Does your child know the story of the birth of Jesus Christ? Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas, a time of waiting. This season gives us plenty of time to share some books – and our faith.
The books I’ve recommended below contain wonderful re-tellings of the Christmas story. Cuddle up with some hot chocolate, your faith – and your sense of wonder…
Picture Books —
Christmas: Jesus is Born! by Marlyn Evangelina Monge, FSP. and illustrated by Lisa M. Griffin
Want a book that tells it straight – the full story of Christ’s birth? Here it is! Accompanying beautiful illustrations, the text is a little long for the littlest ones, so I suggest reading this book with your school age children, perhaps over two sittings. Give yourself plenty of time to marvel at the miracles leading to that stable in Bethlehem, and the best miracle of all: God become man — a little baby in a humble stable.
FAITH CONNECTION: This book tells the story of Mary really well, which is an opportunity that can’t be missed. Ask: How do you think that Mary felt when the angel appeared to her? Remember – angels are the messengers of God. They only do good things and say good things. They come with messages of God’s love. That must have made Mary feel safe. The angel says, “Nothing is impossible for God.” Ask: What does that mean? God can do anything, and God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus. Mary said she would do as God asked. She would become the mother of Jesus. Ask: Why do you think that Mary said yes? Mary was a good mother, protecting the baby until he grew up. Joseph would be a good (foster) father, keeping Mary and the baby safe. Both Mary and Joseph trusted God. Ask: How did they show that they trusted God? Jesus was born in a stable. Ask: Why do you think God chose a special star to show where Jesus has been born? Each of the other characters in this story must have had their own feelings about the events. Ask: How do you thing the shepherds felt? The angels? The Magi? After you are finished reading, ask: How is Jesus the greatest gift of all? Depending on the age of the children, they will have different understandings of this. A simple answer is that Jesus was to earth to show us how to live our best lives so we will be able to be with God forever.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow by Charlotte Riggle and illustrated by R.J. Hughes
The feast of Saint Nicholas is on December 6. Many children in America and other countries leave their shoes out the night before in anticipation of his filling them with treats. As Saint Nicholas lived in the fourth century we have wonderful stories but few known facts about his life.This book includes the legend of his generosity to three impoverished girls facing a life a slavery. This is how the saint first got the reputation for gift-giving. The Catholic children in this book are shown praying for friends and family, being inclusive of a handicapped friend, and celebrating the holiness of this great saint. The cornucopia of artwork includes various inset illustrations depicting churches dedicated to Saint Nicholas from around the world and images of Saint Nicholas from those cultures.
There’s no need for a spoiler-alert. The relationship between the real Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus is not discussed until the back-matter, those super informational pages for adults at the back of the book.
FAITH CONNECTION: Do something simple to celebrate the feast day of Saint Nicholas on December 6. The recipe for the cookies made in the story is in the back of the book. It is also a lot of fun for children to put shoes outside the door (or bedroom door) the night before to receive some treats from Saint Nicholas. As a teacher, I had my students put their shoes outside our classroom door and the principal came around to put some candy in each. Celebrate the generosity which was part of the holiness of Saint Nicholas – and our holiness too.
Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Alison Jay
All across the earth, the story is passed from animal to animal, place to place, It is time for the Savior to be born. Your children will join in the excitement that builds until the angels announce His birth in song! “At last! He’s here!” My favorite line from the book, “The One who made us has come to live with us!” brings us to a quiet place, lit by starlight, a poor stable filled with animals – and the joy of that great miracle.
FAITH CONNECTION: In the beginning of the story, the animals spread the news, “It’s time! It’s time!” Ask: What news has the animals so excited? What would be important enough for all the animals to want to share? Finally we get to the stars and angels we begin to see the setting of the special happening. Pause on the page with all the animals looking at the baby. Ask: Why did all the animals come to the that place? What is so special about this baby? What do the words mean, “The One who made us has come to live with us!”? This is an easy to understand way to make the point that Jesus is God!
God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrated by David Hohn
“Is God more important than Santa?” Little Cub asks. Help your children get it all straight with this engaging story. Follow Little Cub and his Mama as they find God in the northern lights, a powerful glacier, the morning star, a flowering surprise, and the best gift of all, the Christ Child.
FAITH CONNECTION: Little Cub is happy when he hears that he can find God. Ask: Where do you think they will find God? How do you think God gave us Christmas? Little Cub sees the Northern Lights. Ask: How do the beautiful lights in the sky AND the lights we put outside and inside our house show us what God is like? Little Cub sees the glacier. Ask: How does the large and powerful glacier show what God is like? Little Cub sees the Morning Star? Ask: How do the sun and stars that are always with us show what God is like? Little Cub sees the winter flower. Ask: How do surprises and gifts show us what God is like? How is Jesus the greatest surprise of all?
Silent Noisy Night by Jill Roman Lord and Illustrated by Kelly Breemer
This board book tells the story of Christmas with fun rhyme and spirited imagination. Was it really quiet in that stable for the animals? How can your children celebrate the birth of our Lord?
FAITH CONNECTION: Emphasize the joy that the animals were expressing – each in their own way. Name some of the animals and have your child tell you how they showed their happiness. Ask: Why were they so excited? How can you celebrate the birth of baby Jesus? How can you show your joy? How do we, as a family, show our joy?
More Advent/Christmas recommendations are on the way…