25 Jesus-Centered Christmas Books to Celebrate Advent

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Jesus-centered Christmas books

I love the idea I’ve seen again and again on Pinterest for wrapping 25 Christmas books up and letting your kids open one as part of each day of Advent. We’ll be doing Truth in the Tinsel again this year, and reading a book together seems like a good waiting-for-glue-to-dry activity, doesn’t it?

But here’s the thing—and think we’re evil if you want—but we don’t do Santa. I am certainly not anti-Santa by any means, but we’ve chosen to focus on Jesus as the reason for Christmas, not Santa bringing gifts. Mommy and Daddy bring the gifts in our family. (OK, truthfully, Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, and Popi bring most of the gifts.)

So I’ve been trying to come up with 25 books sans Santa that we could use for this activity. And maybe you have, too? Here are my suggestions – please leave yours in the comments!

For your ease, I’ve added all these books to a Listmania list on Amazon if you want to see them in one place.

Revised and Updated for Christmas 2014!

I have updated this to include only books we own and have read, as well as editing and adding to some of my synopses. If you have any questions about one of these books, please leave a comment or shoot me an email! In disclosure, I have paid for every one of these books with my own money or they were purchased for us as gifts. None were supplied by authors or publishers. All links are affiliate links. 

Board Books and Very Easy Books for Toddlers and Babies

Lift-the-Flap Nativity from Reader’s Digest – This one is great for little ones who love flaps and interactive reading. It’s divided into individual stories, so you can just do one or two if your young toddler doesn’t have much of an attention span.

The Very First Christmas (Beginner’s Bible) – This is just the Christmas story excerpted from The Beginner’s Bible; but if you don’t have that Bible, this is a great, simple retelling. It’s divided into tiny chapters and includes everything from the angel visiting Mary to the flight to Egypt. It also has a short chapter about Jesus growing up and what He did on the cross. [Plus, this is only 99 cents at ChristianBook.com.]

Merry Creature Christmas by Dandi Daley Mackall – “Little Star, Big Bear, and the proud, white mare, Join the forest creatures dancing everywhere. All the bluebirds sing, praising Christ the King, On the night of the Creature Christmas.” While I feel like the poetry in this can be slightly complicated to understand, the pictures tell the sweet story of the forest animals having a Christmas party celebrating Jesus.

The Tiny Star by Art Ginolfi – A little board book, where a tiny star plays a big role. Sometimes fictionalizations can be a little confusing for wee ones, but if you don’t mind them, the story of the nativity star here is sweet.

A Christmas Goodnight by Nola Buck – A little boy says good-night to his nativity on Christmas Eve. Simple and precious!

The Animals’ First Christmas adapted by Gaby Goldsack – If you grew up singing “The Friendly Beasts,” you will love this little book. You can sing it, if you want!

The Stars Came Out at Christmas by William Boniface – A counting book where more stars keep popping up in the sky for tactile fun.

One Shining Star by Anne Vittur Kennedy – Another nice counting book with adorable illustrations.

The Little Drummer Boy illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats – Keats drew lovely illustrations to go along with the old song. Another book you can sing!

Gifts With Humanity

Preschool to Elementary Level Books

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren – No, I don’t like God Gave Us You. But I do like this one more. Little Cub and her Mama embark on an adventure to see how God gave them Christmas through Christ. It does mention Santa at the beginning, if you are looking for books that completely avoid that.

The Perfect Christmas Gift (Gigi, God’s Little Princess Series) by Sheila Walsh – I believe I’ve expounded on my great love for the Gigi books. They are funny for kids and adults and teach little girls great lessons about being a daughter of the Highest King. Gigi, as usual, knows EXACTLY what she wants … but finds that being a little surprised, like the Christmas shepherds, is OK too.

The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs – “It’s one of those Christmas books that isn’t technically about baby Jesus and the manger but still manages to get the entire real true story of Christmas in there without being trite or cheesy. I cry every single time I read it!” – OhAmanda

The Story of Christmas by Pamela Dalton – This Nativity storybook uses the words straight from the KJV alongside incredible papercutting illustrations. How gorgeous!

