In the Cultivating a Christ-Centered Christmas series I mentioned that we as a family have an Advent Book tradition where we daily unwrap books that relate particularly to the Christmas story. On Wednesday I will be guest posting at Redeemed Reader on the particular ways you can easily incorporate this tradition in your own family’s celebration.
Today, I would like to share five of our favorite Christmas picture books with you. Obviously we bring out and enjoy many other books during the Christmas season. Some are more silly than others (Veggie Tales comes to mind) and some are beautifully illustrated accounts of legends that drive home the Christmas message (the Legend of the Christmas Cookie for example), but our favorites are the ones that poetically and joyously celebrate the Savior himself. By filling our home with such books during this special season, we hope to drive home the focus our family strives to have on Christ during the holidays. Here are five such books which I would recommend adding to your own Christmas collection (some of them may surprise you!):
by Sally Lloyd-Jones
This relatively new picture book, which focuses on the excitement preceding the incarnation of Christ was published in 2011 and is a true blessing to families everywhere. In true Sally Lloyd-Jones fashion, the story easily captures the imagination and thoughts of young children while the beautiful pictures of various animals from all different environments keep little minds engaged.
The purpose of this particular book is to breed excitement for the coming of the Light of the World. As the animals of earth repeat over and over again phrases like “It’s time! It’s time!,” “Get ready! Get ready! Be glad! Be glad!” you and your children will get caught up in the wonder of the coming incarnation until you peer down along with the animals at “God’s great gift.”
This poetic telling of Jesus’ birth is perfect for the littlest of listeners as the rhythmic lines flow easily from page to page and end each time with the proclamation: “He’s Jesus, born for us.” What I find particularly helpful in this book is the emphasis given at the end of the book for what we are truly celebrating at Christmas time.
The second to last page reads:
“Born our Savior, born to cry, born to suffer, born to die. All our sins on Him will lie, on Jesus born for us.”
The last page pictures a church gathering for a candlelight service and reads:
“At Christmas gathered in this place, though we don’t see our Savior’s face, we hear God’s precious words of grace of Jesus, born for us. Christmas moon glows fair and bright shining now with Christmas light. We celebrate His birth tonight: our Jesus, born for us.”
3.) The Lightlings
by R. C. Sproul
“Once upon a time, there was a great King, who was the King of Light. He made the light, and His light was so perfect and so pure that He was called ‘The King without a Shadow’ This great King of Light made a group of people, and He made them so that they could shine brightly, just as He did. He called them His little lightlings…”
So begins the beautiful allegorical tale of the Gospel written by the much respected Dr. R. C. Sproul. The story of the lightlings and their King walks through their fall into darkness (the entrance of sin into the world) and introduces the gift of the Savior in a tiny child called the “Son of the King of Light” who will restore the light once given to these little pixy characters by their Creator. “The King has given us a child. He has given us His own Son to be the Light of the World,” the little pixies proclaim as they gaze upon the baby.
This unlikely Christmas story is told, as most of Sproul’s children’s books are, from the voice of a loving grandfather to his grandson and displays how even the most ordinary of problems a child faces (in this case the fear of the dark) can point to profound truths found in the Word of God.
Particularly noteworthy are the illustrations in this picture book which are simply gorgeous and can be appreciated by both children and adults alike.
This book is well known legend about three trees who hoped to do “great” things when they grew up. One wants to be a made into a beautiful treasure chest, another wants to be a mighty ship, and the last wants to grow taller than all the other trees so that he will point people to God. Each of them is disappointed to see what they actually become as the first is used for wood to make a manger (which holds the Christ-child), the second a little boat (which carries the Lord as he calms the raging seas), and the third is cut down to be used as a cross (where the Savior hangs to pay the penalty for our sins).
The story simultaneously tells the story of the Jesus’ birth, power, death, and resurrection while teaching children that God uses the humble for his own glorious purposes.
You may be wondering why I would include this book in a list of Christmas books. While it does include a picture of the nativity and focuses briefly on the birth of Christ, the story is much broader than just the incarnation. The reason I included it is because it not only provides a context for the birth of Christ (within his life, death and resurrection), but also shows the simpleness of his birth–the unworthiness of something so gross (a manger) to hold the King of the Universe. It is a great talking point for little children.
This beautifully illustrated picture book follows the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and focuses primarily on him bringing light into the world. For this reason it is a great pairing with R.C. Sproul’s The Lightlings. This book is helpful during the Christmas season to provide a framework for who this little baby is we are celebrating. There would be no reason to celebrate this little child’s birth if he hadn’t been the Son of God and hadn’t come to die for our sins. Also beneficial in this book are the illustrations which venture away from the typical Caucasian Jesus and present darker skinned, more realistic versions of these well-known historical characters.
What are some of your favorite Christmas books? What would make your top 5? I would love to hear about them as we are always on the lookout for great books!