Thanksgiving is just 2 days away.
Which means the biggest shopping day of the year is just 3 days away. For about 50 reasons that I won’t recount here, I’ve never been much of a shopper. I mean I like spending money, and I like getting new things, I like cute clothes, shoes, and good books. But it’s the laborious process of trying stuff on, finding the right thing, the walking, and waiting, the in-and-out of parking lots and cars and lines, that I’ve never been a huge fan of.
So “Black Friday” as it’s called, has never been a high point.
UNTIL…through the miracle of high speed internet and amazon.com I could “shop” without the aforementioned, dreadful experience.
As we’re peeking around the corner toward Christmas, I’m sorting through a stack of books I LOVE to read at Christmas and throughout the Advent season. I have 11 that I set on our side-table every year. When the boys were little we used to read them together. Sometimes I still make them humor me.
If you’re looking to add to your Christmas library, here are some books we’ve read and loved, that you might love too.
The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd Jones
Granted, it’s not a Christmas book. It’s not even a complete children’s Bible, but the tagline and the theme of the book is that “Every story whispers His name.” And so the author starts at the beginning and shows how each story in the Old Testament actually pointed to the coming of Jesus. The EXTREMELY COOL THING is that if you begin reading the book on December 1, and read one story each night, on Christmas Eve you will finish with the story of the wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus.
I don’t know if the publisher planned it that way or not, but it is my favorite Advent tradition. And this is the book where I make my boys humor me. I read it out loud. Because I’m the mom.
The Tale of Three Trees, by Angela Elwell Hunt
Hang with me. Strangely, this is not technically a Christmas book either. It’s a children’s book and it makes the theologically shocking observation that sometimes God takes our dreams, allows them to break into pieces, and then uses those pieces to rebuild according to his grander plan. In the end, if we let ourselves be used by him, for his purposes, we will discover it was exactly what we wanted all along.
I’ve written more about this little book here if you want a more detailed look at the story. But it is another wonderful book with an unforgettable message. (I make the boys humor me with this one too, because the message is too important to neglect).
Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas, by John Blase
It is a very short book, and I loved it for the imagination and beautiful writing. Even in the prelude to his readings I cried, probably because I identify so acutely. The author writes:
“… David James Duncan described the plastic shepherds from those Christmas dioramas of his youth as having “slack-jawed expressions of wonder.” There was a time in my life when the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus left me in the same state. However, for some reason or reasons, I lost the eyes to see or the ears to hear, or maybe the heart to wonder. I set out this year (2007) to read them in Eugene Peterson’s The Message in hopes of recapturing a slacked jaw.”
Then, in a series of 12 artful and imaginative readings, he helps us recapture the wonder.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
I’m sure you’ve heard about it, and probably read it already, but Robinson’s sense of humor and page-turning story is worth an annual visit. Granted, the Herdman’s aren’t a “good example for children” if you you plan to read it with your kids, but sometimes it takes an encounter with the Herdmans to help us hear the Christmas story as though it was the first time. The narrator summarizes her Christmas pageant experience with the “worst kids in the history of the world” by saying, “For years, I’d thought about the wonder of Christmas, and the mystery of Jesus’ birth, and never really understood it. But now, because of the Herdmans, it didn’t seem so mysterious after all.”
A Remarkable Advent: Stories of the Ordinary People God Chose to Fulfill his Extraordinary Plan
This is one I wrote. It can’t actually sit on your coffee table (or mine) because it’s an eBook. But unlike the others listed here, this one is free and available immediately. No waiting for Black Friday specials or the UPS driver or even your two-day amazon prime delivery.
This 24-day Advent devotional grew out of a realization that I’d failed to really hear certain parts of the Christmas story. Sometimes its depth and brilliance gets lost in over-familiarity. The colorful images of the Sunday school flannel graph seem to fade over time, and instead of absolute wonder, we gloss over the words, yawn, lick our finger, and flip the page.
As I read slowly and studied through the Christmas story in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, my fascination with God’s work was rekindled.
Each day’s reading includes a scripture, a fictional retelling highlighting one person from the Christmas story, and a prayer. Additionally, I will post a reflection in conjunction with that day’s reading here on my blog December 1-24.
If you’d like rekindle your own fascination this year during the season of advent, I’d love for you to read along with me.
Other titles in the picture
The Greatest Gift,
The Legend of the Christmas Stocking,
Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
One Wintry Night