Thursday, 26 December 2019

Reading Christmas

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Many things make this a special time of year - summer (or winter) holidays, Christmas carols and songs, Christmas foods, Christmas lights, decorations and Christmas trees, nativity scenes, family gatherings, parties and traditions, Christmas movies - and well, maybe a book or two, (Afterall, what better present to give a booklover for Christmas than, well, books :) )

So, I thought we could look at twelve books that focus on or highlight Christmas in their pages. (Of course, there are many more. If I've missed one of your favourites, why not share it with us in the comments below.)

1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

In the first written book in the series, Narnia is held in the spell of the White Witch for over on hundred years- always winter, never Christmas. With the coming of Aslan, the lion, the son of the Emperor Beyond the Seas, the Witch's punishing grip on Narnia is broken. Before the great thaw takes hold, the three Pevensie children (Edmund has gone over to the witch) and the Beavers, hear the sound of sleigh bells. Not the Witch, as they feared, but Father Christmas with a gift perfect for each one, that enables them to fulfill the roles they need to play in the battle to come.  (On of the Doctor Who Christmas Specials gave a tribute to this Narnian story in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.)

2. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickons (1843)

The well-known tale of Ebnezar Scrooge. This Victorian busnessman has closed off his heart to others and is only interested in making money. He keeps his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, wokring late the night before Christiams and begrudges giving him any time off or gifts for the man's family.

That night Scrooge is visited by three spirits - the Ghost of Christmas past, the Ghost of Christmas present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come - in which he is reminded of love and friendship of the past, is shown the joyful family of his clerk despite their poverty, and then gets a preview of his bleak, cold, lonely future if he doesn't mend his ways. Scrooge has a change of heart and rushes to show the Christmas spirit to Bob Cratchit and his family. As Little Tim says, 'God bless everyone.' (Another Doctor Who Christmas special gives a A Christmas Carol retelling.)

3. Little Women by Louisa Alcott (1868/9)

This classic book starts at Christmas time. The four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and their mother face the first Christmas of a long year ahead without their father and husband. Having lost his wealth, Mr March is faraway as a army chaplain in the American Civil War, and the girls and Marmae must somehow survive (and thrive) without him.  

Incidenttally, Geraldine Brook's award-winning book, March, imagines the story of the girl's father during the year of his absence. 

4. Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St John

Chrismas celebrations and themes weave their way through this classic story of faith and forgiveness. Annette loves Christmas time in the Swiss Alps. It is especially poignant as the day when her mother died giving birth to her little brother.  Following a terrible accident, Annette struggles with forgiving her next door neighbour, Lucian, while Lucian is crippled by guilt. Over the year, both children learn something of God's grace and forgivenss.

5. The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

The mayor of Gloucser commissions a waistcoat for his wedding on Christmas Day, but the poor tailor falls sick and is distraught that he can't complete it. When he arrives at his shop on Christmas morning he finds a small miracle from some grateful mice.

6. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

A young couple very much in love have little money to buy each other Christams presents. Each sacrifices something precious to them to buy each other the perfect gift.


7. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Each December J.R.R. Tolkien wrote and illustrated letters from Father Christmas to his children. The letters tell the goings on at the North Pole (from goblin wars to an accident prone polar bear), interwoven with answers to the children's questions and current events - a loving gift of a father to his growing children.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

This is a well-known classic, another 'Scrooge' tale in which the Grinch is annoyed about the noise and bother of his neighbours' Christmas celebrations. He decides to 'steal' Christmas but in the process learns an important lesson about sharing.

9. When Santa learned the Gospel by Simon Camilleri

In this lovingly illustrated picture book, Simon ponders the different between Santa's Christmas message and that present in the gospels. The book is in verse and uses humour to get the messsage across.  You can also enjoy an audiovisual version here. 

10. A Christmas Star Disaster by David Adam Collings

Another prequel of the Jewel of the Staris series - Cruise director, Glen Price's tries to rescue Christmeas when his planned celebrations for the passengers come unstuck due to a ship-wide power failure. 

A brand new Jewel of The Stars Christmas story. Read it completely free on Wattpad - and Adam is offering it free on Wattpad.

11. The Gospel Stories

Of course, we also have the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke's gospels, each focusing on different aspects of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah. Luke focues more on Mary's perspective (and her cousin Elizabeth) the birth of John as well as of Jesus, and the shepherds. Matthew focuses more on Joseph (Jesus' step-dad)'s point of view and tells us of the Magi and the Flight to Egypt,

Either way, it's an amazing story, of the eternal God, the Logos, the second person of the Trinity coming to earth as a human being. Not just created fully formed adult with all his faculties and enjoying a position of wealth and prestige as a king. Rather, he is conceived and knit together in Mary's womb and is born (with all the mess that entails) as a baby, without a place to stay, sheltering with the animals.

Yet this, baby is the creator of the universe and will bring about peace - shalom - between God and humanity, between God and the cosmos.

Christmas stories celebrate family and friends, giving, reconcilation and hopes for a brighter future. At the centre of it all is a baby and God's love and gift, that extends to every mundane and messy corner of our lives.

Wishing you all a blessed and joyful Christmas and peace with God and your family and neighbours.

And in the spirit of Christmas (and Doctor Who Christmas specials),  I'm offering a short story Treasure in the Snow.  While it's not exactly a Christmas story, it does have mountains of snow and some parallels with the Christmas. Let me know if you can find them :) 

Find your free copy (until the 2nd Jan 2020) here.

Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. She has published over forty stories and poems. Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

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  1. Thank you for leading us to these Christmas treasures, old and new, Jeanette. I look forward to downloading and reading your short story, and Adam's.

  2. My older sister owned a copy of Patricia St John's "Treasures of the Snow", and it was a favourite for us all. I confess to tuning out a little at the overload of Christmas stories at Christmas time - ironically, I enjoy reading them more during the year.