Advent Book Box – Top Christmas Book Picks

Our Advent Book Box

A tradition began years ago as my oldest daughter (then 3) and I hung our Advent Calendar. We filled each pocket with a piece of candy, as was the custom I grew up with, but also added little slips of paper. Each slip of paper had the name of a Christmas book we would read, and all books were nestled under in a Christmas box under our tree. Those first few years, I simply used Christmas books I had from my childhood or books given to my daughter. However, it was time to beef up our Christmas Book Box! I found several lists already floating around, but quickly realized many were specific to one particular faith or another. So I have created a list (in no particular order) for our family, focusing on the Savior’s birth and Christmas traditions. You will notice there are only 22 titles, and that is because the last few days leading up to Christmas Eve, we spend our treasured time reading the true story of Christ’s birth from the Scriptures. Also, several books might require more than one night to complete the reading depending on your children’s ages (i.e. A Christmas Carol). If you know of any other great titles, feel free to comment below and share! Each book title is linked to Amazon, the supplier of my book addiction. Enjoy!

1. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
A dear friend gave this book to my family several Christmas’ ago, and it immediately held a special place in our hearts. Our hearts are encouraged as a little crippled lamb, Joshua, has his prayers amazingly answered. It speaks to God’s protection and guidance to all who feel alone. This title is a must read.

2. What Think Ye of Christmas by Ester Rasband 

This gem is striking because of the water-color illustrations. Each illustration represents one of the Christmas symbols. While simple, this book provides a rich springboard for discussing the various symbols of Christmas, all pointing to the Christ child.

3. Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer Humphrey

This cute narrative records Humphrey, one of the camels accompanying the wise men, as he adventurously journeys to Bethlehem. I love how this book entertains my littles while keeping Christ at the center.

4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein 

The Giving Tree is an unforgettable, classic story of a boy who learns the gift of giving. So timely a parable, and a joy for all ages.

5. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston Year of Perfect Christmas Tree

This is a new title in our box this year and I am excited about reading it with my children. It is a story about Ruthie, a young girl who, while waiting for her father to return from war, must help her mother to provide the Christmas Tree for their church. In return, children see the sacrificial love of a mother as she improvises and works hard to prepare Ruthie a needed angel costume for the church pageant. I won’t summarize the ending because it is too good to spoil! Nevertheless, the picture of courage and family unity is beautiful in this sweet book.

6. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski 

This book needs no introduction. It is a true Christmas classic. A tale of a woodcarver, this story is an enchanting picture of loss, life, and restoration. We usually watch the movie after reading the book!

7. Christmas From Heaven as read by Tom BrokawChristmas From Heaven

This is another new title for our family this year. As the title suggests, it is the true story of the Berlin Candy Bomber, a pilot who brought hope to a war-ravaged land. I highly suggest watching the accompanying DVD, a captivating retelling by acclaimed journalist, Tom Brokaw, and accompanied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Stunning performance and memorable work of art.

8. Where, Oh Where, Is Santa Claus by Lisa Wheeler 

This cute tale is simply entertaining! One of my girls was given this book at one of their early Christmas’ and is therefore more nostalgic for us than anything else!

9. Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer 

While this book has taken artistic liberties in retelling the legend concerning the historical Nicholas, a very generous Christian bishop, our family has enjoyed it nonetheless! That God proved His love for us through His Son is an undeniable current throughout this treasure. Nicholas’ sacrificial giving helps to remind us that our giving is an act of worship, a response to the immense blessings God showers upon us.

10. White Christmas by Irving Berlin 

My children absolutely love this book. Its illustrations are rich and inspiring, and we can’t help but sing our way through!

11. The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain 

I am honestly not sure how this book ended up under my roof. However, for several years we have enjoyed this cute tale of searching for the perfect Christmas tree, only to realize not cutting it down would save many of the Berenstain’s Bear Country friends. This book is an easy read, a light alternative to some of the more weighty titles in our box!

