During Advent, like the wise virgins in Scripture, we joyfully await the arrival of our Lord and Savior, the King of Kings, the infant Jesus. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations and holiday activities, we pause in the stillness of our hearts to reflect on the deeper meaning of Christmas by preparing our hearts and minds and homes for Christ.

With so much to do during an already hectic season, snuggling together reading an inspiring picture book offers us many rich opportunities for cherished memories. A beautifully crafted Christmas book not only appeals to all ages — more importantly — it redirects our attention to the good, the true and the beautiful, leading us to Christ.

Although there are many fun Christmas books, this list focuses on books which embody Christ’s message of sacrificial love.

  1. “The Miracle of Saint Nicholas” by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Judith Brown.

On the day before Christmas, Alexi’s babushka explains what Christmas was like at St. Nicholas when she was a little girl growing up in Russia. Alexi inquisitively wants to know, “Why can’t we celebrate Christmas tomorrow in St. Nicholas?” Abandoned, without a priest and missing many items, that would take a miracle.

Ages: 6-Up.

  1. “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P. J. Lynch.

“The village children called him Mr. Gloomy.” Will the widow McDowell and her lively son Thomas break through his grumpy exterior with her special request to carve a set of Christmas figures? Just as a woodcarver magically reveals the beauty of the final figurine, so the story unfolds with artistic mastery and the goodness of the human soul.

Ages: 6-8

  1. “Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, illustrated by P. J. Lynch.

Tomorrow is Christmas. What is poor distraught Della going to buy for $1.87 for her beloved Jim? First written in 1905, the extraordinary illustrations of P. J. Lynch bring to life this classic tale.

Ages: 12-Up

  1. “The Last Straw” by Fredrick H. Thury, illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen.

“My joints. My gout. My sciatica.” These are the never-ending complaints of Hoshmakaka, an elderly camel, who is given the honored task of carrying the precious gifts of the wise men to the baby king. As the caravan journeys onward, more and more people add their gifts, weighing him down further. Will he make it?

Ages: 4-8

  1. “The Baker’s Dozen, A Saint Nicholas Tale,” retold by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Wendy Edelson.

When a mysterious old woman visits Van Amsterdam’s bakery, he refuses to give her 13 of his delicious St. Nicholas gingerbread cookies instead of the usual dozen. Why should he? A dozen is a dozen. So begins his troubles.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “Saint Nicholas, The Real Story of the Christmas Legend” by Julie Stiegemeyer, illustrated by Chris Ellison.

Realistic illustrations portray St. Nicholas as a kindly grandfather figure in this short, imaginative retelling about St. Nicholas.

Ages: 2-4

  1. “Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner.

In this Christmas classic, a man recalls his childhood as a farm boy of 15 waking up before 4 a.m. to surprise his father by completing all of the milking chores before his father can get to them.

Ages: 8-12

  1. “Hail Mary” by Maïte Rouche (board book).

With soft, gentle colors and childlike simplicity, Rouche’s lovely illustrations introduce little ones to Mary in the unfolding of the Hail Mary prayer.

Ages: 0-4

  1. “The Christmas Eve Ghost” by Shirley Hughes.

It is the 1930s in Liverpool. When two young children, Bronwen and Dylan, are unexpectedly left alone, they hear spooky noises. Fearfully, they run over to their neighbor’s and find out that she really is a nice lady with a kind, loving family.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “Christmas in Noisy Village” by Astrid Lindrgen and Ilon Wikland.

Bright, colorful illustrations capture the enthusiasm and joy of the delightful children of Noisy Village as they prepare for Christmas with baking cookies, gathering wood, visiting “grandfather,” and more.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “The Little Bell That Wouldn’t Ring, A Christmas Story” by Heike Conradi, illustrated by Maja Dusikova.

In this enchanting tale, three large church bells as well as other creatures seek to encourage the new little church bell to ring. Finally, on Christmas Eve, an unexpected surprise inspires the little bell to ring.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “Our Lady of Guadalupe and Her Dear Juanito” by Marlyn Evangelina Monge, illustrated by Amy Rodriguez.