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones – “This is a children’s book, but I was totally captivated by this story. Each page shows and tells about different aspects of our world – the wind, the trees, the animals, the stars – as they whisper to each other, ‘It’s time! It’s time!’ The anticipation builds until at last Jesus arrives and creation celebrates the Light of the World and the Prince of Peace.” – The Christian Manifesto

Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer – This is maybe my favorite Christmas book, ever. Humphrey is hilarious in feature as well as in his words as he describes the injustice of his life as a camel. And then Humphrey finds himself on a journey … and that maybe things weren’t so bad after all. ADORE IT.

The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson – Mysterious things start happening for Emma and her dog when they find a glowing invitation. As they go to the King’s birthday party, Emma must decide how to help others. I will admit I find the illustrations just a tiny bit creepy, but Libbie loves this one. And I love how it shows practical ways of helping others at the end of the book.

The Wonder of Christmas by Dandi Daley Mackall – We love Miss Mackall in our house. This one prompts your children to think about how each character in the Nativity might have been thinking then.

The Best Thing about Christmas by Christine Harder Tangvald – A little simplistic, but a good choice, especially for younger children. I would say the language falls more under the “toddler” heading, but it is a little wordy for those under age 2.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado – Joshua the lamb can’t keep up with the other sheep and feels left out … but finds himself in a special stable.

The Perfect Christmas Pageant by Joyce Meyer (Everyday Zoo series) – Hayley Hippo is in charge of the annual Christmas pageant, and she wants it to the best one ever, a gift to Jesus. But it seems like nothing can go right. Will Christmas be ruined?

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson – Mortimer, a mouse, finds a great new bed for himself: a manger in a nativity set. He can’t understand why the statues keep reappearing in the set when he’s done such a good job removing them, until he overhears the Bible story on Christmas Eve.

The Something Wonderful by Karen Hill – These goofy animals know that something wonderful is coming … but what is it? How will they know what to prepare?

For Older Children or the Especially Patient

The Candle in the Window by Grace Johnson – This one is long—you could break it up over several nights, but even then, there is a lot of text per page. But it’s a beautiful story of a German cobbler who remembers the true meaning of Christmas as Christmas Eve passes. Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. The illustrations by Mark Elliott are lovely and enchanting as well.

Mary’s First Christmas by Walter Wangerin Jr – A different way of telling the story, this is written from the viewpoint of Mary talking to Jesus about his birth when he is a boy. Undertones of what will happen to Jesus find their way into the story; some Amazon reviewers didn’t like that it is a little dark in places. Divided into chapters, so you can spread it out if desired.

The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne – The Johnson family is excited about presents and trimming the tree, but the father feels uncomfortable with their excitement. What does the tree have to do with Christmas, really? At a tree farm, the farmer tells them how the tree became the symbol of Christmas it is today, and how our Christian ancestors used it to point people to Christ.

So there you have it! Twenty-five books you can wrap up and stick under the tree. Each day in December, let your children pick one to open and read together. There will be a lot of repetition, which will help the True Story of Christmas really stick in their little hearts.

What’s your favorite Jesus-Centered Christmas book?

Other good options:


80 thoughts on “25 Jesus-Centered Christmas Books to Celebrate Advent

      • One Wintry Night is long, and if you read the Amazon reviews, most people read it one chapter per night. It’s printed so that on a two-page spread, one page is illustration, the other page is entirely text. My children are too young for it. I picked it up at a second-hand bookstore so that I could add to my collection of Christmas books, but it’s not going in my rotation. The illustrations are beautiful, but I prefer a shorter story that I can read completely with my kids; one per night. Another book that could be read chapter by chapter through the Christmas Season is The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean. It also tells the story of Jesus from the beginning, like One Wintry Night, but ends at the flight to Egypt, before the Resurrection story that One Wintry Night includes. http://www.amazon.com/Jesse-Tree-Geraldine-McCaughrean/dp/0802854036/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1352475573&sr=1-1&keywords=the+jesse+tree

  1. LOVE this list, Jessie; so well done and you’ve included many we have in our Christmas book basket (yes, my kids are older but I still pull it out every year).

