Three Short Christmas Book Reviews

I hope you’ll forgive all the book reviews this week. I happened to finish a few around the same time. Because of that, and because the first two books here are a little shorter than usual, I decided to review them together.

Christmas Hirelings

I first read, or rather listened to, The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon a few years ago when it was free for Audible subscribers. I reviewed it here, so I won’t repeat all that. The condensed version: Sir John Penlyon is an old man in Victorian England who is not a Scrooge, but is a little gruff. He complains to his friend, Danby, that Christmas is boring. Danby replies that “Nobody knows how to enjoy Christmas if he has no children to make happy.” Then Danby proposes that they hire some children to come and stay at the manor over Christmas. He knows of a family with three children who have very nice manners but are reduced in circumstances. If Sir John would “hire” the widow’s children, it would liven up their Christmas plus be a help to the family.

Sir John thinks the idea is preposterous, but agrees as long as he doesn’t have to be involved other than paying for the experiment.

The children get off on the wrong foot with Sir John at first, but soon the children bring joy and life into the old house. Until tragedy strikes.

Sir John’s back story is quite touching. I loved listening to this again. I caught things I had missed the first time.

The audiobook is superbly narrated by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies). I may make listening to this an annual tradition.

I got Snowed In for Christmas by Cami Checketts also through Audible. I don’t remember if it was free with my subscription or on a “2 books for 1 credit” sale.

Charlotte Oliver is a firefighter with a lifelong crush on her sister’s friend, Jace Mitchell. Charlotte suspected her sister, Virginia, and Jace were more than friends. But Jace left eight years ago to go into the military, and Virginia married someone else. Then Virginia and her unborn child tragically died in a car accident.

Now Jace is back in town, trying to establish a medical practice. Charlotte is as attracted as ever, but she thinks Jace probably still loves her sister.

Jace had always thought of Charlotte as a cute little sister, but now she’s grown up into a beautiful woman. But he knows a relationship with her is impossible. He’s sworn to secrecy over an event in his past, and he knows Char would never forgive him if she discovered it.

This book reminded me why I don’t usually read stories that are primarily romances. So much talk about kissing, anticipating kissing, remembering kissing. Sure, kissing is fun, but there is so much more to love than that.

The book actually got more interesting to me when Char did accidentally find out Jace’s secret, and they had to work through that.

I did not like how Char’s “Grams” handled things, but I don’t want to spoil the story by explaining.

If you like clean faith-based Christmas romances, you’d probably like this.

In Midnight, Christmas Eve by Andy Clapp, Brady Jameson was a high school junior out finishing some shopping on Christmas Eve when he saw a girl crying on a park bench. He approached her to see if he could help and discovered the girl was Sarah, the head cheerleader, girlfriend to the school’s best athlete. Brady provided a shoulder to cry on, and he and Sarah became friends.

Sarah’s boyfriend, Aiden, is not good for her, but she stays with him. Brady realizes Sarah has come to mean very much to him, but keeps his distance since she’s dating someone else.

After another chance encounter and another opportunity to comfort Sarah through another crises, she makes a proposition: that if neither of them are married within five years, they’ll meet at Christmas Eve at “their” bench and get married.

Brady agrees and shows up at the appointed time, but Sarah doesn’t. Their lives intersect at various times, but they never mention their promise. Brady comes every Christmas Eve, even when he tells himself he’s a fool for doing so. But Sarah never shows up.

Is Brady a picture of faithful love? Or is he deluded, letting life pass him by while he waits for an impossible dream?

I loved this book. It had me in tears in a couple of places. I appreciated that the characters’ faith was interwoven so naturally and seamlessly.

Though technically this was also a romance, it was so much deeper and so much more was involved than in the previous book I mentioned.

My Christmas reading is off to a good start!

Christmas Reading Challenges

I always enjoy reading books about or set during Christmas in December. There are a couple of reading challenges where we can share about the Christmas books we’ve read.

I’ve participated in the Literary Christmas Challenge hosted by Tarissa at In the Bookcase for a number of years. Details about this year’s challenge, which runs from now til Dec. 31, are here.

A new challenge to me is the Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer. The challenge details are here. There will be prizes! 🙂 This one runs just from November 18-30—maybe to get us in the right spirit for Christmas?

I usually try to wait til Thanksgiving to read Christmas books, but I may start earlier this year.

I like to read some kind of Christmas or Advent devotional book in December, and Tim Challies shared a good list of some I don’t have. But I decided to try Hannah Anderson’s Heaven and Nature Sings: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World.

