Lindsey Mitzel reviews Elizabeth Pham's new picture book that emphasizes the big picture of Advent waiting.
Like most moms, I love giving gifts. Since having children, I especially relish my kids’ excitement for unwrapping presents and the astonished delight upon discovering what the gift is. On Christmas morning, as I sit nearby with my hot mug of coffee taking in the whole scene, I am especially fond of the toddler, who, not recalling their previous Christmas or two, is busy simply tearing off the wrapping with great zest.
It's difficult to explain gift-opening to a toddler. Their wrapping-tearing will steal the show until they reveal enough of what is underneath and the true present dawns on them. Likewise, it’s hard to explain what we’re waiting for during Advent to a young child. It seems inevitable, no matter how well catechized, that to children, the waiting in Advent most closely resembles waiting for when gifts can finally be unwrapped. Waiting becomes more of a trial than anticipation. It’s reflected in our parenting techniques as well—distract away the toddler from mischief or mishap!
In my own struggle to teach my distractible young children how to wait patiently, I was very excited to open Elizabeth Pham’s new Advent book, The World Waits. According to the author, this book, seemingly best suited for babies, toddlers, and early elementary-aged children, was born out of contemplation of a hymn ascribed to St. Thomas Aquinas:
Godhead here in hiding whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more.
Ms. Pham’s book is beautiful. The simple and color-rich watercolor pictures depict the world as main character, feeling its coldness and sadness throughout history, warmth and light in Jesus’ coming, longing as He ascends into heaven, yet hope for His imminent glorious return. It is a book that lovingly narrates to the young a season of waiting, not just for the infant Jesus to arrive in the manager, but for His imminent glorious return to earth—precisely what the Church is called to ponder during the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
Most Advent books focus on Jesus’ birthday and His coming to us as a baby. I love that this book also expresses the big picture of Advent waiting—remembering the longing of waiting for Jesus to come to earth, His coming as an infant, and the promise of His return.
Along with the lovely narrative, the colors illustrator Jen Olson uses to depict the story reinforce cold and lost without God transformed into warmth and hope in Christ. Warm rays literally radiate from everywhere Jesus touches. It is a book that can be read slowly, patiently, and discussed as little or as much as desired. In reading this book to my own children, the older kids seemed to ponder quietly, while the youngers enjoyed the pictures and rhythm. They all asked to read it again, and I later heard my older children offering interpretations to their younger siblings.
The gift of this season is slowing down, waiting, hoping, and expecting—learning to make room for Jesus in the cold and dark rooms of our hearts. Thank you to Ms. Pham and Olson for offering a beautiful book to help young children discover this too!
Copyright 2023 Lindsey Mitzel
About the Author
Lindsey Mitzel is a nurse practitioner and mom to four littles. When not wrangling with or reading to her kids, she can usually be found doing something outdoors. She appreciates dry humor, a good pun, and strong coffee. You can read more about her at Eight and a Half Months. Lindsey also occasionally writes for Be Love Revolution's Tiny Thoughts blog.