12. Christmas Oranges retold by Linda Bethers 

This short story captures the essence of Christmas and the importance of kindness and thoughtfulness above any other gift. Rose is an orphan who reminds us all the true meaning of Christmas. I read where some moms put oranges in the bottom of their children’s stockings every year to remind them of this tale. A neat idea and one I might steal this year!

13. I have two versions of the following title and can’t choose – we read them both and enjoy the illustrative beauty in each!

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore 


The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore 

This book is another that needs no summary! Inevitably, this poem is read multiple times in my home throughout the season.

14. The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel 

The Carpenter’s Gift is a relatively new book (2011), depicting New York City during the Depression. The story tells of a father and son selling Christmas trees, and through a pay-it-forward type plot, eventually links the Rockefeller Tree and Habitat for Humanity. This is a new treasure in our box this year!

15. The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans 

This is a beautiful fable of a young Alexander’s charitable act, and how he learns more important than what you have to give, is how you give of yourself. Rich reminder for the season that we all have something to give.

16. The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the Meaning of Jesus’ Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall 

We love our Christmas Cookies. This beautifully illustrated tale narrates the legend of the Christmas Cookie and encourages my kiddos (and their mom), to make double batches to give away.

17. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck 

This book was originally published in 1955, but is the last new title for our box on my list! It is a captivating story of a young boy and his quest to find the perfect gift. What he finds will encourage any child to love as he is gifted.

18. The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg 

The Legend of the Candy Cane is a timeless tale of the mystery and miracle of Christmas. Of course, we drag out candy canes as we read this one! Meaningful symbolism and a title that will likely remain in our box for years.

19. The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne 

Similar to The Legend of the Candy Cane, this story recaptures the meaning behind the classic Christmas symbol. The depth of God’s love rings clear as children learn of the legend.

20. Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani 

One of my kids bought this book through a book sale at school and we decided it was a keeper for our box. We follow children as they ride around the world, experiencing traditions in Mexico, Sweden, the Philippines, Poland, Italy, Kenya, and the United States. And of course the music and lyrics are included!

21. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Hilary Knight

(this one is out of print, but other beautifully illustrated versions of this sing-song book are available!) 

The last of our sing-song titles, I do not think we have ever read this book in spoken voice. “Reading” this book usually involves crazy dancing in the living room, having silly fun with this timely and classic Christmas song. If any children stay seated during the song, they usually try to find and count each item in the verse. Great way to expose your children to Christmas musical classics!

22. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 

This version is a picture book of Dicken’s classic tale. We usually divide this book into a two-night reading due to its length. Ebeneezer Scrooge transcends culture to keep the spirit of Christmas true at its core. We have had several different books with this title through the years, some easier to read than others. In fact, the last few years we read this story from a pop-up book! This selection is new to our box, while the story is not. I cannot ever see this classic missing from our pile as it is a family favorite!


Holy Week Tunes


empty_tomb11“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together! I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:1-4, 8)

King Jesus has come! He is the King, the Son of God, the Messiah! The tomb is empty and death no longer has a hold on us! “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)

May our praises sing of our adoration for You. My we bless Your name at all times. Your Kingdom broke on earth in the flesh of Your Son and we wait for His return!

Need some Tunes to praise Him this week! Below is my playlist on Spotify!

Return to the Gospel

If you had asked me at the beginning of our pastoral ministry how to spiritually grow into the role of a pastor’s wife, I probably would have rattled off a very practical list of how-to’s: 1) Read books on the subject. 2) Connect with a seasoned minister’s wife and learn by example. 3) Develop a strategic plan for growth. While all of these ideas are noble pursuits and, ones I currently value and participate in, another step continues to speak to my soul: Return to the Gospel. Around half a dozen years ago, my husband Jared preached through a series titled, “The Marks of a Disciple.”  I found myself needing, wanting to repent, to be restored as I listened to the messages. He then preached a similar series a few years ago and I found myself in the same place of repentance and restoration. Recently, when I began contemplating about and praying for growth as a minister’s wife, I knew my first step would be to return to the Gospel.

