As Advent is coming up again, it is time for the Chatfield family to dig out the copy of Jostein Gaarder’s “The Christmas Mystery.” With 24 chapters, it is written to be read from 1st December until Christmas Eve. There are two stories, which weave together over the course of the book, one about a boy who finds a homemade Advent calendar in a shop and takes it home. Inside he finds written the second story of a little girls who follows a lamb and ends up travelling across Europe and back through time to Bethlehem, in time for Jesus’ birth. We have read it each year since our children were little. If you haven’t discovered this tradition (for adults and children alike) then you might want to give it ago this year.

Recently we were recommended another book, ‘The Jesse Tree” by Geraldine McCaughrean. It too has 24 chapters and can be read over Advent (although last year we kept it for the twelve days of Christmas; the chapters are short and we easily managed two a day.) It is set in the summer but this does not cause any problems, reading in the winter. An old man is carving a wooden Jesse Tree in a church. A young boy, on holiday, watches and asks questions about the figures the old man is bringing out of the wood. The wood carver finds this very annoying but slowly, and a bit grumpily, he tells the boy the story of salvation.

This year, with the Advent groups theme of the Kingdom of God, I have thought about images of Kings. A couple of years ago we watched some of the “Lord of the Rings” films, in half hour slots every night. (One member of our family hadn’t read the books all the way through so we had to stop to avoid spoilers). There is an amazing amount of imagery in both the books and the films, which is helpful in exploring images of kings. Aragon, as a real but hidden king, is an obvious character to explore. Frodo and Gandalf also have aspects of the Messiah in them. In fact one night we had watched (Spoiler alert) the siege at Helm’s deep, when Gandalf appears with the dawn in the East accompanied by the Rohirrim to save the almost defeated defenders. The Advent group I attended that night was looking at the O Antiphon: “O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice: come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

For younger children, you might want to watch “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” It picks up C.S.Lewis’ ideas of what it is to be a King or Queen and there is of course the character of Aslan himself to explore. Another film that has some of these concepts is “Laputa: Castle in the Sky.” There is a girl with a crystal pendant, who turns out to be the heir to the throne of a lost, floating city. The crystal is the only thing that can find the city and when it is stolen by those who want to take the throne and use the city for evil, Sheeta and her friend Pazu set off to stop them. Sheeta’s role as uncrowned Queen is key to the movie, particularly the climatic scene, when she faces her enemy.

The image of Christ as King and the Kingdom of God, which adutls and children in our community are exploring this Advent, are key concepts in our faith. Christianity stands or falls on Jesus being who he said he was. Through scripture and tradition we have many ways to engage with these and therefore deepen our faith in and love for Christ who is universal king. Using images available to us in literature and film we can help our children in their own faith and develop our own at the same time.