the necklace required no drying time.
One of the VBS lessons had the theme, "Jesus, our Savior, says, 'Believe!'" We crafted "I Believe" beaded cross necklaces and key chains to go along with this lesson (original idea from Sunday School Network.com). To make the project more memorable and correspond with our lesson, we used color changing UV beads from Steve Spangler Science (they are the same size as Pony Beads). These beads look white but turn different colors when placed in the sun. I held up a bead before we made the craft and asked the kids if they would believe me if I told them that the white bead was actually a blue bead. Believing takes faith. (Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Using color changing beads is the perfect way to illustrate this concept.
"I Believe" Colors of Faith Color Changing Beaded Cross Craft
Materials: 4 Color Changing UV Beads (Red, Blue, Green, Yellow) 1 Black Pony Bead 1 White Pony Bead 3 ft length of 3 mm sueded cord (for necklace) or 1 ft length of 3 mm sueded cord (for key chain decoration) or 1.5 ft length sueded cord (for bracelet) 2 Mini Glue Dots (3/16 in)
Directions for this craft: 1). Cut cord to desired length. Slide the yellow bead to the center of the length of cord.
2). Fold the cord in half and place the green bead over both ends of the cord. Slide the green bead down until it touches the top of the yellow bead.
3). Hold the white bead vertically. Apply a Glue Dot on each side hole of the white bead and stick the red bead and blue bead to each side of the white bead. Make sure that the red and blue beads' holes face perpendicular to the white bead and are even with each other. (Refer to picture)
We started our Advent Wreath craft in November, and I was planning to post it earlier this month but then my son ended up in the hospital. Since we are still in the middle of the advent season, I thought I'd post it today.
The season of Advent is a little harder to explain to a child than Christmas. Involving kids in the season by using an Advent wreath is one way to help them prepare for Christmas and learn about God's promise to send His Son. The word "advent" comes from the Latin word for coming - "adventus."
An advent wreath helps us prepare for the coming of Jesus. The four candles, one for each Sunday in Advent, help remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World. In our wreath, there are three purple candles (signifying royalty) and one pink (signifying joy). The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent. Some wreathes include a white fifth candle in the center, the "Christ candle," lit on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, the four colored candles are replaced with white candles. The circular shape of the Advent wreath reminds us that God's love is unending, and the evergreens represent everlasting life.
❖❖❖❖❖❖ stArt Craft - Paper Advent Wreath Craft ❖❖❖❖❖❖
My kids are too young to light real candles so this year we decided to make a flameless paper Advent Wreath that they would be able to "light" with removable paper flames.
Materials: 2 paper towel tubes large circular paper plate paint scissors glue construction paper
1. Cut the two paper towel tubes in half to make four "candles." Paint three of the rolls purple and the remaining roll pink. 2. Cut a large circular hole out of the center of the paper plate to form a wreath shape. Cut four half-circle notches the size of the paper candle diameter in the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock positions so that the candles can be easily arranged in the wreath. Paint the wreath green. 3. To make the candle tops, after the paint has dried, cut out four 3-inch diameter circles from construction paper (three purple and one pink). Place a paper towel roll in the center of each circle and trace around it. Use a scissors to cut notches up to the circle drawn on each of the paper circles. Place glue around the rim of each candle and center the paper candle top on the candle and glue down the candle top to each candle, bending the notched cuts around the side of each candle. 4. Make four flames out of yellow construction paper. The bottom of each flame should include a long segment to insert in the candle top. Cut a notch in the top of each candle to make a place to insert the flame. 5. Add decorations to the green wreath. We added green holly leaves and red berries made out of construction paper. 6. (Optional) Paint a fifth tube white and place in the center of the wreath. If the candle are unstable, use play dough on the bottom to help stabilize.
The Christmas season comes to customary end on January 6th with the celebration of Epiphany or Three Kings Day. Epiphany commemorates the manifestation of Jesus and the visit of the Magi (Wise Men). They traveled to Bethlehem to worship Jesus after viewing the star, a shining light that revealed Jesus' birth (Matthew 2:1-12).
In telling the Christmas story, many children's books show three wise men visiting the stable shortly after Jesus' birth. Interestingly enough, the Biblical passages are rather vague and never specifically state the actual number of wise men or their date of arrival. The verses only tell that the Magi brought three gifts to Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The stable also is not mentioned. They entered the "house" and saw the child with his mother.
Are there any children's books that show the Magi visiting Jesus at a house and not a stable? Or with a different number of wise men? Bookie Woogie recently reviewed The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats, a book that, according to them, shows more than three wise men. As for a house instead of a stable, I'm not sure, so I'll have to refer to my readers for further book suggestions.
This Christmas my family discovered a newly published Christmas picture book by Lauren Castillo. In Christmas is Here, the wise men do not make an appearance at the stable. I want to make mention of it now because I think the book deserves a lot more attention that it received over the holidays. It is a book worth owning if you celebrate Christmas and makes a splendid read-aloud on Christmas Eve, especially if you already read the story from the Bible.
What makes Christmas is Here truly special is that Castillo merges past with present. She tells the Christmas story starting in the present time with a family that goes to see a live Nativity. As the little child in the story peers over the crib and looks down on baby Jesus the focus changes and the following pages powerfully depict the Biblical text taken directly from the King James Bible about the shepherds and angels and the birth of Jesus, the passages of Luke 2:8-14. In the end, as the text tells of the armies of heaven praising God, Castillo takes readers back to the present day with a gorgeous illustration showing the family and others gathered around the live Nativity as they join in the chorus of praise.
At church, before communion, we often sing The Agnus Dei. "Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us." I often wonder what my kids are thinking when they hear the verses of the Agnus Dei. During Lent many of us teach our children that Jesus died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. The imagery of Jesus as the Lamb of God is a natural extension of this teaching and the symbolism is worth discussing during the Lenten season with your kids.
John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29 NIV)
God offered up the perfect sacrifice, his Son, the “Sacrificial Lamb." Through Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection, we can have eternal life if we believe in Him. "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)
When we sing about the Lamb of God, we remember Christ's death on the cross and the sacrifice, and we praise God and offer our thanks and devotion to the Lamb, our Redeemer. "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Revelation 5:12 NIV)
Lamb of God Crayon Resist Lenten Craft
In art, the Agnus Dei symbol is often depicted as a lamb bearing a cross or banner. We made our own Agnus Dei artwork today for our stArt project. Starting with a white piece of paper, we cut out the lamb's body in a cloud shape.
While the kids were busy cutting out a head and legs out of black paper, I took a white crayon and wrote "Jesus" on each of the white body pieces. I also added some white swirls to look like wool. Using watercolor paint, the kids covered the lamb's body with paint and, through this wax resist artwork, it was revealed to them that Jesus is the "Lamb of God." Our sins are represented by the paint and Jesus, written in white crayon, takes away the sins of the world. I cut out a cross shape out of brown construction paper while the kids painted.
After the paint dried the kids assembled their own Agnus Dei artwork. The artwork indeed reminds us that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.