Have you ever found yourself giving biblical counsel to someone in an area you are miserably failing yourself? I have. And the feeling is devastating. At times, God has allowed me to share some of my own shortcomings with my sisters in Christ who came to me for help, but other times, I have chosen to suffer the hypocrisy privately. Recently, I read a book proposing my hypocrisy and my need to hide my sin are because I have lost my anchor in the truth of the gospel. The Gospel-Centered Life by Thune and Walker writes we “shrink the cross” by either pretending (pretending we are better than we are) or performing (trying to earn God’s approval through our performance).[1] “When we are not firmly rooted in the gospel, we rely on these false sources of righteousness to build our reputation and give us a sense of worth and value.”[2] More than books on the position and role of a pastor’s wife, more than developing a mentoring relationship, and more than a well-formed plan for growth, I want…I need to be rooted firmly in the Gospel. I need to know that my sin, however small in terms of tangible consequences, has left me condemned under the Law. As my husband says, Jesus is the curve-breaker. He is the standard to which we are measured. And more importantly, I am justified through the redemption found in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24). I can be freed from a dutiful ministerial performance and from the anti-“glass house” pretending. When I am restored in Christ, and recognize the weight of forgiveness extended, I find myself loving others and desiring to minister in a pure way.

So if you have found yourself in the desert, return to the Gospel. Simply knowing we have a duty to minister will not drive us to complete the task. No, “the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). This, my friend, is the Gospel. Let us return to the Gospel.

“Church of Jesus, let us please be men and women who understand the difference between moralism and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be careful to preach the dos and don’ts of Scripture in the shadow of the cross’s ‘Done!’”[3]

Just a few DWMBC ladies I am honored to serve alongside!

Just a few DWMBC ladies I am honored to serve alongside!

[1]Thune, Robert H. and Will Walker. The Gospel-Centered Life. Greensboro, NC.: World Harvest Mission, 2009, 21.

[2]Ibid, 22.

[3]Chandler, Matt and Jared C. Wilson. The Explicit Gospel. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012, 221.

Tips for Treasuring the Season: Outreach at Christmas? (7)


Jacob as baby Jesus, 2012

I have been looking forward to this tip from the outset! I am the most passionate about the gospel and the manner in which it can be fleshed out at Christmas. Honestly, I feel slightly silly writing a blog about ways to share the gospel at Christmas. I daresay Christ cannot be made more maximally obvious than in His birth. However, our cultural influences have unquestionably diminished the purpose for the celebration. I am greatly saddened by reading blogs written by believers, satirically and quite sarcastically pushing back against the bloggers writing to encourage awareness of consumerist influences dominating the season. The dichotomy they try to create is celebration, cheer, happiness vs. dogmatic religious piety. I think they are simply missing the point. Christmas is a celebration! Moreover, believers are celebrating the end to the quest for eternal life! We have found it in Jesus Christ!! Christians carve out a season to: 1) remember the birth of the Savior; 2) discuss and contemplate the generation we have been placed for His glory; 3) and look forward with anticipate and HOPE for His return! The crescendo of the gospel message intentionally begins now, climaxing at the resurrection on Easter. Believers possess great responsibility and great opportunity to spread the gospel during Christmas. In previous tips, I have already shared a few ways we start the music in our home. We strive to keep Christ central in our conversation through the weekly lighting of the Advent candles, books we daily read that are chosen from our Advent Calendar, etc. My Christmas cards this year will highlight the gospel message above boasting of our family’s successes through the year. Our celebratory traditions are balanced to include age-appropriate events that present the gospel (i.e. A Journey Through Bethlehem, watching The Nativity). My home will be decorated to proclaim Christ’s birth, hopefully sparking rich conversations with our non-believing guests through the season. My heart beats faster just thinking of all the opportunities! We have much to celebrate! I encourage you to fix a cup of coffee or cocoa, grab your calendar, and brainstorm ways you and your family can proclaim and herald the good news we have to share this season. Merry Christmas!

P.S. – I downloaded The Expected One Advent Guide and have been browsing it this past week. I am completely in love with it, theologically and practically! A plus- it is free until December 1st! It contains great resources for daily readings, music for the season, and ideas for family worship. Hope you enjoy!