I’ve collected most of these on Kindle sales over the last few years. I don’t know how many I’ll get to, but some are novellas or novella collections.

Hope for Christmas: A Small Town Christmas Romance Novella by Malissa Chapin

It’s a Wonderful Christmas: Classics Reimagined by Julie Cantrell, Lynne Gentry, Allison Pittman, Kelli Stuart, Janyre Tromp

Midnight, Christmas Eve by Andy Clapp

Christmas in Mistletoe Square
by Cara Putman, Teresa Tysinger, Pepper Basham, Janine Rosche

Magnolia Mistletoe: An Edisto Christmas Novella by Lindsey P. Brackett

A Goose Creek Christmas by Virginia Smith

The 20th Christmas by Andrea Rodgers

A Christmas Snow by Jim Stovall

A Christmas Bride by Melanie Dobson

This one is a free audiobook for Audible subscribers. I’ve not heard of the author, but the reviewers say it’s sweet and clean.

Snowed In for Christmas by Cami Checketts

I might also listen again to The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I really enjoyed this audiobook a few years ago, plus I like Victorian-ish stories at Christmas, too.

I have a couple of Christmas story collections in print books: The Best of Christmas in My Heart by Joe Wheeler and Stories to Read at Christmas by Elsie Singmaster. I might try to read one or both of those.

Three Christmas Reads

I thought I’d group together short reviews of three books I enjoyed this December.

Expecting Christmas is a 40-day devotional book by multiple authors. I didn’t know any of the author names except one (Jennifer Dukes Lee). It’s put out by New Hope Publishers.

The selections are short, which is appreciated in a month like December. Each began with a verse or two of Scripture, a page and a half to two pages (at least in the Kindle version) of text, then three questions for refection.

The readings cover a variety of Christmas topics, though several deal with light.

A couple of samples: Day 15 talks about how horses in past years were seen as “labor animals, forms of transportation, and even weapons of war” (p. 44). After describing war horses, the writer points out Zechariah 9:9-10: Jesus did not come as an overthrowing conqueror, at least as the kind of conqueror society expected. His second coming will be more like that. But this time, He came humbly on a donkey. The author concludes, “Take time now to thank the Lord for being both just and humble, for bringing salvation instead of condemnation, for riding peacefully on a colt rather than on a warhorse. Ask Him to help you trust Him, especially when you don’t understand His ways. When you find yourself confused by His methods, remember the salvation He brought and the joys of that great gift” (p. 46).

In mediating on Jesus being given “the tongue of the learned” (Isaiah 40:4-5), another writer says, “Jesus didn’t use His deep knowledge and gift for oratory to make a name for Himself or climb social ladders. Rather, as seen in the Gospel accounts of His ministry, Jesus used His words to unburden people, free minds from the lies they had learned from false religions, and draw weary hearts closer to the Living God” (p. 54).

Another points out that people responded differently in praise and worship of the Savior, and that’s okay. “Mary’s response was one of quiet introspection as she treasured the good news of the gospel in her heart. The shepherds, on the other hand, left young Jesus, glorifying God and praising Him with outward enthusiasm and passion. People celebrate the gospel in different ways” (p. 77).

I only wish this book was 25 or 31 days so it would fit within the month of December. I didn’t get started 40 days ahead, so I have a bit yet to finish up. But I wanted to mention it before the month was over. Overall, I enjoyed it.

The second book I mentioned in my top twelve post yesterday. I had never heard of Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien. I discovered it while looking for a short Christmas audiobook to finish out the year. This fit the bill nicely.

Tolkien sent letters and drawings as if from Father Christmas to his children from 1920 to 1943. He wrote with a shaky script because he was so old, he said (probably also to disguise his handwriting). The letters would comment on happenings in the children’s lives as well as at the North Pole. The North Polar Bear was Father Christmas’s helper and companion, a cheerful but bumbling fellow who unwittingly caused a lot of accidents. Polar Bear adds his own commentaries with a thick script because of his paws. Later an elf named Ilbereth acts as Father Christmas’s secretary. The last few letters mention “this horrible war” (WWII) and the people displaced, the shortage of supplies even at the North Pole, etc.

I got the audiobook superbly narrated by Derek Jacobi as Father Christmas and a couple of others for the infrequent voices of the bear and elf. But when I realized the book had photos of the letters and drawings, I had to get the Kindle version, too.

