We circle up under the light of the tree, the firstborn leaning hard into my side and bending his head close to see the words, my little girl taking her place on what’s left of my lap, the baby in hiding filling me toward fullness. I turn the page and read aloud ancient words under dim light. I look up at shadowy little faces and remember seeing them first as silhouettes on a black screen, just a hint of his Daddy’s nose, a mere sketching of her Grandmother’s likeness, each tiny form scarcely highlighted in sweeps of chalky white.

Early in the evening, my husband and I sat with friends around another tree, prodding our pastor for stories from childhood and parenthood, all the stages of life and his lessons learned. He told us of bacon and eggs and the Word served like black coffee at his family’s farm table in the dark of morning, and how he never lost his appetite for it.

“Keep telling the story,” he said as he referenced Psalm 78:

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done….
That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born….

The rocking chair creaked as the pastor echoed the Shema and the words right after, how we are to teach these things diligently to our children in the midst of our daily routines, “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

We’ve chosen a laid-back Advent this year. A few activities here and there, but no daily surprises behind the calendar doors. Our routine is meaningful yet sustainable. Each morning, the kids move the baby Jesus figurine from one door to the next in our wooden calendar. Every few days a new figurine joins the group in the Nativity scene with a Scripture reading of that individual’s part in the grand story. Before bed each night, we read a selection in The Jesus Storybook Bible, taking in the big picture of the fathers and mothers of faith who went before, those who foretold the Messiah’s first coming, seeing Him only dimly, like the traces of life on the ultrasound screen.

Our Advent may be simple, but it has structure and intentionality, something we’d been lacking for awhile. In the months of fall, my Bible reading with the kids disappeared as our previous routine gave way to scattered school mornings. Advent reminds me of what we’ve been missing.

After we coax the kids into their beds and turn out the lights, I reach for the next book on my list, “Together: Growing Appetites for God”. The themes of our evening chat come at me again. Everyday mama, Carrie Ward had tried for years to find a Bible reading plan that worked for her. Inevitably, her morning quiet time became not-so-quiet when her children would wake up in the middle of it. When she tried to read her Bible at night in bed, she would fall asleep. Besides that, she didn’t consider herself much of a reader. She had struggled with reading as a child and now as an adult she “rarely attempted reading for pleasure…there was no pleasure in it.”

But when she looked at those children in her care, she saw their unformed spiritual substance, those shadowy traces of who they might become. “I really wanted to succeed in reading the Bible–the entire Bible,” she shared, “This was something I had never done. And I wanted to get God’s Word into the minds and hearts of my children. I thought, Why not do both at the same time?” She determined herself to read the entire Bible aloud to her children, even if it took eight years. She worked the reading into her existing daily routines, and just like my pastor’s parents, she chose breakfast, a time of day when she and all her children were already gathered around the table.

She would read at least one chapter and even more if the kids asked for seconds. And they did. When they finished the whole Bible in less than five years, the kids asked to jump right back into Genesis the next day. In the beginning, Carrie watched as they acted out impromptu plays based on the day’s text. Through the years as the children matured, their response came in the form of more poignant questions, Scripture memory and commitments to Jesus.

Carrie says that “it’s worthwhile to envision ten, fifteen, or even twenty years down the road…. Think about them leaving home, with lives built on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. Imagine them knowing where to turn when they sin, having the assurance that Jesus is their only hope. Think about preparing them to go the distance by giving them ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:17). Consider how God could use your children, grounded in His Word, to glorify His name in the world.”

I read the book in less than a day, underlining, bracketing, penciling in stars and notes, all this motivation for me to get back to reading plain Scripture aloud with my kids. It’s taken me five years to get past the middle of our read through the Bible, and with Carrie’s inspirational stories and practical suggestions, I’m looking forward to getting back to it, building it into our routine beyond Christmas and into the new year, all to see them grow in wisdom and stature and emerge from shadows into full knowledge, these two and the child yet to be born.

{Have you ever read the Scripture in its entirety? Have you thought of combining your own reading with your desire for sharing the Word with your children? In light of the way your routines already run, what plan might work for you?}

The Giveaway: Would you like your own copy of “Together: Growing Appetites for God”? Today Carrie Ward and Moody Publishers are graciously offering a free book to one Message in a Mason Jar reader! To enter the giveaway, simply comment below about your struggles or successes in reading the Word together. Please note: first time commenters are moderated. For extra entries (include a separate comment here for each entry): subscribe to Message in a Mason Jar via email or RSS feed, like Message in a Mason Jar on Facebook, share this post on Twitter, share on Facebook, and/or share on Pinterest. The giveaway ends at midnight EST on Sunday, December 16.

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