Christmas traditions are as diverse as the presents under the tree. One tradition I’ve always enjoyed is reading certain books each year. They seem to envelope me in the Christmas spirit and reinforce the Reason for this joyous time.
Full disclosure: the following books are affiliate links, which means when you purchase them, the proceeds go to support my family. I linked these titles to make it easier for you to find – I do not just haphazardly recommend anything. I really do read these books every year during December, and have for years. My children have sat on my lap as I have read A Cranberry Christmas or The Mitford Snowmen to them. Reading these books, along with the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible, solidifies the Christmas story to one and all in my home. It is my prayer that you will find these books do the same for you and your family.
The Case for Christmas
From the same author who used his journalistic talents to bring us The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel pours his reporter’s notebook into scoping out Jesus’ birth in The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger. Strobel is interesting: he was an atheist while he was working as the award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune until 1981. After his wife accepted Christ as Savior, he began to research Christ in a futile effort to debunk the Bible. Instead, he found he could not – and then accepted Christ as his own Savior. Now Strobel is a Christian apologist. While Strobel has other, similar “Case” books, The Case for Christmas brings Jesus’ birth story home – and gives you an apologist viewpoint at the same time.
A work of fiction, Jacob’s Gift by Max Lucado is a short read that is great for bedtime with the kiddos. It follows the fictional account of a little boy named Jacob, who is learning how to become a carpenter. He has the idea for a new type of feeding trough for animals, but stumbles upon an unusual sight in his innkeeper-father’s barn one star-filled night. His feeding trough becomes an unlikely bed for a certain little Baby. This book is a delightful story for children and adults alike – and one I read to my children every year. The beautiful illustrations by Robert Hunt are delightful.
I am a self-proclaimed Jan Karon fan, and have visited the town of Blowing Rock that was the inspiration for her fictional town of Mitford, so two books are on this list that she authored. I love Karon’s incredibly real characters and find that I get lost in the pages of any book in the Mitford or Father Tim series – and not in a bad way.
Father Tim, the key character in Jan Karon’s novels, finds a derelict nativity that has been pieced together from several nativities and takes on the unusual-for-him task of restoring it. He is an intellectual priest, having never really worked on anything with his hands other than a garden, so sanding, painting, and even doing plaster work on this Christmas gift for his beloved wife Cynthia is a real labor of love. In true Karon fashion, there are numerous other plotlines going that move the Mitford story along that run parallel, perpendicular and smack dab into each other. Dialogue seems to be her forte, as she again nails Appalachian accents, the poised vocabulary of educated folk, and the unsure-with-herself mental conversation of a sweetheart of a bookstore clerk-owner. Shepherds Abiding is my go-to curl-up-with-a-good-blanket-and-hot-cocoa book.
The Mitford Snowmen
We’re back in Mitford for a sweet little tale called The Mitford Snowmen. An impromptu snowman-building contest yields the main Mitford characters doughnuts and hot cocoa, along with sweet in-character glimpses of our favorite friends. This book is a quick read – perfect for bedtime – but also great if you’re fortunate enough to live where snow is a frequent visitor for your own snowman-building festivities.
If you don’t live somewhere that gets snow worthy of snowmen like I do in North Carolina, here’s a cute craft to do with your kids. Buy white Play-doh and shape into balls for snowmen. Cut out little scarves out of different colored felt, and use other colors of Play-doh to shape noses, hats, arms, buttons, etc. It’s a fun way to have the activity of building a snowman without the wet coldness, mess or, obviously, snow.
A Cranberry Christmas
This 1976 classic follows the story of cranky Mr. Grape, who won’t allow the children to skate on the frozen pond which he says belongs to only him. The children and their friend Mr. Whiskers embark on a quest to find out why surly Mr. Grape feels the way he does. The children discover an important clue when they clean Mr. Whiskers’ house. A Cranberry Christmas is a fun romp that shares the importance of understanding. Plus, it offers a fantastic cookie recipe on the back.
Unto Us a Child is Born
For several years, before “blogging” was a thing, I would write essays and email them to friends and family that enjoyed and encouraged my writing. These essays would be about some aspect of the Christmas story. Last year, before my husband was injured and therefore became paraplegic, I gathered those essays together, added new ones, and published this brief yet powerful devotional titled Unto Us a Child is Born. It dives into the Advent story in incredible ways – the sheer amount of goosebumps I had when I learned the true meaning behind the manger was astounding. I’m reading this book (even though I wrote it) this year and adding it to the collection of books that are stored with the Christmas decorations after the holidays are over, to be enjoyed over and over again. This book would be a phenomenal study for Sunday Schools during Advent. It could also be a personal devotional during your own quiet time or around the dinner table as you light Advent candles with your family.
I hope these five books as well as the Bible add to your family’s traditions. Now, go grab a comfy blanket, a good cup of hot cocoa in your favorite Christmas mug, a great book and enjoy the wonders of reading.
(C) 2016 Terrie McKee
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