With the busyness of the Christmas season, it’s easy to lose our focus on the importance of Christ’s coming. How can we better celebrate and share him with others during such a frantic time of year?
One easy way to reflect more on Jesus’ life this December is by picking up an Advent or Christmas devotional. Take a look through these 10 books to find inspiration, encouragement, and even activities.
Advent for you
1. For free in December: God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The season of Advent reminds us that we are people in waiting as we look forward to seeing our Lord face to face. This daily devotional through Advent is taken largely from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison, where he was held following an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler.
In this devotional, Bonhoeffer writes about longing, joy, and incarnation—and encourages us as we wrestle with our own faith.
2. The Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey
One reviewer said, “Put this book in your hands and feel loved.” Another wrote, “Ramsey deftly retells the story of Jesus with a pastor’s heart and an artist’s touch. In this book, real people sigh and cry, tremble, and rejoice. It captured my heart. My family will treasure it for years to come.”
3. Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp
Bestselling author Paul Tripp has published Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, and several others. Now he brings readers along to reflect on Advent.
In the introduction, he writes,
It is a mind-boggling, hard-to-grasp, awesome story unlike any other story ever told. But what makes this story so wonderful and so important is not that its plot is way beyond anything you would’ve ever conceived. What makes this story vital to know and understand is that it is not a well-crafted fantasy. The thing that should make you stop in your tracks, activate your heart and mind, and fall to your knees is that this story is real. It took place in real time at real locations with real people. All human history was marching to the specific point in time when this story would unfold, and the implications of the events of this story reach to everyone who has lived since. The Christmas story is the story of stories.
When writing this devotional, I was brought to a new place of wonder and worship as I considered that that baby boy in the manger was not only a real human baby but also fully God. For the months it took to write this collection of meditations, it was wonderful to consider day after day that God knew that the only way to fix everything sin had broken was to give us the ultimate gift, the gift of himself. My prayer is that focusing on the glory of the incarnation of Jesus will fill you with wonder too.1
Max Lucado’s heartwarming reflections on the season focus on the hope of Christmas. Relatable stories include his struggle to avoid a leaning Christmas tree and waking up at 2:30 to relive a meeting from the previous day—but every story ties back to Jesus.
The bonus content, An Angel’s Story: The First Christmas from Heaven’s View, takes us on an imaginative journey to Advent through the eyes of Gabriel.
Advent for you and your small group
5. Destination Bethlehem: Daily Meditations, Prayers, and Poems to Light the Way to the Manger by J. Barrie Shepherd
Take a journey—a devotional journey through the days and weeks of December toward the manger. Images, incidents, impressions, and items from the daily news are woven together to form a rich and rewarding tapestry . . . an open door into the quiet places of the soul.
Destination Bethlem also helps pastors and worship leaders find creative language and imagery to tell the old story in a new and inviting way.
6. Travel the Highways of Advent: An Advent Study for Adults by Stan Purdman
- Week 1, “The Straightened and Level Highway”
- Week 2, “The Highway of Reversal”
- Week 3, “The Highway in Between”
Week 4, “The Highway of Enthusiasm”
Finally, travel “The Highway of Merriment” at Christmas. Questions for reflection and discussion, a brief prayer, and a focus for the week make it easy to dig deeper with less prep time than you might normally spend for small group.
7. O’er All the Weary World: Stories for Advent and Christmas by Sarah M. Foulger
Stories like “Waking from Sleep,” “The Gift of the Maggies,” “Everybody’s Got an Angle or Everybody’s Got an Angel,” and twelve others are at times funny and at times thought-provoking, but they all point to Christ.
Advent for your family
8. Anticipating His Arrival: A Family Guide through Advent by Rick Brannan
This devotional helps guide families through Advent with themes of preparation, anticipation, joy, and incarnation. After each reading, you can ask the included discussion questions to help your children better understand and apply biblical truth during Advent and throughout the year.
9. Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica L. Thompson
This thought for children is from day one:
Do you ever feel like God is far away from you? Or like He is so big and powerful that He would never notice a little child like you? Our verses today in Psalm 113 talk about that very thing. You see, God is big and powerful. Our verses say, “He is seated on high.” Imagine someone in a very big throne looking down on everybody else, thinking important thoughts, and doing important things. You probably think that someone so important doesn’t care about unimportant, little kids; but, you see, our God is different. Our verses say that God takes the most unimportant people and raises them up to sit with all the princes. God really does see you. God really does love you. As we get close to Christmas, we are going to see that God loves us so much that He gave us the best gift possible. He gives gifts to the people that most everybody else wouldn’t even bother with. God gives gifts to us because He loves us, not because we are big and powerful.2
Fitzpatrick and Thompson have also included four activities (with photos) to help children understand and enjoy this blessed season.
10. Celebrating Advent: Family Devotions and Activities for the Christmas Season by Ann Hibbard
What a relief! I thought as I finished addressing the last parcel wrapped in brown grocery bag paper. Our dining room looked as though a tornado had struck. Wrapping paper, grocery bags, scissors, tape, and old gift boxes were strewn everywhere. Fortunately, both kids were down for naps (a true miracle!), so I had been able to finish my Christmas wrapping without worrying about little fingers.
Turning my back on the mess, I retreated to the kitchen to put on the teakettle. I deserved a reward—a nice hot cup of Swiss Mocha.
. . .
Suddenly I realized that I had come to dread Christmas and all it entailed.3
She writes, “‘Where is Christ in all of this?’”
It can be easy to feel the same way and ask the same question. Hibbard helps families find true joy in the season, starting with week one. She asks “What’s Missing at Christmas?” and gives a way to fill the gaps in “Steps for a Happier Christmas.” Week two includes Advent devotions, while week three focuses on celebrations—including a Twelfth Night party. The final section brings a hands-on approach to Advent! There are instructions for a fun and inexpensive Advent tree banner and a Jesse tree.
What books help you focus on Jesus during the Christmas season? Let us know in the comments.