I mentioned earlier that it has only been in the last few years that I’ve tried to read books having to do with Christmas during December. I don’t know why it never occurred to me before! Maybe I just thought December was too busy. But I’ve used some of the devotional ones in place of my regular devotional plan, and I usually have a novel in progress all the time anyway. So I thought I’d sum up my Christmas reading in one post.
Devotional or Non-fiction:
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, several essays on various aspects of Christmas from an assortment of preachers and writers from years ago as well as from current time: Martin Luther, Spurgeon, Martin Lloyd-Jones, John Piper, and others, compiled by Nancy Guthrie. This isn’t strictly a devotional book, but that’s how I used it this year and last. This is an excellent resource. I don’t know if I’ll use it every year, but I can imagine using it again and again.
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent by Nancy Guthrie. This is designed for family devotions and is written on a level that children can understand, but it works fine for personal devotions as well. They’re fairly short but they do give food for thought for the day. And I like that it covers 31 days rather than ending at Christmas like so many other Christmas devotionals do.
25 Ways, 26 Days to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever by Ace Collins. I am a little more than half-way through this one. This one wasn’t grabbing me as much as the others were — maybe because I was already going through another couple of non-fiction or devotional Christmas books. The author discusses some of the different aspects and traditions of the season, the history of some of them, their symbolism, and ways to make them more meaningful. The histories are especially interesting, but I wish he had documented more of his explanations of origins. And though I appreciated his justification of some of these traditions for Christians, I felt as though he were saying “You should do this” rather than “It’s okay to do this.” Traditions that enhance the meaning or celebration of Christmas are wonderful, but every now and then they can feel burdensome, and I know many who want to pare down what they do at Christmas in order to keep their focus from becoming fragmented. Nevertheless, this is a great resource, especially if, as a Christian, one is concerned about the “pagan” practices surrounding early Christmas and winter celebrations.
The Greatest Christmas Ever: A Treasury of Inspirational Ideas & Insights for an Unforgettable Christmas. This is a compilation of quotes, poems, recipes, and tips. I have a slight objection to the title — Christmas shouldn’t be a competition. But otherwise it was an okay book.
Finding Christmas: Stories of Startling Joy and Perfect Peace by James Calvin Schaap. This is a collection of short stories. I think I won it during a blog contest last year, received it during December, but wanted to wait to read it til this year. The title describes it well — the main character in each story has some kind of moment — of understanding, clarity, connection. I enjoyed it.
Treasure of Christmas, a collection of three stories by Melody Carlson. Melody is, I think, the queen of Christmas Christian fiction. The three stories or novellas are: The Christmas Bus, in which a bed and breakfast owner, upon learning that none of her adult children will be home for Christmas, decides to keep her establishment open during the holidays. A strange, abrasive old woman and a young expectant couple in a hippie bus are among her visitors, and she begins to wonder if she made a mistake. The Gift of Christmas Present, in which a young woman learns after her mother’s death that she was adopted. She discovers and visits her birth grandmother and is mistaken for an applicant for hired help, which she decides to go along with. As she learns more of her family, the less sure she is of them, and the harder it is to “come clean” and tell the truth. A startling, disturbing revelation shakes her to her core. I was a bit concerned about the third, Angels In the Snow, because people can get kind of weird about angels. But this did end up in the right direction. An artist has recently lost her husband and son and goes to a friend’s cabin to heal and to see if she can unblock her artistic creativity again. A mysterious pair of footprints and an unexpected visitor impact her progress.
I find a lots of Christmas stories, especially made for TV movies, to be very sappy and sentimentalized. Melody’s stories are anything but. Her characters wrestle with real, serious issues and pain, and the endings are good but not saccharine. I enjoyed this quite a lot.
Christmas at Harrington‘s is another by Melody Carlson, and I won this one from Mocha With Linda‘s Booked for the Holidays giveaway (thanks Linda!). I loved this book — and those of you who read my book reviews know I don’t say that about every book I read. Lena Markham has just been released from prison, having served time for a crime she did not commit. She just wants to start over in a new place, so her parole officer sets her up in a new town. When a secondhand red coat inspires a department store owner to hire her as Mrs. Santa, Lena discovers she really enjoys the job. But the past is hard to keep hidden, and hers will threaten her job as well as her new beginning. This was poignant to me because a blog friend’s husband was released from prison this year as well, and I saw some of his struggles echoed in Lena’s. Some people judge her and make it even harder for her to catch a decent break, but others go the extra mile to help and support her.
I was surprised to get a decent amount of reading done during this busy month, but those little snatches of reading here and there do add up, and reading both fiction and non-fiction in Christmas themes enhanced my enjoyment of the season. A couple of others caught my eye that I am saving for next Christmas. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to try some of these next year as well — or even in the next few days if you’re wanting to prolong the “Christmas spirit.”