In this episode Phylicia shares five Advent devotionals and a few Advent and Christmas picture books just in time for your Black Friday shopping spree!
Grab Seasonal Celebrations here: https://phyliciamasonheimer.com/product/seasonal-celebrations-paperback/
The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah CiuCiu
Emmanuel by Ruth Chou Simons
Almost Christmas: A Wesleyan Advent Experience
Seasonal Celebrations by Phylicia Masonheimer
Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate
Saint Nicholas by Julie Steigmeyer
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
The 12 Days of Christmas by Jan Brett
The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids by Asheritah CiuCiu
Welcome to Verity Podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer. I’m here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey because every woman is a theologian.
Well, friends, I don’t know about you. But I don’t love thinking about Christmas before Thanksgiving has even happened. But I’m being forced into this position for two big reasons. The first is we have two feet of snow outside and even for Northern Michigan that is a lot for November. [laughs] Last time, my dad remembers this happening was in 2009. We usually get a dusting a couple of inches that melt off but it has been snowing nonstop for this whole week essentially. I know it’s not just us in Northern Michigan, I’m pretty sure all of Michigan and New York got hit pretty hard too. So hopefully you’re staying safe out there. It sure is beautiful and we are enjoying it. But it puts me in the Christmas mood and so this episode is all about my favorite Christmas Advent Devotionals and Christmas books for kids. Because I know that you’re going to be placing orders most likely during Black Friday. And I want you to have this episode before that happens because I’m an enabler and I want you to buy all the books.
The second reason though that I’m doing this episode is, I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately on Ask Anything Monday on my Instagram. And I’ve seen questions in Every Woman, a Theologian Facebook Group, where people are asking about Advent Devotionals and books, so I want to toss out a few that I have really liked and enjoyed and hopefully they are helpful to you. So, first things first, I’m going to begin with the adult Advent Devotionals and then I will move to the children’s picture books and resources. Obviously, you can pick and choose which ones you want to use. The thing about Advent Devotionals is that they’re only used one time of the year, usually. I am someone who can’t read Christmas stuff or use Christmas stuff outside of Christmas. I just can’t, I can’t even buy Christmas stuff when it’s not Christmas season. I love the Advent season but I can’t think about it any other time. So that being said, if you begin collecting Advent Devotionals I mean, you could end up with a rotation where [laughs] if you have like five or six of them you read one every five years, unless you have a favorite you return to every year. So, I’m going to share with you the four that I really love, and then a couple other resources for family or community Advent time that I have for you.
The first one I want to share with you is the one I did last year. This is called The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. I really enjoyed this one last year. It’s very short and I loved how much it pulled from the prophetic books of the Bible. It basically pulls from the entire Bible pointing from Genesis to Revelation and how it points to Jesus and how it points to the salvation that comes through Jesus. So, I loved that about this book, I would say this is an ideal book for someone who enjoys a more poetic style. So, if you’ve ever read any of Ann Voskamp’s works, her work is very poetic, uses a lot of visual language, a lot of rhythm and pattern. I’m a poet myself so I love that kind of writing. If you want something a little bit more plain or straightforward, then this one might not be for you. But this is also a part of a series and I went on Amazon to look it up because I don’t own this one. But she also has a family celebration of Christmas called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. So, the one that I’m holding here is the devotional that you would just read probably on your own and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift would be the family version, and there’s also a calendar that you can grab that goes with the family version too. Okay, so that’s number one.
The second one is by my friend Asheritah Ciuciu. It’s an Advent Devotional called Unwrapping the Names of Jesus and this one has a whopping 2000 reviews on Amazon and five stars. So, if that tells you anything, this book is fantastic and I honestly was looking at the date of publication because I was like, how does it have 2000 reviews already because I thought it was new. But she has a children’s book that is based on this devotional and I believe that is the one that is new and came out this year. And that one is fantastic as well. So, I highly recommend both the Unwrapping the Names of Jesus Devotional for adults and also the children’s picture book version. But what I love about this, first of all, is just Asheritah herself, she is such a genuine person, she loves the Lord with such a passion. She’s so wise and she’s very gentle and her words in this book are beautiful. And it’s not a heavy book at all, it’s actually very, very small. And each of the weeks of Advent are then broken down into days. So, week one is hope and has some readings and liturgies and then it says day one, Jesus, and it talks about Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son and you have to give Him the name Jesus.” And so, then the little devotion talks about what that name means and where it comes from in scripture. And then it leaves you with a challenge of prayer and verses for further study. Day two, Jesus is the resurrection and the life, John 11:25. So it’s diving into the names of Jesus and how they shape our understanding of Him in the Advent season. I love this because we’re reading through the New Testament chapter by chapter with our kids right now and our small group. And so, our girls are hearing the different names of Jesus in the Gospels. And this would be a really great way to talk more in depth on that.
