The Christmas Bus – by Melody Carlson (2006)

the-christmas-bus

Charles and Edith live in the small town of Christmas Valley, and usually close their bed and breakfast to visitors for two weeks around the holidays. But this year, not a single one of their grown kids are coming home. So Edith decides they will be open for business as usual. Their rooms are quickly snapped up by an elderly man, a quarreling couple, a mother with her little girl, and a nosy, domineering older woman named Myrtle who drives everyone crazy. On top of that, a young couple with a broken-down hippy bus parks in front of their bed and breakfast. Christmas goes from being a comfortable time with family to being an unpredictable but unforgettable time.

 

Excerpt from pages 72-73

“I heard there was a problem…” Edith spoke in a quiet voice as she took the empty stool next to Myrtle. She was well aware of the eyes that were watching her now. And she felt certain that they wanted her to get the crazy woman out of here, the sooner the better. Still, she didn’t want to do anything to rock Myrtle’s boat. That would probably just make things worse.

“Wasn’t much of a problem,” Myrtle said in a matter-of-fact voice. “I just wanted to set the children straight. Grown-ups shouldn’t be lying to children.”

“It’s just for fun,” explained Edith.

“Well, I told those kids that they should come to church and see the Christmas pageant if they wanted to know what Christmas was really about.”

“You didn’t?” Edith was horrified. What a terrible way to invite people to their church! Good grief, Myrtle might as well have been carrying a gun. No wonder Mayor Drummel was so upset. As far as Edith knew, that poor man had never set foot in church in his entire life. And this would probably set him back light-years.

“I did,” retorted Myrtle. “And I’d do it again if necessary.”

 

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Prayers Of A Stranger – by Davis Bunn (2012)

prayers-of-a-stranger

It’s almost Christmas, but Amanda’s in such a deep depression that she can’t enjoy the season. It’s been a year since she lost her baby, and she hasn’t been able to return to the job she once loved. Her husband Chris is preoccupied with work, with his company approaching bankruptcy. Their neighbors across the street – Frank and Emily  were supposed to go to the Holy Land, but Frank’s painful arthritis makes him pass on the trip. Amanda is invited to go in his place. In Israel, Emily and Amanda rediscover the power of prayer as they pray for others and others pray for them.

This short novel is a good reminder that there are always people around us hurting, and as we focus on their needs and pray for them, we also find that God is taking care of us.

The Christmas Sweater – by Glenn Beck (2008)

the-christmas-sweater.jpg

“Do you like it? Do you really like it?” Mom was hoping my silence was due to my unspeakable joy.

A stupid, handmade, ugly sweater that wasn’t a bike.

“Sure, Mom, it’s great.” I felt like I should cry. I was entitled to cry, I thought, but it was the kind of sad that didn’t include tears. If I hadn’t worked so hard all year, if I hadn’t thought about a new bike every waking second of my life, if I hadn’t promised God I would earn it, then I might not have noticed how the color of the yarn would perfectly match the Wonder Bread polka dots on my bread-bag boots. But I had done all of those things, and I did notice.

“I’m really sorry about the bike, honey.” Mom’s voice was too soft and tender for how I felt. “It’s just that the repairs for the roof were so much more than I expected. I know you understand. Maybe I can save up enough to get it for you next year.”

I understood all right. I understood that we would always be the poor family and I would always be the poor kid with plastic boots and no bike.

(excerpt from pages 70-71)

If you’ve ever had your heart set on a specific toy for Christmas or your birthday, and gotten something you disliked instead, you’ll be able to identify with 12-year-old Eddie. Or maybe you’ve been desperate for something to happen, like getting the job you think will be perfect, or marrying the person who will make you gloriously happy, Then circumstances take a sharp turn, and you find your hopes dashed. From that point on things are on a downward spiral. But as this short book shows, life doesn’t have to be ruined by disappointments.

