The holidays are always a festive, frolicking time, but there’s also a religious message inherent in the Christmas season. If you’re looking for books that focus on the meaning of the holiday or that offer messages of faith, hope and love to little ones, these selections from Christian publishers would be just right for gift-giving or family sharing.

WORDS OF COMFORT

Not just at Christmastime, but year-round it happens. A kid needs an understanding pal, a listening ear or a promise of hope—and right away! Veteran author Sally Lloyd-Jones had just that in mind with Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, a generous collection of encouraging words about the everyday bumps and hurdles that children encounter. Each page is a blend of Lloyd-Jones’s inspirational, gentle tone with illustrations of rich, deep colors by British artist Jago that depict a God who is forever with us and always understanding.

“Of all the incredible things God made, which do you think is the most amazing?” Lloyd-Jones writes in a section titled In All the Earth. “Is it the Grand Canyon? Or the Milky Way? What about the North Pole? . . . Do you know what God says is the best, most magnificent, incredible thing he has ever made? You.”

I call this a go-to book in times when a child (or even an adult) needs a spiritual lift or a happy thought at the end of a rocky day. The author says it much better by describing how the book came about in the first place.

“My niece was the inspiration for this book. She was 8 at the time. And almost overnight, she went from being a vivacious little girl full of life to a quite hidden child. Even her voice changed—into a very quiet voice you could hardly hear. And we found out she was being bullied at school,” Lloyd-Jones says. “I wished she had a book that she would want to have by her bedside, a book she would look forward to reading, a book no one would have to make her read--but that she would choose to read--a book that would tell her what God says about her instead of what these bullies were saying. And so I wrote the book for her—and every child like her.”

THE GOOD SHEPHERD'S GOOD BOOK

Children’s Bibles have changed over the years, becoming more and more accessible to young readers. Jesus Calling Bible Storybook by Sarah Young is a terrific selection, especially for kids who sometimes tire of the same stilted retellings. This Bible brings it home, making children feel that ancient Bible is personal, speaking directly to them. Young masters this in two ways. First she puts the stories in modern “kidspeak” with everyday language. For example, she begins the story of creation this way: “A, B, C . . . 1, 2, 3 . . . Everything begins somewhere.” How simple is that? Then after every Bible story, Young ends with a Jesus Calling scripture and simple devotional that is conversational, written as if Jesus were sitting right next to the reader and talking about things kids experience or question like faith, happiness, right and wrong, and love. Again, the language is just right when Jesus tells kids, “Talk to me all the time —in good times and in bad times.” No vague Bible-speak here that swooshes over the reader’s head. Jesus’ words seem written in real time.

Each story is carefully selected to teach young hearts not only basic Bible stories, but also to show Jesus’ role in the Old Testament and the New Testament. With bright, vivid illustrations by Carolina Farias, God’s love unfolds on page after page, from creation to Jesus’ departure from this earth. Farias’ style is captivating, with a color palette that lends itself to Biblical times yet somehow feels warm and intimate for today’s reader. This is a Bible to be treasured for many years.

THE CHRISTMAS STORY

In A King James Christmas: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from Around the World editors Catherine Schuon and Michael Fitzgerald combine excerpts from the Gospels with beautiful illustrations, ranging from Renaissance masterpieces to paintings by Schuon herself. The selected passages from Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ birth and childhood, as well as the key tenets of his teachings (Jesus Teaches in the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount). For young readers who may be a bit intimidated by the language of the King James Bible, the editors have included synonyms for unfamiliar words within the text. This beautifully crafted book makes the story of Jesus’s birth easy to follow and understand, and the multicultural artistic expressions add to the book’s appeal. Intended for the entire family, A King James Christmas would be a perfect choice for a Christmas Eve read-aloud.

A NEW ADVENTURE

Now here’s a good idea: an Old and New Testament Bible that kids can read and comprehend all by themselves. Although the publisher, Common English Bible, painstakingly created this translation with 120 Bible translators from 24 denominations plus a plethora of diverse Bible readers, Deep Blue Kids Bible is truly in the language and on the vocabulary level of today’s child. There’s no better way to engage kids than to use their own words, then enliven the reading experience with 3D-style illustrations, lively characters and timely life-related notes throughout. The Deep Blue Kids Bible makes the reading more like a Bible story adventure.

This Bible is so upbeat that parents and grandparents will get a kick out of reading it with their kids and grandkids. Adults will enjoy the pages loaded with devotions, highlights of fascinating facts, notes of character traits and faith concepts. Children’s ministries will appreciate the resources that pop onto the pages, like fun trivia, easy overviews and kid-level discussion suggestions. All that and the pages never look too busy, overloaded or junky. Instead, this Bible os inviting, calling for kids to climb aboard and explore—in a high seas adventure kind of way.

COOKING UP SOMETHING SPECIAL

With just the right measure of clear directions and big, delicious food photos, the Faithgirlz line of books for tween girls adds a delicious recipe book. More than a simple snack cookbook, Food, Faith & Fun has an array of cooking delights from munchies, and salads to main courses, with a dash of scripture included. Healthy smoothies, perfect potato salad and enchiladas are just a few samples any family would delight in being served and any tween would enjoy creating—with Faithgirlz flair, of course. Vegetarian recipes are part of the mix, along with a nice section for creative holiday treats, including Cathedral Window Cookies and Christmas Swirl Cookies. Food, Faith & Fun encourages friends and family to grab an apron and join in the fun of nourishing the body and soul.

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