Okay, the third one that I have is Emmanuel: An Invitation to Prepare Him Room at Christmas and Always by Ruth Chou Simons and this is a 25-day devotional, this is a newer one as well. I believe it just came out and as usual, it has Ruth’s amazing artwork in it. So, if you’re a visual person, this might be a great one for you. Again, divided into the four weeks of Advent with the different daily readings within it. So, these topics are broken into week one, our pastor, week two, God’s promise, week three, our response and week four, our Messiah. So, each six-day section has devotions specific to those topics. So, moving from our own hearts to God’s promises, to the response of our hearts, to our Messiah and who He is. And so that last section, week four crosses over a bit with Unwrapping the Names of Jesus because it talks about the different names of God, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. So, this is a beautiful book, this is one that I would put in my rotation with these other two. They’re just all so beautiful. I’ve confessed this before that I’m such a sucker for beautiful covers and all of these are really pretty. I kind of want to have them all out on my coffee table, and then just pick and choose what I want to read every day during the Advent season.
The last one that I have for adults, is Almost Christmas: A Wesleyan Advent Experience and this one is the smallest of all of them. It is based on the sermon by John Wesley called The Almost Christian, and this is one of the most famous sermons that John Wesley ever preached. He describes in that sermon, a person who, on the surface has all of the outward appearances of godliness, who does all the right things. But Wesley says that as commendable as that person is that they would only be almost a Christian. And he’s saying, basically is this all that you have to give God? Doesn’t God deserve more? And the devotional itself says, isn’t it possible that God has given you His Spirit and empowered you to do more than just the basics and has called you to make an extraordinary impact for the kingdom. Doesn’t God, want nothing less than your whole heart. And so, they say that the goal of this devotion is to think about these questions that are drawn from Wesley’s sermon. Do I so far practice justice, mercy and truth as the world requires. Do I even appear on the outside to be a Christian. Do I practice godly behavior. Do I refrain from doing evil as described in the Bible. Do I do good with all my mind. Do I seriously follow God’s commandments whenever I can. Do I do everything with a sincere plan and desire to please God in every way, and it goes on to other questions that are asked. But the basis of this particular devotional is four chapters, it’s more of a weekly rather than a daily devotional and they are called an altogether peace, an altogether hope, an altogether love, and an altogether joy. And the epilogue is an altogether commitment, a Wesleyan covenant renewal. So, if you’re looking for a devotional that is theological, not reformed, but is also based on a classic sermon, this is a really great choice. It wouldn’t take a whole lot of time to read because you’d probably be reading it only once a week versus every day. So, you could actually combine Almost Christmas with the other three pretty easily.
Okay. I said, that was the last one, I lied. I have one more. [laughs] It’s actually my own. So, this book is called Seasonal Celebrations, your guide to celebrating the gospel through church holidays. This is actually more than just an Advent guide. This is a guide to all the major church holidays on the church calendar with the exception of lent, I did not include lent in this because I hadn’t written anything on it and I did not include Pentecost. So those two are not in this book. But say Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, All Saints Day/Halloween, and Advent and Christmas are included in this guide. And if you’ve ever used one of my holiday guides, if you’ve listened to the All Saints Day and Halloween episode, I talked about it there. My holiday guides are designed to give you the researched history of the holiday kind of sifting through what’s been accused about the holidays and what’s actually true about them. And then gives you just some information to make an educated decision about how to celebrate that with your community. So, in this particular guide you get every single one of the original eBook guides. So, our St. Valentine’s, Patrick’s, etc. Those were all individual eBook guides that we compiled into one book and released it as a print edition. You can get this compilation as an eBook edition as well if you want to avoid shipping. But the print edition is pretty snazzy.
I’m really happy with it and the celebrate Christmas section includes the history of Christmas. So, what is Advent? Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th? And then it goes into some of the questions that I get on Ask Anything Monday and that you might be getting from people in your life, such as where do Christmas trees come from. Is Christmas, a pagan festival. What are the origins of Santa? How should I talk to my kids about Santa? And I answer all those questions and then you also get a weekly Advent celebration guide. So, my guide is not daily it’s just for week by week. So, week one, the focus is promise, where you’ll do a scripture memory verse and the scripture reading. I have a song to sing. It’s The First Noel and then a liturgical reading, and then we also have several recipes and crafts that you can do. I designed the recipes and crafts to be something that you can do either with your friends or with your kids. I tried to design this where it works just as well for the 22-year-old and her roommates as it does for the family with young children. So, it’s not designed only for families, it definitely could be used for people who are single or just married and don’t have kids. So do you have a hymn for each Sunday, you have scripture and you have some activities or recipes for that week. Then you also get at the back bucket list ideas and a list of my favorite Christmas picture books for kids and my favorite books on Christmas for adults as well. So, picture books, I’m going to talk about in a second. But the full list of all of the ones that I personally love are in the back of this Seasonal Celebrations Guide so you can grab this on the Every Woman a Theologian shop at phyliciamasonheimer.com.
