Advent is just around the corner, can you believe it? To help you and your family focus on Christ this Advent, I’m excited to share with you about a new resource written by our very own Holly Mackle, Little Hearts Prepare Him Room.
I asked Holly a few questions about the book:
Christina: What is this book about?
Holly: Little Hearts Prepare Him Room is a family Advent devotional designed to go deeper as children grow older. The well-known texts call children and parents alike to taste the grace of Christmas, and apply that grace to the parts of life that don’t make sense. In reflecting on the account of Christ’s birth, you will consider themes such as what it means to be a covenant child, to have a federal head, and to know the assurance of God’s salvation.
This devotional is intended to present real, raw, sometimes hard-to-swallow doctrinal truth through the conduit of the recognizable and memorable story of Jesus’ birth. The scriptures are mainly from the gospels of Luke and Matthew, the themes straight from the Westminster Confession of Faith, the concepts direct from reformed doctrine, and the questions heading right for the heart of the matter: what God says about us and what that means. But the big words aren’t the real point. What matters is driving big concepts deep into little hearts, and reminding big hearts of concepts that alter the way we live.
Christina: What prompted you to write it?
Holly: A couple of years ago, I was invited to an Advent ornament party, where each attendee arrived with 25 of the same handmade ornament representing one day of Advent. We swapped with the other guests, and each person left with a complete set of ornaments. It was a fabulous party, hosted by one of my favorite friends, and I left with the most gorgeous set of ornaments…and a devotional that frustrated me for the duration of the season. It wasn’t that the host had chosen poorly—this was just the one she found on Pinterest. But conceptually, it didn’t go much farther than scratching the surface, and I was left wanting so much more to pair with the ornaments. I wanted my girls to mentally connect these tangible representations of Christmas with meatier truths.
Christina: What is your hope for it?
Holly: This was written as a personal project for my own family initially, but now that it’s available to the public I think I would just shift my hopes for it to a broader audience, praying that children and parents alike would connect this memorable story to doctrinal truth in a super tangible way.
But I also hope that women would feel encouraged to host their own ornament party, creating lasting ornaments for their family and their friends’ families. There are suggestions for how to host a party (as well as suggestions for how to pair an ornament set you already own with this devotional) inside the book.
Christina: Why is Advent such an opportune time to teach our children the story of redemption?
Holly: One of the things I most appreciate about the teachings of the PCA is that the Christmas story is presented in the context of the entirety of scripture, and not just as an isolated occurrence. We are encouraged to look back to the garden, to Old Testament Israel, and to the prophets to see the coming of the Savior, and then to look ahead—to Jesus’ earthly ministry, to the cross, to the resurrection, and the formation of the visible church, on up through history to our own earthly lives and the place where we fit into the redemption story God is weaving. To me, Advent is the perfect time to stop and look backwards and forwards with the ones we love the most, and to appreciate the complex work of the Master Weaver.
Christina: How can this devotional be used year after year?
Holly: It’s set up to grow with your children and (hopefully) be the right amount for them at the right time. I offer suggestions as to how much to try at different developmental stages, but as each family is different, it is an easy resource to adjust to your specific needs.
Christina: What role do traditions play in the Christian home? How can we utilize such traditions to disciple our children?
Holly: My husband, David, and I want to be intentional with the traditions we set for our girls to help them contextualize the birth of Christ as the hinge point in the whole of God’s redemption story. Decorations, ornaments, food…all of those seemingly simple things can have lasting impact on the mind and memories of a child when they’re connected to truth year after year.
Christina: Explain what a Jesse tree is and how we can use this devotional in conjunction with it.
Holly: A Jesse tree celebrates Advent through the lineage of Jesus, so the ornaments for a Jesse tree will focus on the generations leading up to his birth. While this devotional does not take that approach, if you already have ornaments that fit with a Jesse tree, I’ve included suggestions as to how to pair those ornaments with this devotional should you want to try it.
The church will begin to celebrate Advent on November 27th this year. Little Hearts, Prepare Him Room runs 25 days and can be started on that date or on December 1st (or any day of the holiday…let’s be real…how many of us can really get through without skipping a day?)
Christina: Can you provide an excerpt from the devotional?
Holly: Absolutely. Here is the 19th day, focusing on a portion of the story of the wise men and their response to Herod, and introducing the concept of providence.
Day 19: Wise Men Don’t Return to Herod
“And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” Matthew 2:12
God loves his people so much that he will do whatever it takes to fulfill his plan. Sometimes his plan involves circumstances that are hard or scary for us, and sometimes his plan is to keep us from those things that would be hard or scary. It is difficult to understand that God is good to us, whether he helps us to avoid a problem or has us walk right into it.
When we talk about God’s plan we use the word sovereignty, which we learned earlier as God planning every detail of our lives. We can also speak of God’s providence, which is kind of the same thing, but a little different. The reformation leader John Calvin teaches that providence reminds us that there is God’s special care over us as his children, and that we can live every day without fear or worry. God is sovereign—he arranges the details. And God is also provident—he takes special care of his children as he arranges the details—even when those details include something we don’t see as good at the time.
One way God showed his providence, or special care of his children, was when he warned the wise men in a dream not to go back to Herod. The wise men listened to God’s truth rather than evil’s lie, and they acted on it. Truth spoken over Herod’s lie made them want to change their direction. They trusted and obeyed, and God used their obedience to protect Jesus from Herod’s evil plan to hurt him. God’s plan triumphed, and we can have the same trust in his good plan for our own lives—whether or not he protects us from a hard thing, or asks us to walk right into it.
Have you ever sensed the Holy Spirit protecting you from something?
What does that say about God when he seeks to protect us?
What does it say about God that sometimes he asks us to do things that are hard or scary?
Interested in getting your own copy? Visit the PCA bookstore by clicking here.
I have a couple of copies of this book to giveaway. Enter below. US Residents.