A Fresh Batch of Christmas Book Reviews

5 Christmas Books reviewed for you!

I have a special Christmas-themed batch of book reviews for you today! Enjoy these five brief reviews, and check out a few from last year too.

Total Christmas Makeover--a great read for Advent!

Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose

This is the first book I’ve read from author Melissa Spoelstra, and it won’t be the last one. I truly enjoyed her practical, down-to-earth stories and suggestions perfect for this time of year. Her book is divided into 31 brief devotions, which you can dive into any time of the holiday season. Melissa offers many ideas for how to prioritize your faith life and minister to others’ needs in this special time of year.

She asks us to focus on three key areas to focus on God’s character and faithfulness:

  1. Ritual
  2. Relationships
  3. Rest

I think she picked three very important areas for focus. Each one is an area where I need improvement this year.

Here are the suggestions I’m using to makeover my Christmas this year:
  1. Go through the alphabet and think of something about God for each letter. Example: A-Alpha and Omega. (Use this in your time of personal praise and worship.)
  2. As Christmas cards are mailed to your home, collect them in a basket. Then at mealtimes, pull out one of the cards and pray for the individual or family who sent it.
  3. We can take a humble posture as we go to holiday gatherings or parties. We can walk in the door prepared to listen with understanding.

If you’re looking for a practical devotional to help you gain balance this Christmas, this book will be a good fit for you, and it will fit into your busy schedule too!

Thank you to Netgalley for a free review copy of this book!

Because of Bethlehem--a wonderful Advent read!

Because of Bethlehem: Love Is Born, Hope Is Here

I’m glad I grabbed up this great deal one day from Bookbub. An ebook download for $1.99–but I’d be happy to pay full price for it! It’s really good. (If you’re not signed up for Bookbub and you love reading ebooks like me, go ahead and sign up for great deals!)

I am a Max Lucado fan, but it’s been quite a while since I read one of his books. This one has his signature storytelling, humor, wisdom, and humility tied all together. He shares his unabashed love of everything Christmas while pointing us to Jesus. He says that in the frightening, anxiety-provoking world we live in now, we need the hope, joy, and love of Christmas more than ever.

This story keeps running through my head. Max was driving one day and got in a traffic tussle with some teen boys. This pastor, author of dozens of books, and popular speaker was sucked into a battle that he knew better than to be in.

A glimpse into the story:

And I forgot who the teenager was. In that heated moment he wasn’t someone’s son. He wasn’t a creation of God. He wasn’t a miracle. He wasn’t fearfully and wonderfully made. He was a disrespectful jerk, and I let him bring out the disrespectful jerk in me…Each one of us entered the world with a sin nature. God entered the world to take it away. Christmas commemorates the day and the way God saved us from ourselves.

His honesty struck me. Let’s be honest–Christmas can be a rough time of year. People are still rude, selfish, and disrespectful this season. Hurt feelings abound. I appreciate that this book is prodding and poking at my own selfishness so I can work on it before the actual holiday arrives.

Looking for a Christmas book to help you grow? Pick up Because of Bethlehem, and be sure to sign up for the free online Bible study.

 

Free online Advent Bible study!

I love video-based studies like this one, which are so convenient in this busy season. You can also check out my videos on Christmas peace by going to my YouTube channel. I plan to have weekly videos there beginning in January 2018!


Names for the Messiah--a great Advent devotional!

Names for the Messiah

This devotional is written by a thoughtful, well-versed Bible scholar. Even though I’ve been a Christian for decades and feel like I know the Christmas story pretty well, I am learning so many interesting things from Names for the Messiah.

For example, Walter Brueggemann teaches about what the cultural expectation was for a coming king when Jesus was born. A king was expected to have war victories, economic success, agricultural productivity, and social justice. Much like the reign of David or Solomon. That’s what the Jews were expecting in a Messiah.

Then he shows us how Jesus surpassed all expectations as king. He uses two passages from the book of Mark to explain how Jesus “exercises counter-power that refuses the coercive, exploitative power of Rome and instead enacts abundant power that makes life possible.” With this book, I’m digging deeper into Scripture than I ever have before with other Christmas devotionals. If you want to dig a little deeper than usual, you’ll enjoy learning from this book.

I received a free review copy of this book from Netgalley.

Plain Christmas--a Christmas novel

Plain Christmas (Plain Fame)

I don’t usually read novels during this busy time of year, but Plain Christmas is worth the splurge. Amanda grew up Amish, but her life dramatically changed when she married Alejandro, a Latin music superstar. Now a mom of three caught up in a lifestyle driven by fame and fortune, she plans to return to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for the first time in years. Her family is not too sure about this drastic shift from their glamorous Miami celebrations, but Amanda is certain this is a change they all desperately need, maybe herself most of all.

My life in the Midwest is somewhere between Amanda’s fast-paced Florida living and the slow, quiet ways of her Amish homeland. I need to slow down this season. I look forward to this story unfolding in the snowy Northeast when I can snatch a few quiet moments here and there for myself this busy December.

Netgalley generously provided me a free copy of this book!

Essence of Joy-a beautifully unique Christmas book!

The Essence of Joy: Filling Your Heart with the Aromas of Jesus’ Nativity 

I don’t know much about essential oils, other than the power of peppermint oil to keep me alert. I keep a diffuser in my vehicle on road trips, and a little bottle on my desk. A few whiffs perk me up much better than caffeine.

I was excited to learn how essential oils tie into the Bible, especially the Christmas story. This book by Lynn U. Watson has a very interesting premise and a pretty design, inside and out.

