Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Picture Books: Jesus & the Nativity

To me, the meaning of Christmas is Christ.   I do not celebrate the baby Jesus though or even just the miraculous story of His birth.  Instead, it is about Jesus coming down from His position as ruler and creator to be a man, so He could experience everything we experience…yet, not sin.  It is about the greatest power and love…His dying on the cross so we could have fellowship with Him here on Earth and eternally.  Christmas is about gifts…only it is not the ones we can buy.  It is God’s overabundance of blessings.  God bless you this Christmas season! 

The Nativity (ages ALL) from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke 
This picture book is my favorite of the illustrated Gospel stories.  The Nativity is true to the biblical account, and the illustrations are stunning (by Ruth Sanderson).  Beginning with the arrival of the angel to announce God’s plan, Mary is seen in a peaceful and worshipful manner.  She has the light of God around her and a look of peace on her face throughout.   All the events are covered from the journey to Bethlehem to Jesus’ birth to His growing up in Nazareth.  The wise men are seen visiting the family in a house, not in a stable right after Jesus’ birth.  The text and pictures also show the family fleeing after the angel’s warning and Jesus helping Joseph as He “became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him.”  I will use this book on Christmas Eve with my family. 

The Story of Christmas (ages ALL) words from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke 
Jane Ray beautifully illustrates the scriptural account of Jesus’ birth and early life.  All the main events are covered, including the angel’s visit to Mary, the trip to Bethlehem, Jesus’ birth, the angels’ visit to the shepherds, the multitude of heavenly hosts praising God, the shepherds’ visit, the wise men traveling and visiting Herod, the wise men’s visit, the angel’s visit to Joseph, and their flight to Egypt.   It ends with the family returning to Nazareth where Jesus grows in body, spirit, and grace.  The pictures are stunning and vibrant.  This book is a wonderful Christmas read! 

Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers (ages 5 and Up) Andrew Clements  
This book takes a different approach than the others.  It is written from the perspective of an angel.  I was initially skeptical since we know little about what they think or feel, but it is written in a reverent and awe-inspiring manner. What I love about Bright Christmas is the emphasis on how God was working behind the scenes preparing the people for the coming Messiah centuries before His arrival.  God revealed His plan through many prophets like Moses, David, and Isaiah.  When Mary and Joseph were traveling and looking for a place to stay, God was with them and watching over them.  God was orchestrating every part of Jesus’ arrival.  The angels, Heaven, and Earth all celebrate His arrival—even to this day! The angel states, “The light (Jesus) shined into the darkness, and there was no night there.”  Christmas is about the Word becoming flesh—the truth and light being given to the world. 

The Nativity: Mary Remembers (ages ALL) by Laurie Knowlton  
The circumstances leading up to the birth of Jesus to the flight of His family to Egypt are told from the perspective of Mary, His mother.  Mary is obedient, trusting, hopeful, and calm.  She describes her awe at being a chosen instrument of God, her difficult journey as a pregnant woman to Bethlehem, and her joy as she looks on her newborn baby.  Visits from the shepherds and the wise men are also described through Mary’s eyes.  Even when the family flees to Egypt, Mary has an attitude of trust and hope.  She states, “I knew we were not alone.  God was with us.”  While it is historical fiction recreation, the narrative sticks to the biblical account.  

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