Karen Collum is a teacher, chaplain, student, mother and experienced children’s author, who took on the challenge of adapting Advent for children and their families. She talked recently about this Christmas book project and how we can celebrate and share our faith at this time of year.
What does Christmas mean to you?
I love Christmas. I love the way it enables families to gather, the giving and receiving of gifts and the quintessential Christmas morning photos. Christmas is definitely about family for me, but it’s also about faith. Nativity scenes pop up in shopping centres, Christmas carols can be heard far and wide and nothing beats a singalong at the local Carols by Candelight. The older I get the more in awe I am that Jesus came to this broken world as an infant, totally reliant on those around Him. That God became man is still too much for my heart and mind to comprehend!
Tell us about the process of adapting Advent.
Adapting Advent for younger readers and their families was a challenging, exciting and incredibly rewarding process. Once I had immersed myself in the original book, I then tried to present the content in a child-friendly, easy-to-access way while still maintaining a depth of theology within the writing. There were a few topics that I had to sit with for a long time before I was able to find an angle, a way of approaching the topic that would make sense to young readers. There was a lot of time and a lot of prayer involved in the process but at the end of the book I was thrilled with the final product. I think both books complement each other beautifully.
What did you learn about the story of Jesus’ birth by focusing on it so closely?
There were many times I found myself in awe of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. Nathan approached the advent story from so many different angles that I couldn’t help but be enriched by what I was reading. I particularly loved the focus on Mary’s faithfulness. Too often, she has been presented as timid figure. After reading Mary’s song of joy after she visits Elizabeth, I was struck by what a warrior of faith she was.
How can we ensure we remember Jesus ourselves amid all the end-of-year busyness?
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the stress of Christmas. There are presents to buy, food to organise, travel plans to arrange—sometimes it can all feel too much. I’ve found that the best way for me to keep Jesus at the centre of Christmas is to immerse myself every day in the Bible story. Some days that might be listening to some Christmas carols, other days it might be watching a dramatisation of the birth of Jesus. Most of the time it involves me opening my Bible and reading the Christmas story again through the eyes of the gospel writers. When I’m filled with wonder and joy at what God did all those years ago through a helpless, beautiful baby, it helps me navigate the inevitable busyness of December. I like to think that Advent and Advent for Kids can be resources that families might use to help them stay connected to the heart of Christmas.
So, how did you intend Advent for Kids to be used by families?
There are so many ways Advent for Kids can be used! That’s one of my favourite things about the book. Some families might choose to read it together for family worship every day in December, and pick and choose which activities they might like to use. Older children might like to read it independently, then share what they have learned with siblings or other family members. I also love the idea of churches giving each child or family a copy of Advent for Kids as an early Christmas present. It could easily become a shared communal experience where the entire church is reading Advent and Advent for Kids at the same time and journeying through the story together. Some churches have even used the readings as the basis for the sermons throughout December.
Why take the time to share Jesus in our communities at this time of year?
There is an openness to Jesus at Christmas that might not be there at other times of the year. Even people who would not consider themselves religious might find themselves humming along to a Christmas carol. The imagery of Christmas—the angels heralding the birth of Jesus, wise men, shepherds and a baby in a manger—are all around us from greeting cards to shopping mall decorations. Sharing the humanity of Jesus and explaining the depth of God’s love for all people seems to make sense at Christmas. I like to think that people’s hearts are a little bit softer and a little more open to the Good News at this time of year. There are so many hurting people in our communities and the nativity story is essentially one of hope. We have a opportunities to share that hope year-round, but there’s possibly more opportunities in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Advent for Kids and Advent are available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online.