I thought in passing of Tolkien’s penchant for languages but figured that wouldn’t have a place in this book. But he did come up with a made-up language called Arktic that is spoken at the North Pole, and Polar Bear shares a few lines of it.

He also included some battles with goblins, who at times liked to raid Father Christmas’s supplies.

These letters are wonderfully imaginative. I especially loved the banter between Father Christmas, Polar Bear, and Ilbereth.

My last Christmas book this year is The Ornament Keeper, a contemporary fiction novella by Eva Marie Everson.

It’s Felicia Morgan’s custom to begin decorating the Christmas tree with the special, customized ornaments her husband has given her, one each year except for the last year. Each represented something special about their year: their first Christmas together, their children, her job advancement, etc.

This year, though, Felicia is dragging her feet. She and Jackson have separated after twenty years of marriage. Her daughter convinces Felicia to put up decorations as usual, but the memories are painful.

As Felicia hangs each ornament, we see a flashback to the circumstances surrounding each of them. Felicia’s marriage began with a mistake which has haunted the couple’s twenty years. Though God has redeemed and worked together for good their indiscretion, seeds of resentment and unforgiveness threaten to destroy what they have. Can they find their way back to each other before it’s too late?

I enjoyed the story and the truths brought out. I appreciated that the book wasn’t superficial or treacly.

Have you read any of these? Did you read any Christmas books this year?

Literary Christmas 2021

I enjoy reading Christmas books after Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts a Literary Christmas challenge for that purpose. You can find the details here, but the basic idea is to read Christmas books and write posts about them.

I have several unread Christmas books in my Kindle app. Here are a few I’d like to get to:

A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas, set during the Civil War. I am listening to it currently.

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson. This appealed to me because I grew up on the Texas coastline, so my early Christmases were more seaside than wintery. I had this on last year’s list and regretted not getting to it.

Expecting Christmas by multiple authors, a daily devotional. Free for the Kindle as of this writing.

The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson, contemporary fiction about a couple separated after 20 years of marriage (99 cents as of this writing).

The Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin, an author new to me. A woman in the 1890s who helps people behind the scenes may be in need if help herself.

I have eight more, but we’ll see how I do with these first.

Do you like to read Christmas books in December? What’s in your stack?

Two Dickensian Christmas Stories

In A Tale of Two Hearts by Michelle Griep, Mina Scott is an innkeeper’s daughter in 1853 London. She enjoys Dickens novels when she can borrow them and dreams of a better life. She wouldn’t mind if William Barlow, a regular customer in her father’s tap room, was part of those dreams.

And then the unthinkable happens: William asks her to pose as his wife for a dinner with his uncle. The uncle is trying to determine which nephew will be his heir, and William thinks that appearing married will give him a better chance, especially considering his unstable earlier years.

Mina reluctantly agrees. She enjoys the visit to the restaurant and then the uncle’s townhouse, where she feels like a real lady. But she finds she really likes William’s uncle and feels bad for deceiving him. William does as well. Then they discover a scheme by the other nephew in line for the inheritance, and their focus turns to protecting the uncle. But how will they be believed without sounding like they are just angling for a better position themselves?

In The Old Lace Shop, also by Griep, Bella White is recently widowed, but not in mourning. Her husband was abusive, and she had only married him due to her father’s machinations. While selling off her husband’s property, she decides to keep one industry: a small lace manufacturer. She doesn’t need the income, but she needs to prove she can function on her own.

The shop has a partner, though Bella is the majority owner. When she moves to Nottingham to visit the shop, she’s stunned to find that the partner is the man she loved who left without a word to her several years before. After their awkward getting to know each other again and overcoming his resistance to her partnership, they try to find a good working relationship. But they clash on several points. And then they discover a plot that endangers both of them and the people they love.

These books were the second and third of Griep’s Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series. The first was 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, which I read a couple of years ago (linked to my review). The first two books were released separately in two subsequent years, but now they are combined in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas with the third.

As far as I could tell, the stories didn’t seem to be a retelling of a particular Dickens book. But they were from the same era and in similar style. Dickens himself shows up in the last two (I can’t remember if he did in the first).

Another common thread was a “second chance” coin—not a token of luck, but just a wish or acknowledgement for the recipient.

A few quotes:

Real joy is not found in the best moments of life, but in trusting that God is making the best of every moment.

My mother–God rest her– always told me to think of eternity, then live backward from that. Such a view has a way o’ whittlin’ down our current troubles to a size we can crumple up into a ball and toss aside.

His face was a road map of years.

Maybe, perhaps, true meaning in life had nothing to do with outward trappings but with inward genuineness.

