Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Familyman's Review

I can't believe how quickly this year is going. We're nearing the end of October. Soon it will be Thanksgiving season. And then the Christmas festivities begin. In fact, I purchased several Christmas gifts this past week since I found some really great deals. The kids were singing Christmas songs this morning and were already talking about our big cookie-baking day. It's easy to get caught up in the the joy of the season. The music, the decorations, the treats, the time spent with family, the presents--it's an exciting time. But while there are many things to love about the holiday, we always want to remember the true meaning of Christmas. We want to teach our kids that the reason we give gifts is because God gave His greatest gift to us when He sent His Son to Earth. The reason we sing those beautiful songs is to remember the miracle of Jesus coming as a baby, born of a virgin. Yes, we enjoy snowmen and candy canes, but we make sure to keep the focus of Christmas on Christ.

We always appreciate when we find books and other resources that reinforce the true meaning of Christmas, just like these stories from The Familyman. We incorporate audio books into our schooling quite often, so it was a special treat to receive the Digital Downloads version of The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection. This set, written by Todd Wilson (and read by master storyteller Jim Hodges), contains 6 books that not only teach the true meaning of Christmas, but also provide many hours of entertainment. There are also 2 more books in the collection.

Cootie McKay's Nativity
This story takes place in 1956 and is a page out of the author's past. It starts when an elderly lady drives her car directly into the town's nativity set, nearly ruining Christmas for everyone. The people reluctantly depend on an eccentric man, Cootie McKay, to build a new nativity. Along the way, Cootie learns about the Baby in the manger, how He came to pay for our sins, and trusts in Him as his Savior. But what do the people think of his nativity set that was made with broken junk like aluminum cans, fishing lure,s license plates, and typewriter keys?

Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster
Jason and his sister are playing with the nativity set when he decides that the Christmas story is boring. As a typical 10-year-old boy, he adds a superhero to the story and pretends to blast the manger to bits. After being sent to bed early because of his bad attitude, Jason comes face-to-face with Captain Chaos himself, and learns what the world would be like if there had never been the manger. He learns a valuable lesson and finds new excitement in the Christmas story.

The Stranger
It was Christmas Eve and the members of a small-town church were fearful of The Stranger that had been visiting their homes. Dirty, foul-smelling, homeless--no one wanted this man around. When he knocked at their doors, they hid and prayed that he left them alone. Sam and his family went home that night in a snow storm. They had plans to enjoy the evening, but things start to go wrong. The tree won't work, they lose power, and eventually, the dreaded stranger knocks. The family shows the man pity as they invite him in and share their hot cocoa. By the next morning, they learned the true identity of the Stranger and the importance of loving all men.

The Bishop's Dream
This is a story of the original St. Nicholas who loved orphans--poor, dirty children, clothed in rags. He and his donkey Jonathon went from town to town delivering food, clothing, and love to these little ones. He believed that "helping others brings joy, not only to oneself, but more importantly, to God." The bishop dreams that he travels to the future, where he learns of a big man in a red suit. He's chocked to learn that this man has taken the priority at Christmastime and even more shocked to learn that the man is him. He wakes with the prayer, "It's all about You, not me. Help them to remember that."

Harold Grubbs
Isaac is a little embarrassed when his dad pulls out the ugly red and green Christmas vest that he wears every Sunday in December. It's not until he hears the story behind it though, that he understands the importance of it. When his father was a boy, Harold Grubbs, a cranky old man who disliked children visited their church. Harold sat by himself with a scowl on his face. After many weeks, the man softened and accepted Jesus as his Savior. He was a changed man. He went from being the meanest man in town to the nicest; from hating children, to loving them. From then on, he wore that ugly vest in December.When Isaac's dad grew up and Mr. Grubbs died, he learned why the vest was special and how a nail and straw man reminds us that Jesus still changes people.

Gladys Remembers Christmas
There were two things Gladys hated: Christmas and her name. She was 6 years old when her mother died and her life was forever changed. Christmas was a depressing time as it reminded her that everyone else was happy, while she was not. When she grew up and moved her 90-year-old father into a nursing home, she revisits her childhood home to look for a box that he requested. It was while she was there in the attic that she receives a visit from her deceased mother. The home is transformed back to when she was young. Through this experience, Gladys understands that God loves her more than anyone else and why He allowed her mother to die. She gains a new love for Christmas and her name.

The Secret of the Snow Village
Katherine is staying at her grandmother's house with her whole family. She spends time by herself staring and the elaborate Christmas village scene, longing to be a part of it. That night, she's awakened by the sound of a bell chiming and kids giggling. She's drawn to the sounds and follows them, letting her curiosity guide her. As she walks out the front door of the house, she's surprised to see so many people on the streets. They all seemed to be walking in the same direction, following the sound of the bell. She gets caught up in the crowd and find herself by a Baby in a manger and discovers what she's been looking for all along. 

It's Called Christmas
What might the future look like?  Hover chairs, hydrated lasagna, and life without Christmas? This letter is written from the future when one boy is told, "It's called Christmas," from a man at the mall. When he can find no information from his parents, history teacher, or any historical documents and books, he becomes determined to learn why the word has been erased. He heads back to find the man and through a series of events, learns that Christmas is "not so much about what it is, but Who it's about."      
We have loved listening to these stories! They are all so different, yet all point back to the true meaning of Christmas. Each story puts the focus on Jesus, while bringing in different aspects of the holiday. I started the first book as the kids were playing with Legos. They were immediately absorbed in the story. When it ended, they begged for another. They sat for hours building with bricks and enjoying the quality books and story-reading. We all enjoyed them so much in fact that we've listened to them twice already. This Christmas stories collection is perfect for any family and would make a wonderful gift. These are stories that we will cherish for many years. 

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