Every year, Christians set aside times to reflect on and contemplate significant events in the life of Christ. Historically, contemplation involves a beholding of reality, a knowledge of as opposed to the more practical elements of knowing how. It is through contemplating and indeed participating in the life of Christ, from his birth to his resurrection, that we learn the true nature of reality, as light dawning in the midst of darkness.
Here’s a list of 12 classic Christmas books that will enrich your understanding of the profound miracle of the Incarnation. The books are in no particular order.
On the Incarnation by Athanasius. Known as the champion of orthodoxy over against Arian attacks upon the doctrine of the Trinity, this treatise on the Incarnation by the fourth-century Bishop of Alexandria has been considered one of the staples of Christian literature for over a millennium. The edition linked above includes a wonderful Introduction by C.S. Lewis on the importance of reading old books.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Few literary characters are as vivid as Ebeneezer Scrooge, the miserly money-lender who hates everything Christmas, but whose life would forever change upon encountering three spirits who show him the things that were, are, and yet to be. A classic story about the theme of birth and new birth on Christmas day.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This late fourteenth-century narrative is considered one of the greatest of the Arthurian stories. It’s Christmas time in King Arthur’s court, and a monstrous intruder to the feast sets the stage for an enchanting journey marked by courage, intrigue, and virtue.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This was the debut of seven books published that make up the Narnia Chronicles. Through the eyes of four children, we explore the magical land of Narnia as it has been taken over by Jadis, the white witch, where “it is always winter but never Christmas,” and the hope of a springtide of life in the return of Narnia’s Creator.
Good King Wenceslas by John Mason Neale. An enchanting carol celebrating the charity and faithfulness of the tenth-century Christian king.
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkein. Middle earth meets Christmas! Between the years 1920 and 1942, the children of J.R.R. Tolkein received letters from Father Christmas telling them of the adventurous life in the world of the northern lights. The creatures that appear in these letters may have been precursors to those found in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. This story, first published in 1845, presents the bleakness of a dark and snowy world as the backdrop for a dying child’s dreams and hopes. The flame of Christmas enlightens us to the hope of the resurrection.
Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Little House books have enchanted children for generations. Experience a nineteenth-century Christmas with all of its preparations: making cookies, pies, molasses, and snow candy.
The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Written in 1816, this story served as the inspiration for the ballet that has become a Christmas hallmark. Read how young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, magically comes alive to face the evil Mouse king and take Marie to his enchanted kingdom.
The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol. Travel to a small Ukrainian town in this dark fairy tale written by one of the greatest of the nineteenth-century Russian novelists. There you will encounter a beautiful love story threatened by dark and malevolent forces. A magnificent Christmas tale celebrating the triumph of good over evil.
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. This brilliant tale draws us into the beauty of childlike wonder and friendship, the heart wrenching drama of its loss through self-centered deception, and its renewal in self-sacrificial love. C.S. Lewis borrowed the character of the Snow Queen for Jadis, the White Witch, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. A beautiful tale of marital love and mutuality, where the true Christmas gifts are the sacrifices made for one another.
This Christmas, make sure to sign-up on our email list and get your FREE ebook: The Face of Infinite Love: Athanasius on the Incarnation.