Although the story is fictional, Glenn Beck based it on a sweater he received one Christmas. The names and places in the book are not real, but the emotions of Eddie, the main character, are real. The author says the story was waiting to be told for over thirty years. Read this short book – you can read it in a day or less – and it will focus you back on what is really important in life.

The Christmas Shoes – by Donna Van Liere (2001)

the-christmas-shoes

In the frantic rush of shopping just before Christmas, two people have a chance encounter in a crowded store. Young Nathan has just found the perfect gift for his mother who is dying, but doesn’t have enough money to pay the cashier. The man in line behind him – Robert – has all the money a person could want, but his marriage is falling apart. Robert pays for Nathan’s gift, and both of them return to their homes. It seems like a random event, but is it?

The book jumps back in time to reveal what lead up to the situations that Robert and Nathan find themselves in at Christmastime. The story illustrates how a small kindness can start a chain reaction of blessings. Nothing happens in isolation. What we do – whether great or minor –  affects others. This is a perfect short novel to read on a chilly day!

When Christmas Isn’t Perfect

Christmas Lights by kantapat

(Photo: “Christmas Lights” by kantapat at freedigitalphotos.net)

 

Who doesn’t love a good Christmas movie? Among my favorites are: The Homecoming, Home Alone, Jingle Bells, It’s A Wonderful Life, and Christmas With The Kranks. Sure, the characters in the story run into some problems, but by the end of two hours, everything is fixed. It would be great if the problems in our lives could be wrapped up as quickly as the movies.

But we live in the real world, not movie-land. The hurdles life throws at us don’t just politely stop because it’s Christmas. Right now, one of our friends is in the hospital dying. Someone else is in debt up to his eyeballs and living somewhere he doesn’t want to live. A cousin is facing her first Christmas after her dad died. A co-worker has the unexpected stress and expense of taking care of a one-year-old relative and has no idea how long it will last. Another friend has an incurable lung condition, and constantly struggles to breathe. Yet another friend wrestles with bipolar disorder.

Even Jesus Christ didn’t have a perfect Christmas. On the very first Christmas – the night he was born – his earthly parents found themselves without lodging, and apparently they didn’t know anyone in town who would let them spend the night. Someone finally had pity on them, and let them sleep in a cold, smelly barn with their animals. And that is where Jesus spent his first night on earth.

Whatever situation you find yourself in this Christmas Eve, know that Jesus loves you personally. He experienced terrible things during his lifetime on earth. He understands what you are going through. Walk with Jesus this Christmas, and you will find peace in your soul, even though this life is far from perfect.

A Christmas Carol – by Charles Dickens (1843)

A Christmas Carol

Book cover of the 2014 Penguin Books edition

You’ve probably seen at least one version of the movie. The earliest was the 1938 black-and-white one starring Reginald Owen and Gene Lockhart, followed by another black-and-white version in 1951 with Alastair Sim. Or the 1971 animated short, with Alastair Sim performing the voice of Scrooge. Then there was the 1984 movie with George C. Scott, the 1992 Muppet version, the 1997 animation, the 1999 Patrick Stewart one, the 2009 animated Jim Carrey one, and a Scottish version that is currently being made. So many ways to watch the story, but… have you read the actual story?

I checked out a copy of the book from my public library, and dug in. As I expected, the language was a bit different, since it was written over 150 years ago. There were some words that we just don’t use anymore, but the story was still very understandable.

What really struck me were the religious themes. Marley’s ghost seems to be stuck in Purgatory, and unable to get out of it because of his self-centeredness and lack of caring about others in his earthly life. The spirits showing Scrooge around made me think of the eternalness of God – He’s in the past, the present, the future. And finally, Scrooge is given a second chance to change his life, just the way God offers each of us a second chance.

It’s a great book to read this time of year. It’s short – a little over 100 pages. You can find it at your bookstore, local library, or even free online at websites like Pagebypage.com or the Gutenberg Project.

http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Charles_Dickens/A_Christmas_Carol/
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46

The First Christmas…

Nativity

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

– Holy Bible, Luke chapter 2, verse 1 – 7  (New King James Version)