By Sarah Frazer, Crosswalk.com
Children make Christmas so much fun! Their excitement is contagious. The entire season is filled with joy for them. The presents, the cookies, the parties, and the decorations all seem to make them smile. No matter their age, children love Christmas. Our first Christmas overseas as missionaries was a hard one for my husband and me. We had always celebrated the holiday season with our families. It would be the first time we weren’t together.
In the midst of even the deepest homesickness, I found joy through my children. They squealed with delight as presents slowly began to appear beneath the tree. The lights outside were always admired when we would drive up to our house at night. In Honduras, the tradition is to have fireworks on Christmas Eve. My children are 100% in support of this tradition. Some traditions we kept from our home back in the states. We decorate right after Thanksgiving, we play Christmas music while we hang the ornaments, and we make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Another one of those traditions is reading an advent book each night during the month of December.
These are the three books our family has enjoyed over the years. The first two actually tell the entire story of the Bible and aren’t necessarily just for Christmastime. We read them all of the time! They would be great all year long if you want to do family devotions. But the stories describing the time surrounding Christ’s birth are especially meaningful.
1. The Jesus Storybook Bible
The subtitle to this book is, “Every story whispers His name.” The author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, walks us from Creation to Revelation revealing how Jesus is the center of the Bible. Each story told in the Bible points to Jesus, His redemptive work, and coming to Earth. How do the characters in the Bible show us Jesus? Noah’s ark represents Jesus as the rescuer and the prophets all point to the promised’ Savior.
The book is told with God’s love as front and center. How do we know God loves us? We read the Bible! The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to discover for themselves the one who is at the center of God’s great rescue story — and at the center of their story, too. For Christmas, the author has put together a special advent reading guide. You can get it here for free!
In this guide, you will find printable ornaments, coloring sheets, and a reading guide. Using the Jesus Storybook Bible, you can print the ornaments and read the selected stories to help weave your way to Christmas.
Two of the things my children especially love about this book are the pictures and the specific descriptions. The pictures are illustrated by an artist named Jago. These colorful, playful images bring to life the words creatively crafted by Sally. She writes to children, but even as an adult, my eyes water with tears of joy and gratitude as I read aloud the passages to my children.
The stories she chooses, especially for Advent, remind us of the real reason we are so thankful for Jesus: He is the greatest present we could ever ask for because He is the only present we will ever need. Jesus came to rescue us, but in the saving, He reveals the depths of God’s steadfast love.
2. The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
This was written by Kevin DeYoung, a theologian and dad. My youngest especially loves to use this book for quiet time because the pictures are beautifully illustrated. They were done by award-winning artist Don Clark. The Bible is full of exciting stories that fill children with awe and wonder. But kids need to know how all those classic stories connect to Scripture’s overarching message about God’s glorious plan to redeem his rebellious people. How do we get back to how it was in the Garden of Eden? The baby in the manger is the answer!
Children ages eight and younger will love this book being read aloud. If you have children over the age of eight, they can easily read it themselves. Although it is similar to the Jesus Storybook Bible, it contains fewer stories in it. This one can easily be divided into sections to use throughout the advent season. You would have to look through the book and decide how many days you want to read it. There are about ten to fifteen days between the first of December and Christmas. You can easily read the entire book over a period of ten days.
We love this book because at Christmas we tend to only read about Jesus’ birth, but the whole Bible points to Jesus’ redemptive work! Why not send Christmas focusing on why Jesus came - to save mankind from sin? You can watch a preview of the book here.
3. The Jesse Tree
This advent reading collection for children is an older option. When my two oldest boys were young, I searched and searched for a good advent reading plan. The Jesse Tree advent book was the best one I found. Jesus was from the family of King David, whose father’s name was Jesse. For this reading plan, each day focuses on a family member of Jesus. After reading the Biblical passage about someone in Jesus’ family tree, you decorate your tree with special ornaments.
The idea of this book is Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” This prophecy was made for Jesus. Each year you will have to evaluate when to start the Jesse Tree stories. There are twenty-five different readings with corresponding ornaments. A quick google search will provide a variety of options for both readings and ornaments.
I love this advent reading plan because some of the verses are not well-known, but all point to Jesus. How did Jesus fulfill all of the prophecies about Himself from the Old Testament? These verses point out why we can be confident Jesus is truly the Messiah.
I found this site to have the most comprehensive (and free) option! You will need a printer, a tree, and a Bible. This advent reading plan is great because it can be used in so many different ways. You can just read the scripture and look at the pictures or you can go all out and use the ornaments! We have used felt ornaments, paper ornaments, and we’ve used coloring sheets.
This year our family is simply reading through the Gospel of Luke in the Bible. There are twenty-four chapters in Luke, so perfect leading up to Christmas starting December 1. We like the idea of focusing on the entire life of Christ during this advent season. Christmas is the beginning of the reason Jesus came.
Whatever you use to point children to Christ, may it be rooted in Scripture. For in the Bible, we find the only truth to bring joy to our hearts. Yes, Santa, the sleigh, and presents are fun, but they will not bring real happiness. True joy is found in Jesus, and this is the perfect time to help point our children to Him!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/tatyana_tomsickova
Sarah E. Frazer is a writer and Bible study mentor. Sarah is the wife of Jason and mother of five. She and her family serve as full-time missionaries in Honduras. Her passion is to encourage women to start today with a Bible reading and prayer habit. Sarah is the author of several self-published Bible study resources for women. She shares tools and encouragement for Bible and prayer study on her blog: sarahefrazer.com.