    A story I’d love to add is “The Gift of the Magi”. It’s one of my favorite all-time shorts, perfect to share with older children at Christmas (or anytime).

  2. Wow! I love this, Jessie. I found your blog through your aunt Jennie and wanted to know if I could feature your post on my blog towards the end of the month?

    My favorites are too numerous to list (we love your selections! I just put on hold “Mary’s First Christmas” – thank you for the recommendations), but I swoon over the illustrations of Brian Wildsmith’s, A Christmas Story. Arielle loved “Who Is Coming To Our House” when she was very young.


  3. We do not want to do Santa either. Can you give me some ideas of how you tell your kids there is no Santa and how to get them not to tell other kids so as not to ruin their Christmases or upset their parents? Thanks so much!

    • Nikki, We really haven’t had to approach the topic too much as last year my kids were just 1 and 3. Unfortunately, a LOT of people in public asked my daughter “what Santa was bringing her for Christmas.” She honestly learned to say “Santa doesn’t come to our house,” which probably makes people think I am some kind of devil, but oh well! I think for now we’re kind of ignoring the topic and going more with Santa doesn’t come to our house than there is no Santa. I know it will come eventually … but right now I have no tips!

      • I tell my daughter that Santa is a fun game we play at Christmastime. She knows he’s not real, but she also knows that it’s a pretend thing (like when we dress up, or do imaginary play). This seems to help, because when other kids mention Santa, she “plays” along. But when her and I talk, she’ll whisper “But you actually give me the presents.” I don’t know if this helps at all!

      • We don’t do Santa either because it’s Jesus’ day and I don’t want Santa to try to steal His thunder and I see know point in lying to a child anyway. My in-laws did Santa so I played along with my stepson until he told me Santa was what Christmas is about, not Jesus. Then Santa had to go. My daughter is 2 and knows nothing of Santa.

    • We don’t do Santa either, but we talk about the fact that some parents *do* talk about him like he’s real, and that’s okay because it’s a choice each family has to make. I just tell my children that we don’t need to talk about Santa being pretend, because it will be the parents’ job to decide when it’s time to tell their kids that Santa is not real.

  4. We don’t do very much Santa here either… And a couple of my favorites are :
    The Animals Christmas Eve – a cute counting book where each barn animal tells a part of the Christmas story.
    Christmas In The Manger – short and sweet. I use it when we pull out her Little People Nativity to introduce everybody.

  5. So many books! I’ve added available ones to my hold list at our library (which isn’t many, unfortunately). I figure I’d better do it now, since there are barely any Thanksgiving books to be had. Heh. Thanks for your post!

  6. Love this list! Thank you!!! One of our favorites is: The 12 Days of Christmas: The Story Behind a Favorite Christmas Song (Traditions of Faith from Around the World) by Helen C. Haidle and Laura Knorr (Oct 2003)

    phew…that looks long. We read each day of Christmas one day at a time. I learned so much! It’s said that the song was taught to children to teach them about Christianity in secret. You are really suppose to start the 12 days on Dec 26th. There are also some great ideas in the back on how to celebrate the 12 days.

    or you can read about their meanings here: http://holytrinitynewrochelle.org/yourti102896.html

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  8. We’ve also enjoyed Tonight You Are My Baby by Jeannine Q. Norris (unfortunately the original hardcover is out of print. I’ve never seen the board book version in person so I don’t know if it is as nice) and last year my daughter got The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman which is a bit more subtle in its inclusion of Jesus, but I like it anyway. I’m a big fan of Nancy Tillman in general. We’re big fans of celebrating advent in our family. Such much so that I just published a family advent devotional called As We Wait. Though it is targeted at older elementary and middle school kids and older. I’ll definitely keep this list around for the future. I love the idea of opening a new book every day of advent.

