Each year I choose a handful of short Christmas books to review early in December while there’s still time to enjoy them through the holiday season or to purchase to give as gifts. This year’s selections include Miracle of the Christmas Star by Susan Dean Elzey, Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett, and A Christmas to Remember by assorted Covenant authors, and a favorite of mine that appeared in a collection of stories a few years ago but now is a separate skinny little booklet, Angels Bending Near the Earth by Kerry Blair, perfect for a neighbor gift or for home and visiting teachers to share with their families.
Miracle of the Christmas Star begins the night Christ is born in Bethlehem. In a nearby village another baby is born, a little girl, who appears to be still born, yet she begins to breathe when the star shines its light through the window and rests on her. As the child grows, it becomes obvious she isn’t like other children. She never learns to sit up, to walk, or even talk. Afflicted with palsy, little Hannah is loved by some and reviled by others. One terrible night, babies and toddlers are murdered by soldiers, but Hannah is spared. Hannah’s father builds her a wagon so her mother can take her for walks and as she grows larger he builds bigger wagons. Hannah’s mother is convinced her baby was miraculously given life, then spared in the massacre of children for a reason. She learns of the other child born that long ago night and sets out to find the child she is convinced is the messiah and her child’s only hope of being healed.
This story is beautifully written and conveys so well the feelings and despair of those seeking help, yet clinging to hope as they struggle with the realities of their less than perfect lives.
Jacob T. Marley is Ebenezer Scrooge’s deceased partner in the old classic Christmas story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Most people are familiar with the miserly Scrooge who is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve and awakens Christmas morning a changed man. We don’t learn much of Marley in the classic tale because he’s already dead and besides the story is Scrooge’s. Bennett fills in the reader on those experiences that made Marley the tight-fisted, unfeeling old man who taught young Ebenezer to worship money and consider other people fools to be separated from their money. He does a masterful job of conveying Dickens’s style and language as he blends this new story with the original. For many people Christmas isn’t complete without reading A Christmas Carol or watching one of the movies or plays based on the book. Those people will love Jacob T. Marley and the events that set in motion Marley’s visit to Scrooge that precedes the visits of the Christmas ghosts. The ending is well done and wraps up the story nicely.
A Christmas to Remember is a collection of true Christmas stories shared by Anita Stansfield, Toni Sorenson, Traci Hunter Abramson, Jerry Borrowman, Gale Sears, Sarah M. Eden, Kathi Oram Peterson, Donald S. Smurthwaite, K.C. Grant, Guy M. Galli, Kate Palmer, Jennifer K. Clark, Reg Christensen, and Krista Lynne Jensen. Guy Galli’s story of The Christmas Stocking, a retelling of an experience of his grandmother’s touched my heart as three little girls unwittingly teach their parents the meaning of love and sacrifice. Afton’s Snow is an unusual story of a young woman who gives birth a few days before Christmas to an infant she and her husband know in advance will only survive for a few hours due to severe chromosome damage. In Christmas Spaghetti, Tithes, and Offerings Toni Sorenson tells of a Christmas which should have been awful, but has stayed with her through the years. She was young with small children and newly divorced. With a houseful of bruised and battered children and no money, she contemplated spending the tithing money she had hoarded through that horrible year to buy Christmas presents for her children, but her children caught her counting the money and insisted the money wasn’t theirs. She paid her tithing and received an unshakable testimony of tithing. The other stories are great too. They’re each individual, distinct experiences that will appeal to a wide range of readers as they evoke emotions and memories of the Season.
Kerry Blair’s little story of Angels Bending Near the Earth is the story of her own experience as a harried program director for the ward Christmas program who told a little girl she was an angel and the child assumed she’d been chosen to be an angel in the program. The child arrives for the program, dirty and ragged, expecting an angel costume and Kerry’s only hope of salvaging the situation was a miracle, but how often does a miracle show up when needed?
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MIRACLE OF THE CHRISTMAS STAR by Susan Dean Elzey, Published by Sweetwater Books an imprint of Cedar Fort Publishing, softcover, 166 pages, $12.99
JACOB T. MARLEYby R. William Bennett, published by Shadow Mountain and imprint of Deseret Book, hardcover, 202 pages, $17.99
A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER by assorted authors, published by Covenant Communications, softcover, 89 pages, $9.99
ANGELS BENDING NEAR THE EARTH by Kerry Blair, published by Covenant Communications, softcover, 7 pages, $2.49