Do you celebrate the season of Advent? Candles, wreaths, and carol services are abundant this time of year, and brightly colored calendars tempt us with a square of chocolate behind each numbered door. We see Advent celebrations—or at least countdown celebrations—all around us.
But in Latin, the word adventus simply means arrival. Traditionally and historically, Christians marked this time of year not just by awaiting the anniversary of Christ’s first arrival, but by contemplating the Second Coming as well.
Advent—like Children’s Poetry—Shows us the Divine in the Ordinary
Advent is more than a countdown to presents; it’s a time of anticipation and preparation. “Joy to the world!” the anthem rings, “The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare Him room.” Advent reminds us the incarnation leads to resurrection, and every moment of Christmas points directly to the Easter story. As we prepare the rooms in our ordinary homes for the holiday, we are reminded of the extraordinary rooms our Savior is preparing for us above.
Yet it’s easy to push the ecstatic joy of Christmas to the side, and focus on all the urgent things we have to do, isn’t it? Even though we know the miracle of Christ made flesh changed the trajectory of humankind for eternity, we’re still readily distracted. But what if we stopped separating Christmas out into its own category, and started, instead, seeing Advent themes woven into everything we do?
The lesson of the Incarnation, after all, is that the divine invaded the ordinary.
Advent Lessons in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
A Sonlight education is an education told in stories, full of transcendent moments in which the ordinary becomes illuminated.
- Through stories, we participate in adventure, redemption, and truth.
- Through stories, we also walk in the steps of those who traverse different—and sometimes difficult—paths.
- Through stories and poetry, we see beauty in the ordinary.
Stories transform the ordinary.
If you have kids, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is inescapable. But this ordinary tune doesn’t exactly strike a chord as immediately worthy of Advent contemplation, does it? It’s no majestic carol; it’s squeaked out in recitals, scraped out from wind-up toys, and warbled in lullabies. The repetitive and sometimes off-key tune often grates on our nerves. So why am I talking about Twinkle, Twinkle in the same breath as truth and beauty? Shouldn’t we turn our eyes somewhere grandiose, instead?
But the First Arrival—the First Christmas—didn’t happen where people expected. No one was looking to shepherds for a discussion of the Messiah; no one was looking to the countryside for a king. Maybe the true and the meaningful is hidden in plain sight, just as Jesus of Nazareth was. Once our eyes are opened to the possibility of Advent themes in all we do, there’s so much to see. Consider the surprisingly poetic third verse of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, assigned reading in Favorite Poems of Childhood, an older Sonlight book that’s still on my shelf—and, I imagine, on many veteran Sonlighters’ shelves as well.
“When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.”
So beautiful! Not quite what you expected from an overplayed lullaby, is it? We are lights, and it’s impossible for light to escape notice in the face of darkness.
Extension Ideas for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
After reading the song in its entirety from page of 70 of Favorite Poems of Childhood, ask your students what Bible scenes they can picture. As I think about this—the third verse in particular—I can easily imagine:
- The shepherds in a dark field, stunned by the sudden bright angelic announcement
- The wise men in a far land, puzzling over the mysterious star
- The torches and clay jars of Gideon’s army, rushing forward in illuminating victory
- We as Christians, shining our lights in a dark world
- The Messiah, as the Light of the world, come to redeem creation
And how powerful to follow up the poetry reading with this prophecy from Isaiah chapter sixty, verses one through three, and verse nineteen:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn….
The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.” -
What a joyous celebration!
After reading through both the poem and the selection from Isaiah, have your students look through the stanzas again. What stands out? (My favorite line: “As your bright and tiny spark / lights the traveler in the dark...”) Ask them to explain why the line they chose is meaningful—and then listen. We can learn so much by listening to our children.
Incorporate art into your Advent lesson by pulling out navy blue or black construction paper, deep and dark to represent the night sky. Use vibrant colored pencils, oil crayons, chalk pastels, or metallic markers, and illustrate a line from a song—or a scene from a related Bible story. Integrate music appreciation, too; listen to both Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem while you color. And don’t miss Handel’s Messiah. The People That Walked in Darkness from Part 1, Scene 3 is inspired by these same passages—and more—in Isaiah.
Advent Lessons in Other Sonlight Books
Like the Christ Child himself, Advent lessons aren’t always wrapped in flashy packaging. Often, the most poignant moments occur when we are simply reading through the scheduled Sonlight assignments. Sonlighter Amy L. points out how My Father’s Dragon encourages us to prepare and then “keep going and doing…despite difficulties”; and Jessica G. reminds us the kids in History / Bible / Literature Level A’s The Boxcar Children didn’t even recognize Grandfather in their midst throughout most of the story.
As you obediently continue down the path of faithfulness—like the characters in The Light at Tern Rock—keep your eyes open for moments when the divine invades the ordinary. Ask God to show you; he will. Advent is everywhere.