  9. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – some editions come with a CD – it’s the one book in our advent collection that we listen to – mamas, be prepared and have tissues on hand 😉

  10. love this list- do not really have any books like this…..am wondering if the bank balance will stretch to a little bit of book shopping before December…..(that is if I can get the books in the UK). Maybe we will have to do one or two a week instead this year.

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  16. I’ve written a children’s Christmas book that I think you’d enjoy adding to your collection this year. It’s titled The Innkeeper’s Dog. It’s about Thaniel the Spaniel, the only animal in the stable who missed seeing Baby Jesus. The story tells how Thaniel’s friends and the innkeeper’s son help him feel special and realize all the gifts he has to offer.

    I originally wrote the book to fill the drawers of an Advent calendar for my son, Nathan. Each drawer contained one page, and by December 24, he had a complete story. This story has now been refined, illustrated, and published by Tate Publishing.

    Although the official release isn’t until December 3, the book is available now through Tate Publishing’s website: http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore. Please note that the purchase price includes a free audiobook download.

  17. Thank you so much for this list! I was just telling my husband that I wanted to collect enough Christmas books so that we can read a new one each day of December- like a book advent calendar. My parents did Santa with me & when I found out the truth I was so broken hearted! As an adult, I became a Christian & have fallen so in love with Jesus that I have no desire to do anything but celebrate his birth! We tell our kids that it is not our place/job to tell people the truth about Santa but it IS our job to tell people about Jesus. When people ask my kids if they are excited about Santa coming, they just smile & say “We celebrate Christmas because it is Jesus’ birthday.” NO one has ever said anything unkind in return. Usually, people are surprised by my kids’ answer and many have replied “That’s true!” 🙂

  18. We love a series by Crystal Bowman at our house. We have the Easter one, Thanksgiving one, Halloween one, Valentine’s one, and 4 of the Christmas ones (there’s at least 1 more Christmas one, which is in my Amazon cart right now). We’ve been reading them since Miss A was 6mos old and they’re still a favorite at 3 1/2!

  19. great picks. you should look into this one too: The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park. Incredible, culturally rich story about a middle eastern boy learning his father’s trade in harvesting a certain kind of tree sap. They then sell the sap to a group of wealthy men. At the very end, you learn this sap was also known as myrrh and it is planned as a gift to the king. The last page is a nativity scene which is almost a shock. Made me cry the first time I read it because I had no idea what was coming. (And the illustrations are awesome.) http://www.amazon.com/Third-Gift-Linda-Sue-Park-ebook/dp/B00BE64WIK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385158480&sr=8-1&keywords=third+gift

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  21. Thanks for sharing, great list!! I’m still undecided about what Id like to tell my daughter about Christmas, definitely want her to know Jesus is the real reason but I grew up with the whole Santa thing too. 🙂
    Any-who, Is this list toddler friendly? She’s 2, and will be 3 in Jan.

    • Last year when I created this, my kids were almost 2 and 4. My 4-year-old would sit through most of the books. Some of them are more toddler-friendly than others.

      Lift-the-Flap Nativity, Song of the Stars, The Wonder of Christmas, Merry Creature Christmas, The Very First Christmas, The Best Thing about Christmas, and A Christmas Goodnight are for the youngest set. I think it would just depend on your daughter’s attention span. My daughter LOVED Gigi when she was 2, and always loved to read, so her attention span for books tends to be longer. The only one of these that is really long is A Candle in the Window.

  22. One of my favorites is The Night of Los Posadas by Tomie dePaola. It tells of the tradition in New Mexico and South Texas of acting out Mary and Joseph coming to Bethlehem. I am from San Antonio and have participated in the tradition with friends. The story sticks to the truth of Jesus while telling the story from another culture’s perspective.

    • Now that you mention dePaola, I remember I found a copy of Jingle the Christmas Clown last year at the thrift store! We enjoyed it and I do love his books. We have his New Testament stories book and the illustrations are always so gorgeous.