Funny, is it not, that one doesn’t know how bad one really is until trying hard to be good.

One quote was overstated a bit. . . . “The heat of a thousand suns burned along every nerve, and settled low in his belly.”

I got a little frustrated with the characters and their choices sometimes. But these books weren’t bad companions for the last weeks of the year.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

Literary Christmas Challenge Wrap-Up 2020

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge //

Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts a Literary Christmas Reading Challenge to encourage reading and sharing at Christmas time.

I didn’t get to one book from my original plans, but I did listen to an audiobook I hadn’t planned to—so I guess it all worked out evenly in the end.

Here’s what I finished, linked back to my reviews:

  • Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall, nonfiction. Ways to enjoy Christmas as it is rather than an idealized version, with lots of tips.
  • Joy to the World: Daily Readings for Advent by Charles Spurgeon, nonfiction. Short excerpts taken from some of Spurgeon’s Christmas sermons and arranged as a 25-day devotional.
  • A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada, nonfiction. A lovely book filled with Joni’s artwork and meditations about Christmas.
  • A Very Bookish Christmas by Sarah Holman, J. Grace Pennington, Kate Willis, and Rebekah Jones, fiction. Four stories each tie in with a classic book.
  • Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection of ten novellas by different authors, fiction. Very suspenseful!
  • A Tale of Two Hearts and The Old Lace Shop, two stories in Michelle Griep’s Once Upon a Dicken’s Christmas. I’m not quite done with the last one, but I wanted to get the wrap-up post in before the reading challenge closed completely.

Thanks to Tarissa for hosting once again! I always enjoy it.

Two Christmas Devotionals

I love to read a Christmas or Advent devotional in December as a way to focus on the spiritual aspect of the season. This year I couldn’t decide between two, so I read them both.

Last year I had a book of C. H. Spurgeon’s Christmas sermons and thought to read them a bit at a time, like a devotional. But it didn’t work. I felt like I wasn’t getting the full impact and flow of thought without reading the whole sermon in context. So I ended up reading one each weekend

This year, however, I found a devotional book made up of short (2-3 pages on an iPad mini Kindle app) excerpts from some of his sermons: Joy to the World: Daily Readings for Advent. I was looking for something with short readings since my regular reading routine is pretty full, and this fit the bill.

Sometimes books made of excerpts from other books or sermons don’t always come across well: it’s obvious that some context is missing. But that wasn’t the case with this book. Each reading seemed like a complete thought. The English has been modernized a bit, but it didn’t seem to take away from the readings to me.

One of the themes is how a humble manger birth made Christ approachable: “We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger. Never could there be a being more approachable than Christ” (p. 20).

A couple of other quotes:

“Religion never was designed To make our pleasures less” (from “We’re Marching to Zion”). It is designed to do away with some of our pleasures, but it gives us many more, to make up for what it takes away; so it does not make them less (p. 32).

Now, Christ’s human flesh was God’s tabernacle, and it is in Christ that God meets with man, and in Christ that man has dealings with God. The Jew of old went to God’s tent, in the center of the camp, if he would worship: we come to Christ if we would pay our homage. If the Jew would be released from ceremonial uncleanness, after he had performed the rites, he went up to the sanctuary of his God, that he might feel again that there was peace between God and his soul. We, having been washed in the precious blood of Christ, have access with boldness unto God, even the Father through Christ, who is our tabernacle and the tabernacle of God among men (p. 51).

The tabernacle of old was not full of truth, but full of image, and shadow, and symbol, and picture; but Christ is full of substance. He is not the picture, but the reality; he is not the shadow, but the substance. O believer, rejoice with joy unspeakable for you come to Christ, the real tabernacle of God. You come to him who is full of the glory of the Father; and you come to one in whom you have not the representation of a grace which you needest, but the grace itself-not the shadow of a truth ultimately to be revealed, but that very truth by which your soul is accepted in the sight of God (p. 52).

The thought of Christ’s human flesh being our tabernacle was new to me, but poignant as our church is reading through Exodus and spent several days this month on the instructions for the tabernacle.

I also liked very much the thought in Day 6’s reading that God was pulling invisible strings to orchestrate the details of Christ’s birth, even to the point of the census being decreed to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, where the Scriptures prophesied Christ would be born. That’s a comfort in these times.

A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada is a gorgeous book filled with her art work, drawn by mouth due to her paralysis. It would make a lovely coffee table book if we had a coffee table.

