The Brothers of John the Steadfast have said before that, “We can use Arch Books coordinated with the Lectionary to engage young children in the Divine Service.” The Brothers published an “Arch Books to Lectionary Table (Historic 1-Year Lectionary)” to demonstrate the feasibility of the idea.
That was on May 25, 2016. With terrific responsiveness just eight days later, Concordia Publishing House (CPH) started publishing its own pairings of Arch Books with both the 1-year and the 3-year lectionaries. On June 5, 2016, CPH intern Jonah Schultz, in blog post titled, “Pairing Arch Books with the Lutheran Lectionaries,” well and truly said,
Arch Books live as potent resources in Lutheran churches, schools, and especially our homes. Since 1965, Arch Books have told beloved Bible stories—made accessible for our littlest ones in gorgeous illustration and delightful poetry. And like wine and cheese or Vera Bradley and flora, Arch Books pair quite nicely with our Lutheran lectionaries! This guide will help you incorporate what your children hear on Sundays to their daily life by using fun, easy-to-understand adaptations of the true Bible stories.
The work Jonah did was no slapdash effort. When there were Arch Books that pair with both the Old Testament Lesson and the Gospel for a given Sunday, his post included both in its pairings. For example, in the 3-year lectionary for the Third Sunday after Pentecost, the Old Testament Lesson is 1 Kings 17:17-24 and the Gospel text is Luke 7:11-17. CPH covered both with the Arch Books, Elijah Helps a Widow, and Jesus Raises the Window’s Son.
The posts do not simply give the lists. They provide brief and helpful commentary explaining the pairings. This gives parents, teachers, and others simple insights into the effective use the resources.
In the October post, the CPH Team stated the benefits of the pairings succinctly:
Generations of children and parents have spent time together learning about Jesus while reading Arch Books. We’ve paired up Arch Books with both the three-year and historic one-year lectionaries. It’s a great way to prepare children for worship on Sunday, or to reinforce what they’ve learned throughout the week.
Preparation, reinforcement, and engagement of children in the Divine Service are key benefits.
The post for the November pairings is written by Elizabeth Pittman, Manager, Public Relations and Concordia Gospel Outreach, which demonstrates rising commitment by CPH to the value and benefits of this program.
In case you have not boarded this train, Advent – the beginning of the Church Year – is a good time to start enjoying this ride. CPH has put together a couple of ways to do this. One is the lectionary pairings. The pairing for the First Sunday in Advent are the last item in the post for November, and the balance of the season’s pairings are listed in the new post just published for December.
Besides the four Sundays in Advent and Christmas Day, the December listing includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Midnight, and Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus. The post concludes with links to many more Arch Books for Advent and Christmas.
The other approach is set out a bonus post titled, “Christmas Storytelling with Arch Books.” This shows how a selection of additional Arch Books can be used during the season in a flexible way not tied specifically to the lectionary. A special title in this group is The Songs of Christmas, that teaches children about the songs of Mary, the angels, and Simeon. This books is useful to open the ears of children to corresponding parts of the liturgy.
There are many ways to use Arch Books during Advent and Christmas. Parents can order the books and use them at home with their children. Congregations can order books and give them to their families. As Education Director of my congregation, I have ordered books for all the Sundays of the season to distribute after each Divine Service. If you’re going to do that using the lectionary pairings, the best use is to hand out on a particular Sunday the Arch Book paired with the lectionary texts for the following Sunday. This lets children hear from their parents the texts that they will hear in the coming service. But handing out the books on the paired day also will bring the benefits of reinforcement and a simple family activity during the season.
If your congregation has visitors with children during Advent and Christmas, have some extra Arch Books for the season on hand to give away. With some children who are not churched any other time of year and whose parents do not regularly expose them to the faith, this will be an important and rare opportunity for evangelism. It will be something with lasting influence because Arch Books will be read and re-read in the home. Parents will be affected by what they read to their children. Visiting parents will see this gift as a mark of your congregation’s concern for their children.
Advent … a good time to pair Arch Books with the lectionary.