This faithful retelling offers lovely illustrations with Our Lady’s radiant smile, enwrapping the reader in a loving embrace of kindness.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “Stories for Christmas” by Bernadette Watts.

“The Little Drummer Boy” and “Shoemaker Martin,” Tolstoy’s classic tale, are two of several wonderful Christmas stories gathered in one volume with Watts’ charming illustrations.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “Twas the Evening of Christmas” by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Elena Selivanova.

Retold in the rhythm and rhyme of “The Night Before Christmas,” Selivanova’s stunning illustrations draw us into the intimacy of Christ’s birth.

Ages: 2-4

  1. “The Story of Holly and Ivy” by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney.

When all the children in St. Agnes’ orphanage leave on Christmas break, spunky, adventurous Ivy goes in search of a grandmother to take her in. Meanwhile, Holly, a doll in a toy-shop window, wishes and patiently waits for someone to buy her.

Ages: 5-10

  1. “The Little Fir Tree” by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Jim LaMarche.

Wishing to be important, a little fir tree’s longing is granted one day when a man tenderly digs him up and takes him on a journey. Where is he going? Why is he going there? Breathtaking illustrations.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “An Orange for Frankie” by Patricia Polacco.

Will Pa return in time for Christmas? He has taken a horse and buggy to purchase oranges for Christmas. As the family anxiously awaits his return, a lesson of generosity and forgiveness unfolds.

Ages: 4-10

  1. “Good King Wenceslas” by John M. Neale, illustrated by Tim Ladwig.

A visual tour de force, the illustrations bring to life the words of the Christmas carol, expressing the compassion, kindness and generosity of the good king.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney.

The year is 1918 and the war is over, yet Papa is still not home. Ruthie has waited a long time for her family to contribute the Christmas tree to the Christmas Eve service. How is her family going to do this without Papa?

Ages: 4-8

  1. “Room for a Little One, A Christmas Tale” by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft.

Kind ox invites one after another animal into the stable, including the tired donkey that carries Mary. Lovely illustrations invite the reader to gaze again and again.

Ages: 0-4

  1. “Silent Night, The wonderful story of the beloved Christmas Carol” by Brigitte Weninger and Julie Wintz-Litty.

Midnight Mass is tonight and the organ doesn’t work. What could have been a great disappointment is transformed into the creation of one of the most beloved Christmas carols. Weninger imagines how this timeless carol came about. A wonderful follow up to this story is “Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon, illustrated by Henri Sorenson. The story of how Silent Night brought together two opposing sides for a brief moment of peace during World War I.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “The Legend of the Poinsettia” by Tomie dePaola.

After Lucida accidentally ruins the baby Jesus’ blanket for the Christmas Eve procession, she doesn’t know what to offer him. In the end, her humble gift miraculously blooms. DePaola is the author of numerous Christmas classics.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “The Wise Men Who Found Christmas” by Raymond Arroyo, illustrated by Diane Le Feyer.

Not your usual stately, camel riding Magi. With vim, vigor and determination, the three wise men ride off in haste to find the true meaning of the star. Bold, dramatic, colorful illustrations express both the urgency of the moment as well as their reverence and the awe for the newborn king. Author of “The Spider Who Saved Christmas.”

Ages: 4-8

  1. “Babushka, A Christmas Tale” by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Amanda Hall.

“Forever scrubbing and sweeping,” Babushka finally sets off in search of a newborn child, “The Light of Love,” offering gifts to those in need as she travels. There are many retellings of this story including Tomie dePaola’s The Legend of Old Befana.

Ages: 4-8

  1. “This First Christmas Night” by Laura Godwin, illustrated by William Low.

With reverence and awe, Low’s luminous illustrations depict the calm serenity of the holy night, while the simple text draws the reader into the moment.

Ages: 2-6