It’s made up of 31 readings for each day in December (the above book had 25) centered on the theme of joy.

A few quotes:

Maybe we simply need to realize that our most unpleasant circumstances, much like Mary and Joseph’s, often have a way of becoming a beautiful portion of God’s magnificent design. God’s sovereign timetable is working in the life of your family, too, hard as that may be to accept at times. Despite the hardship, despite the inconvenience, despite our lack of understanding, God has something in mind. He is in control, and He has a design for your life this Christmas season… and through all the seasons of your life. (The book has no page numbers, but this is in “A Plan Behind the Pain.”)

Lives hinge and eternal destinies hang in the balance when men and women come face to face with Jesus the Christ. It isn’t always peaceful. It isn’t always painless. It isn’t always easy. But bowing the knee to Jesus Christ is always right. No matter what. (From “Simeon’s Message.”)

Maybe that’s why God puts those wistful longings in our hearts this time of year. He wants us to find the answers to those longings in the celebration of Jesus. He wants us to define that nostalgia as nothing more than a deep human desire to come home and adore His Son. (From “Create Your Christmas Spirit.”)

You see, when Christ entered history, He didn’t come waving a white flag. His coming was not simply a lull in the battle. It was more than a momentary cease-fire. When the angels sang, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” they were announcing an armistice. It was V-Day—an end, not just to the battle between God and humans, but to the war.

The phrase “peace on earth” carries with it so much more meaning than simply a warm, fuzzy feeling between the Lord and us. Christ, our Prince of Peace, was God’s way of announcing the close to an awful war. The Lord Jesus invaded enemy territory to lay claim on what was rightfully His. He confronted sin, and His battle cry told men that He had come to set them free.Through His death and resurrection, He signed the peace treaty in His own blood. (From “Peace on Earth.”)

I read this in bunches, both because I received it late plus I wanted to finish it in time for this review. But I think next year I’ll read just one entry a day and go more slowly and thoughtfully through it.

Though different in style, both of these books were meaty, inspirational, edifying, and enjoyable.

(Sharing with InstaEncouragement, Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

Book Review: A Very Bookish Christmas

A Very Bookish Christmas is a collection of Christmas novellas which each have a tie-in to a classic book.

Gingerbread Treasures by Rebekah Jones is based on The Sign of Four, a Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle. Emily Willis contacts her uncle’s friend to investigate a weird situation. Every December 12 of the last few years, she has received a gingerbread man with a key and instructions not to eat the cookie. On the fifth year, someone stole all four cookies plus her dog. Then she received an email “from a friend” requesting a meeting and saying she could bring two friends, but no police.

Molly and Anna by Sarah Holman is based on Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. Molly and Anna Garcia’s parents have both died, and they are being flown from their small mission to their aunt’s house. Molly tries to play the “glad game” like her favorite book heroine, Pollyanna. But it’s hard, especially when her aunt doesn’t want her to talk about her father or speak in Spanish, as she’s used to.

Sylvie of Amber Apartments by J. Grace Pennington is based on Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Sylvie is so into Anne of Green Gables that she includes on her Christmas list a dress with puffed sleeves like Anne craved. Sylvie’s imagination is more active than her mom thinks is practical. But when she slights her longtime friend for a new girl that reminds her of Diana in the book, perhaps her book world has intruded too much on real life.

Sincerely, Jem by Kate Willis is based on Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Jessie is an introverted book-lover who feels uncomfortable at parties. She brings along her inspiration book to write down observations, character sketches, etc. When a friend suggests a pen pal, Jessie likes the idea. She uses the pen name Jem and enjoys getting to know her correspondent without having to make awkward small talk. And she learns that part of friendship is extending herself.

I’m quite familiar with Anne, but it had been a long time since I had read the Holmes books, and I had never read the other two (though I’d seen the movie version of Pollyanna ages ago). Perhaps because I wasn’t as familiar with these classics, I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as I did the Thanksgiving version. Plus the first story seemed to contain a lot of unnecessary repetition.The Thanksgiving book was also the second written, so I think perhaps the writers had garnered a bit more experience.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book—I did, very much, especially the last three stories. I don’t know if the authors have any more collaborations up their sleeves (A Very Bookish Valentine’s Day, perhaps? Lots of possibilities there!). But if they do, I’m sure I’ll read them.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

Book Review: Loving My Actual Christmas

Though we love Christmas time, its busyness stresses us out. Calendars are full anyway, and then we add gatherings, programs, extra shopping and food preparation, wrapping, decorating, and various traditions.

