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?