The Eighth Day of Christmas Books

On April 9, 1945, the young German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazis for his part in a plot against Hitler’s life. It was just a few days before the end of the war. He had been imprisoned since 1943. Even before his imprisonment Bonhoeffer had already made a significant difference in the life of German Christians in the anti-Nazi Confessing Church. Far from silencing him, his time in prison deepened and enriched his faith and relationships, and so gave us all a gift of understanding who God might be for the modern world. The book The Mystery of Holy Night is a Christmas sermon about the incarnation that draws us into that gift. Bonhoeffer writes: “With God dwells joy, and down from God it comes, seizing mind, soul, and body; and where this joy has grasped a human being, it spreads, it carries away, it bursts through closed doors.”



The Seventh Day of Christmas Books

And even more mystery! The British Library has been publishing crime and mystery novels from the 20th century that had gone out of print. They are all quite wonderful and I commend the whole series to you. One is titled Mystery in WhiteA Christmas Crime Story by J. Jefferon Farjeon. It’s a story not unlike Murder on the Orient Express. (If you have not seen the excellent new Kenneth Branagh movie on Agatha Christie’s great novel, be sure and do so soon!) In Mystery in White, a heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near a small village, and the passengers all find shelter in a deserted country house, and it all plays out from there.

Although not well known today, Jefferson Farjeon’s work was highly regarded in his day. Dorothy L. Sayers wrote that he was “quite unsurpassed for creepy skill in mysterious adventures.” A lovely Advent/Christmas connection here is that he was the brother of Eleanor Farjeon who wrote the text for the Advent hymn People Look East. She also wrote the much more famous Morning Has Broken. You can learn more about the Farjeons on Eleanor’s Wikipedia page:



The Sixth Day of Christmas Books

It seems that every reader – and perhaps every author – likes to read about and write about Christmas. Besides P.D. James (see above),  the French writer Georges Simenon has written short stories about Christmas featuring his Inspector Maigret. In a volume of nine stories, Maigret makes his way through Paris in the midst of the Christmas season and discovers crime, passion, and murder along the way. Add this one to your Christmas mystery list! Maigret’s Christmas by Georges Simenon.



The Fifth Day of Christmas Books

Christmas is often referred to as the mystery of the Incarnation, so it seems appropriate to keep up the mystery theme. A wonderful Advent book is The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. The Norwegian author is most famous for his 1994 book, Sophie’s World, a fantasy adventure that teaches the history of Western philosophy. In The Christmas Mystery a child named Joachim disovers a magical Advent Calendar in his attic and meets Elisabet who is the guide for each day of Advent. Gaarder does a wonderful job of weaving contemporary thinking and history with the whole Advent/Christmas narrative. I especially enjoy the way Joachim’s parents slowly become hooked into the whole thing.

The Christmas Mystery

The Fourth Day of Christmas Books

The superb mystery author P. D. James was often asked to write a short story or novella that was published at Christmas and other times in various magazines and collections. The Mistletor Murder and Other Stories, published after her death in 2014, was the first collection of four of these stories to appear in book form. It is a delightful grouping, with all the plotting skill, humor, and exceptional writing that marked her career. There is nothing like a good murder mystery at Christmas time, and here are four great ones!

                            THE MISTLETOE MURDER by P.D. James

The Third Day of Christmas Books

The books for children are among the most wonderful in this season. A particularly beautiful one is The Little Boy’s Christmas Gift by John Speirs. The artwork is amazing, and the story lovely. A little boy, son of a garderer, follows the Magi to see the baby Jesus. He brings a little tree in a small sack. Each beautifully decorated part of the story reads like this: And so they journeyed on … The wise men with their richly laden camels, the nomads with their brightly woven rugs, the herdsmen with their goats, and the olive growers with their jars of oil. Nobody noticed the boy with the small brown sack trudging along behind them in the dust and shadows.

The ending magical, and this is a great book to read to children of all ages!

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The Second Day of Christmas Books

The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems is one of my favorite Christmas books. It is still available in a variety of formats. A favorite poem is this one by John Betjeman:

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.