Some days–some hours for me–Christmas becomes a lot about trees, lights, gifts and food. Not that these things aren’t fun, but then sometimes in the midst of it all I begin to sense that something is off. God Gave Us Christmas written by Lisa Tawn Bergren, illustrated by David Hohn and published by Waterbrook Press (2006) shifts the emphasis from Santa, etc. and points little ones (and the adult reader) to the reason for the season—Jesus.

In this warm, I hesitate to say fuzzy book because the main characters are polar bears, Mama and Little Cub go on a journey. Mama wants to show God to Little Cub and help her know that Christmas was given to us by God and not invented by Santa. (Don’t worry; Bergren doesn’t bad-mouth Santa. Mama explains that Santa reminds us about being generous and caring.)

Taking Little Cub to see the dancing Northern Lights, Mama explains that the lights are God’s work and that God sent Jesus so that “we would know light from dark.” Jesus is the light of the world. Using other natural wonders, Mama continues to teach Little Cub about God’s greatest gift—Jesus.

While Mama’s examples do not nail down Jesus in the way one might nail boards, they remind me of mini-parables. Mama’s examples help children and adults relate with their imaginations and their hearts to what is essentially a mystery—God’s Son born as a baby who will grow into the man who will save us.

The text reads well. Mama’s examples of the Northern Lights, a glacier, a bright star, a flower poking up through the snow are appropriate to a snowy environment. The exchanges between Mama and Little Cub are full of affection and there is a sense of wonder and play in the telling of their adventure. David Hohn’s colorful paintings are active and kid-friendly.

God Gave us Christmas is for ages 3 to 7. (But don’t be surprised if it touches the 3 to 7-years-old in you.) This book is part of a series. Carol wrote about and suggested God Gave Us Easter, God Gave Us Angels, and God Gave Us the World.

I also want to suggest A Night of Great Joy. Written and illustrated by the well-known illustrator Mary Engelbreit and published by Zonderkidz (2016), this book will delight you and the kids with its presentation of a Christmas pageant. The book is suggested for children ages 4 to 8.

The story is the Christmas story, but it’s told from a kid’s perspective and in kid-language (for example, “’Hello, Jesus,’ Mary whispered.”). Children will see themselves and their friends reflected in the different races of the children in the pageant. The colorful and often humorous illustrations (one of the lambs is a pull toy, etc.) help children put themselves on stage and from there in the story. (And it’s good for all of us to put ourselves in the story. What would it have been like to have been a shepherd in the fields? Would we have left our daily work and play to go and seek the gift from God? We would. How happy we are when we do!)

I’ve had an idea too that I want to share with you. At this time of year we often give donations to Christian charitable groups. If an organization is asking for donations of toys, why not ask if they would consider receiving children’s books about the child born in Bethlehem?

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.