An Advent box Carol B. Weaver received years ago from her mother serves as the impetus for a faith-based journey that guides readers into the Christmas season.

“The Heart of Bethlehem: A Twenty-five Day Journey of Faith for the Christmas Season” was released in paperback in November 2017, but it actually was about 20 years in the making.

Her faith journey began in 1994, when her mother, Virginia Boone, became ill and passed away, the Jacksonville, Texas, resident said. “As I grew in faith, I desired my three small children to know Him, too.”

Her mother had presented Weaver with an Advent box when Weaver’s daughter was a toddler, and the piece became the original inspiration for her writing.

“(It was) a wooden box with 25 small cubbies — I hunted through the Bible to gather the Christmas story, then divided it into 25 passages, one for each cubby,” Weaver recalled. “My children not only received a small treat each day approaching Christmas but a taste of God’s Word too.”

As her children grew, the young mother wanted them to experience a deeper meaning of the Christmas story, “to know the passages didn’t just tell Jesus’ story but contained teaching for their lives,” she said.

And so, the carefully selected passages from her original creation were coupled with questions and discussion, creating “a mini-Bible study each morning from Dec. 1 to 25” for her family.

Later, a phone conversation with a friend who told Weaver, “I used to do the church thing but not anymore,” inspired her to create a new version of her kids’ Advent reflections, using questions and stories from her own journey of faith so that others could make a similar journey.

“My heart broke as I realized she didn’t understand church wasn’t about doing, but about knowing Jesus and his love and his transforming power,” Weaver said.

Her first fruits were in the form of “stapled-together 8.5-by-11-inch sheets of paper” that were included with greeting cards during the 2007 Christmas season.

“From there I felt led to edit, rewrite and publish as an e-book in 2013. In 2017, I was moved to publish in paperback,” she said.

The feedback has varied over the years, including requests for additional copies to share with others and comments about how the devotional was something “they pull out every December to read,” she said.

Ultimately, Weaver said her hope is that “people will want to add meaning to the season and discover what Christmas is all about, whether they currently believe in God or not. I want them to know Jesus is not just a babe in a manger, but the Savior who desires to walk with us daily and bring us to a place of joy, light and freedom in a world which can be dark and oppressive.”

And, she added, “I also want people to know there is deeper meaning in all of Scripture — the verses telling (Christ’s) story are not just facts about his birth to retell every year, but are stories we can lay on top of our lives, identify with and live out daily.”

Though marketed as an Advent faith journey, Weaver is quick to note that it extends beyond that period: “There are things to learn from it for everyday life ... the devotions can be read any day of the year.

“Our lives are constantly changing. Every time we read and re-read Scripture we are in a different stage of life and at a different stage of spiritual maturity, and God speaks to us afresh right where we are,” Weaver said.

Tribune News Service