  23. Thank you so much for this list.. I did the 25 days of books this year for my grandsons and really had a good time gathering the books all year long.. My favorite has been and is Who is Coming to our House… I have owned this book for prob 20 years and I still love it.. Yes, It is simplistic but I have taken it to pubic school and it is very well received. As far as telling the kids about Santa Claus. We told our children very early and they grew up with the knowledge that some kids do play pretend but their mom and dad worked hard for their presents and it was not an unlimited source.. Yes, I have some pictures of them very early with Santa but honestly, they are grown now and my daughter is following the same tradition..When my oldest got to first grade. I was up front with the teacher and she sat her down and ask her specifically to just keep it to herself .. Celebrate the season properly will give them a foundation to not bend to the world and not mess it up for parents who are doing Santa. Love this list and will be adding some to my pile..

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  25. Hi Jessie, thank you for this list. One question… is there a book out there for kids who are just being introduced to Jesus? I want to share a Christmas story with my boyfriend’s children (ages 5 , 7 and 10). They have always celebrated Christmas, but without the religious element. This past year, my boyfriend became a Christian, and we would like to tell his children what Christmas is all about. If you have any suggestions, or know of the ‘right’ book, I would greatly appreciate it!

    • I am so honored you’d even ask me this! I don’t have a lot of experience with books for older kids (my oldest is 5). But I would definitely recommend reading the Christmas stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible first and foremost. Then reinforce a lot with other books and Scripture readings. Mary’s First Christmas, The Candle in the Window, and One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham are suited for older children and might be good ones.

      I’m so glad for your boyfriend and thankful for your heart that wants to reach these kids for Christ!

      • Oh wow, thank you so much, I also saw all of the comments on your Facebook! So glad that your readers have given their suggestions too! I meant to write back yesterday to thank you, but got caught up with some things. I ended up buying 3 books so far, I’m excited to read them with the kids.

        The Jesus Storybook Bible looks absolutely wonderful… I’m sure I’ll be picking that up i the future too.

  26. I should have included Tomie dePaola’s other Christmas stories as well – he obviously loves Christmas and wants to make sure children understand the true reason for this celebration: check out The Legend of the Poinsettia, The Legend of Old Befana, The Night of Las Posadas, The Friendly Beasts, The Birds of Bethlehem, and Joy to the World: Tomie’s Christmas Stories (includes two of the above titles).

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  28. Thanks for this list! I was given The Little Drummer Boy as a present from my pre-school when I was little and my 3yo daughter loves me singing it to her.
    If anyone has recommendations, I’d also love to find a good book about Saint Nicholas, as a way of explaining where the Santa idea came from, why we give gifts and encouraging generosity.

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  37. Thanks for your list, Jesse. The Little Drummer Boy and Song of the Stars are classics. We also found a new one called Closing the Book on Santa Claus by Ron Chandler. It is about a father who tries to save his daughter’s holiday celebration after it is cancelled at the local school. He organizes a rally at city hall, but unexpected calamity prevails. Our family really liked it.

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  39. While not Jesus-centered, I’d encourage you to look up a copy of “The Lion in the Box” by Marguerite de’Angeli. It’s a nice lesson on giving. It’s perfect for older children who are reading well, but also a truly lovely book to read to your children no matter their ages. It is a favorite of mine and a book I read to my children every year. After a few years of reading it they got to the point where they’d ask, “Are you going to cry, Mom?”

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  44. This is a great list to help children understand the true meaning of christmas-that it’s not just about the presents- and keep their minds on the lord through the holiday season.

  45. Love this list! thanks for sharing.
    We really like The Christmas Tail of Sampson the Silly Looking Sock Monkey by Scott & Chrysti Burroughs. It is a great story that uses Santa as a reminder of Jesus being the first gift of Christmas (which is how we explain things to our kids).
    We also love 10 Minutes to Showtime by Tricia Goyer. It is told from the perspective of the angels who appear to the shepherds. The last page/line of the book makes me cry every.single.time!!!!

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