All right. So, children’s books, we need to transition over there since I just mentioned them. I unabashedly admit that I love picture books. I love them even for myself, maybe you would find me sitting in my living room with a stack of children’s picture books. No shame, maybe that’s what I’m doing who knows, but a few of the Christmas ones that I have really enjoyed. I want to start with Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate. I grew up with this book and I think it takes me back because the illustrations are just so pretty. It’s about the stable where Jesus was born, and the animals all getting ready for Mary and Jesus to come. Obviously not historically correct, also animals don’t talk so. [ chuckles] If that’s your big concern, I hate to break it to you. But Who is Coming to Our House? By Joseph Slate, very cute. They have a board book version and they have a regular picture version. Next up is Saint Nicholas by Julie Stiegemeyer. This is a great book for teaching your kids the true story of Santa Claus. So, who was Saint Nicholas? What did he do and why did he become Santa Claus? This book is really sweet and really focuses on the love of Saint Nicholas for children, beautiful illustrations as well.
Next up is The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado. This is another blast from the past when I just said that some of you are like, “Oh, my gosh, I remember that book.” And it is so, so sweet. Again, I’m always looking for really well-done illustrations. I don’t have time to waste on bad illustration. So, The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado has beautiful illustrations but it also has this lovely storyline about this little lamb who has a crippled leg, he feels left out because he can’t run and play with the other lambs. But God has this special plan for him and he’s a part of Jesus’ birth and he’s a part of that story. So, this is one that my girls really love. And the lamb’s name is Joshua, my husband’s name is Josh, so they really like that as well.
The next one is The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett, so you will never go wrong with a Jan Brett book ever. Jan Brett, I collect her books. First of all, she’s a fantastic illustrator, so much detail and she does a lot of winter-themed books. A lot of them are based in I think it’s Norway or Finland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. I’m a quarter Swedish and I basically live in Canada. So, anything with snow, I like to kind of keep those kinds of picture books around in my house. This is a really sweet one for Twelve Days of Christmas kind of a fun one if you want to add that into your routine.
The last one I want to mention is The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt, I love this book. It’s a little bit wordy so [laughs] I always feel bad when I have parents listening. And I’m like, this is such a good book. And then you go by it and you’re like, “Oh, my goodness, it’s one of those picture books.” That’s like super long and I really don’t want to read this, I promise it’ll be worth it. It’s a really sweet book about these three trees that want to accomplish these great, great things with their lives on earth. And they end up getting chopped down and used for things that are really mundane and boring. Then all three of them end up playing a significant role in the birth of Jesus. So, it’s just a really neat story, it’s an older book, really beautiful illustrations as well.
Now, I have a lot more Christmas books that I love. Another one is the Seek and Find I think it’s called Seek and Find Christmas. It’s similar to the Seek and Find: Old Testament and New Testament books that I mentioned a couple episodes back when I did, Children’s Bibles and Books, so that’s another good one. But the rest of my favorites are in the Seasonal Celebrations Guide at the very back if you’re looking for resources and want some more recommendations. And I also hope to compile an updated version of my Toddler Advent Guide, which is a blog post on phyliciamasonheimer.com. And I will go through and try to add a few more picture books to that as well because who doesn’t need more books.
So hopefully this gave you a few ideas. I know I’m leaving out a whole lot of really, really good Christmas books. I didn’t want to overload you though and I don’t want to have to put a bajillion links into my blog post when this goes up but that can be so overwhelming. Even when I went on Amazon and I was looking at all of the Advent Devotionals that were available. I was just like, there are so many, how do you choose? So, I wanted to keep this a shorter collection and then you can kind of decide which one works for you. But also if you wanted, you could use the more weekly based types of books and integrate those with the daily ones. Read the weekly one like Almost Christmas, or the Seasonal Celebrations Guide with your family. And then for your own personal use you do Unwrapping the Names of Jesus or The Greatest Gift or Emmanuel. You can always do it that way too. And remember, you always have next year, you can you can use one devotional on one year and use another the next year. You don’t have to do all the Christmas things at once. Hopefully that’s a relief for some of you.
Next week, I hope to have an episode that’s coming out on the history of Christmas and Christmas trees and we’ll be discussing some of the things that are covered in the Seasonal Celebrations Guide, so watch for that and I will be back with you in your earbuds next Wednesday.
Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity Podcast. If you enjoy this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian as a ministry and a shop. We appreciate you and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s Word and the heart of Jesus Christ.