What I enjoyed most were the fun facts about each essential oil, especially how they relate to biblical stories. For example, myrrh is mentioned specifically in the stories of Abraham, Moses, Esther, the lovers in the Song of Solomon, and in the Christmas story. I also learned about how to use the oil for meditative purposes.

So many interesting facts about these oils: myrrh, cedar, frankincense, rose, mint, fig, cinnamon, citron, and palm. I plan to experiment with a new diffuser and oil burner, using what I’ve learned in this book.

I like her idea of including a short, fictional account in each chapter. Her personal stories are engaging. Though the chapters could use a bit more cohesion, I learned enough new facts in each chapter to make up for the difference.

I received a free review copy of this book from the author–thank you, Lynn!

You may enjoy these other Christmas book reviews:

A great family devotional resource for Advent.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus

Devotions for Christmas

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Berenstein Bears Christmas Fun Book

And be sure to check out MY Christmas-themed book: Christmas Peace for Busy Moms!

Christmas Peace for Busy Moms

Question for you: Which book or books look most interesting to you? I love hearing your thoughts in the comments section!
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  • What a great offering! Thanks for sharing!
    XOXO
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com
    #Raralinkup

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Jodie! Thanks for stopping by today. Happy holiday season to you!

  • Tracy Crump

    A great variety of Christmas books, Sarah. Thanks!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Tracy! Thanks for visiting today. Blessings to you in this joyous season!

      • Tracy Crump

        Thanks, Sarah. Same to you and your family.

  • Mother of 3

    Ooh; Plain Christmas sounds intriguing.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hello! I really like it so far. Maybe I’ll read a bit more tonight while I try to relax!

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Sarah, you’ve read some great books this season. 🙂 Many years ago, I wrote a list of the names and attributes of God and used them during my prayer and praise time. Now, when I’m trying to fall asleep, I meditate on these to help my mind calm down.

    Max Lucado is a great teacher, and his stories always draw me in. I didn’t know he was an unabashed fan of Christmas. 🙂

    I’ve used essential oils for a few years now. How fun that you learned more about them.

    The novel sounds like a good one. I’ve read Amish fiction before, but this one seems to have a unique premise.

    Have a great week!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Jeanne! I love the idea of writing down God’s names and attributes for meditation. I will do this–thanks for sharing! Blessings to you today.

  • Awesome books! I shared this too. I hope you have a wonderful day!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thanks for sharing, Meghan! Still praying for you, per your requests!

  • I didn’t know you’d written a Christmas book, Sarah! Kudos to you. <3 That first one I'd never heard of, and it looks so good: ritual, relationships, and rest. What a good balance. I'm going to keep it in mind. And don't you LOVE the cover of Asheritah CiuCiu's book? I actually have the Kindle/pdf version from years ago, but this looks so beautiful.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Betsy! Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, the cover of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is beautiful! Blessings to you today!

  • In addition to Advent devotionals, I always read familiar, what I call comfort books, during Advent. I started when my girls were very young, 1 and 3. Since I had no car, I couldn’t get to the library (in 1980 there were no ebooks!) I grabbed my Little House series and started. Every book has a Christmas story and the simple, familiar books make me feel peaceful and happy. I haven’t reread the Little House books in several years but I’m going to do it this year.

    • Sarah Geringer

      That’s wonderful, Debbie! I treasured the Little House books as a girl. I remember the Christmas stories in them as well. My 9-year-old daughter is reading The Long Winter now, and maybe we can read one of the books in tandem together. Personally I love reading children’s books, picture or chapter, at Christmas as much as adult books! Your comment has sparked good memories. Thanks!

  • Brueggemann’s book sounds really challenging!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Michele…you were literally on my mind as I was reading it. I thought, Michele would love this book AND do a great review of it. Maybe it’s meant for you to read!

  • These all sound great, Sarah. And I used to read Max Lucado’s books all the time, but I love the honest story you shared from this particular book. The way he looked back on that meltdown brings such insight for all of us. If only I can see it in the middle of the temptation! ha! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are finding a good rhythm for the rest of the holiday season, my friend! Always great to visit your place.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Beth! I really need his honest stories to convict me and keep me on track. I did have a good Thanksgiving and I’m trying to develop a steady rhythm for the rest of the year. Blessings to you!

  • Susan

    You need my Christmas book!! xo Love to you and yours Sarah.

    • Sarah Geringer

      I was just thinking that, friend! I’ll visit Amazon today. 🙂

  • Great list Sarah! I tend toward the practical non-fiction/inspiration at this time until I realize I need a break! Novels are perfect for that! Can’t wait to check some of these out!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Becky! I hope you’ll like at least one of these as much as I did. Your reading list has inspired me this week!

  • So many great books to read! Thanks for your reviews–makes it easier to choose. I think I’m going to be giving some books this Christmas:)

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you for stopping by, Ginger! Max Lucado’s online study begins Sunday, and I’m looking forward to watching the videos!

  • Summer Overstreet

    I love all of these, but Total Christmas Makeover sound like a fabulous book for the usual Christmas insanity. The idea of praying for the senders of our Christmas cards is so precious and touching! Thank you for sharing these great finds!!!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Summer! Total Christmas Makeover is a wonderful book. Blessing to you in this Advent season!

  • I just got the Max Lucado one from our library! I’m excited to start it. I love reading books that focus in on the true reason for the season.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hooray! Your library must be very up-to-date, since his book got released recently. Hope you enjoy it!

      • I’m not sure if they have a print version of it, but they have it on the Hoopla app (which allows patrons to check out e-books and audiobooks on their smart phones or tablets). I’ve noticed they get books on the app soon after they release.

  • Hi, thanks for letting me know about the linkup problems. I loved the books you featured here today. I fixed the problem.