Alexandra Kuykendall tried an “experiment in relishing the season,” as her subtitle says. Instead of an idealistic or nostalgic or “perfect” Christmas, she wanted to create a realistic Christmas that didn’t leave her exhausted and frustrated when it was over. She lets us in on the experiment in her book, Loving My Actual Christmas. Though she includes ideas and tips, “it’s more for your spirit to absorb the message of the holiday among the lights and gifts.”

She chose the four weeks and themes of advent to guide her. She wanted not just to “do better” organizationally, but to implement, foster, and be guided by hope, love, joy and peace.

Because hope, peace, joy, and love are certainly words I want to associate with this time of year. Rather than overspending, overeating, undersleeping, and underrejoicing, I want to notice the goodness God has offered in the here and now. In this year. This Christmas. Regardless of the circumstances. Because I don’t want to resent this actual Christmas, I want to love it.

For each week of Advent, she wrote down her approach, the Scriptures she read, a daily recording of what happened that week, a summary of what she learned, a list of what practices she’ll continue, and questions for reflection.

One of the first things she did was consult with her family about their desires. Expectation can make the holiday sweet and exciting but also set oneself up for a letdown. So they discussed the different programs, traditions, etc., to see what was most important to everyone and what, if anything, could be left out for sanity’s sake.

Here are some of the quotes I highlighted:

Circumstances may not be what we want, but we can step over the “whens” and “if onlys” to notice God’s gifts right in our midst.

“And heaven and nature sing.” Because he rules the world, all of his creation rejoices. That’s it. It doesn’t say heaven and nature sing when the Christmas card is beautiful and perfectly photoshopped, but because he rules the world. That’s it then. Joy does really come back to Jesus.

My people don’t need the perfect Christmas, but a present mother, daughter, wife, friend.

Christmas isn’t a race that ends on the 25th with recovery after, but a true season of relishing.

Jesus didn’t come to earth in order that we might overspend every December and have terrible arguments about the holiday bills. He came that we might have life. Let’s figure out what we can afford and live within those parameters.

You don’t want to end the party season depleted by executing the details, but energized by the relationships that are strengthened by a shared time together.

There are no awards shows for Christmas party throwing. No prizes for “Best Able to Pull It Off Alone.” Ask guests to bring food or help with decorations, invitations, setting up, or cleaning up.

There was one place that made me wince a bit. In discussing the circumstances of the first Christmas and Mary’s quiet pondering mentioned in Luke 2:19, the author writes, “Here Mary has just given birth to God . . .” I know what she meant. Jesus was (is) God in flesh. He didn’t originate in this birth: He existed eternally. And He is part of the Godhead, along with the Father and Spirit. The author would agree with all this, so she’s not saying God had His beginning here. She’s just pointing out the wonder of a young woman giving birth to the Messiah in such a setting. But the way it was phrased was a little uncomfortable to me.

Most of us have to do some mental adjusting about the holidays by the time we’ve had many Christmases as adults. We have to continually reminds ourselves what the season is actually supposed to be about and adjust our perspective. I found the author’s thoughts and tips very practical and helpful.

(Sharing with Grace and Truth, InstaEncouragement,
Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

Literary Christmas Challenge 2020

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge // inthebookcase.blogspot.comI enjoy reading Christmas books after Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts a Literary Christmas challenge for that purpose. You can find the details here, but the basic idea is to read Christmas books and write posts about them.

I have ten unread Christmas books on my Kindle app, plus one I’ve read but don’t remember and would like to reread. I don’t think I can get through them all in a month. I don’t want the challenge to be pressured, especially during a month with a lot else going on. So I’ll start with these and add some in if I have time and inclination.

An advent devotional—either Joy to the World: Daily Readings for Advent by Charles Spurgeon or A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada. Haven’t decided yet.

Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall, nonfiction.

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson. This appealed to me because I grew up on the Texas coastline, so my early Christmases were more seaside than wintery.

Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection of ten novellas by different authors. Not the usual Christmas fare, eh? I’ve only read two of the authors and heard of a couple more. I’m mainly reading it for Adam Blumer’s entry, but I hope to enjoy all of them.

A Very Bookish Christmas by Sarah Holman, J. Grace Pennington, Kate Willis, and Rebekah Jones. A series of stories based on classic books. I loved the Thanksgiving version so much, I couldn’t wait to get the Christmas one.

That gives me a good start! Do you like to read Christmas stories? Do you have plans to read any this year?

(Sharing with InstaEncouragement, Booknificent Thursday)