How to Identify a Religious/Inspirational Christmas Novel

Image result for christmas image book

This post is for anyone having trouble spotting a Christian-friendly Christmas book/books to fill the long winter hours. I will elaborate on several ways to accomplish this, and how to avoid secular content at all costs. I hope this makes you laugh.:)

Step One: Does the book have identifying marks/images on the cover?

Those looking for a Christian Christmas novel should first look for a religious/inspirational image on the cover of possible books. For example, if the cover doesn’t feature a Christmas tree, piles of gifts, Christmas lights, Santa kneeling at the manger, mistletoe, holly with red berries in the center, the silhouette of a couple walking in the snow with room left for Jesus, a Bible,  a grandma in her rocking chair knitting a baby Jesus Christmas sweater, a Nativity scene featuring the rare figure called “man with bread” sitting on the mantel of a house about to foreclose on Christmas Eve, A gingerbread house with the Holy Family inside on a grandma’s kitchen table, Mary with a halo in any number of settings, or a house saturated in Christmas decorations in Kirk Cameron’s front yard, then it is not Christian. Beware.

Step Two: Does the book have a safe and uncontroversial plot description on the back cover?

If step one doesn’t work, take it a step further and check the back cover. If you don’t see a plot description telling of a romance featuring a single woman desperate for a hot Christian guy, a man/woman who lost their job/had a death or injury in the family and had to come back to their hometown to find love and save the family farm/estate/business/food truck before Christmas, a lonely middle-aged divorcee with no kids and a pet Chihuahua who falls in love with a bodybuilder at a Christmas party, an elderly widow looking for a second husband at the senior center’s Christmas game night, a blogger who pretends to be her best friend on a dating website to catch a man in time for Christmas, a pastor forced to deliver a baby in the back of a car/truck/wagon/sleigh on Christmas Eve in the driving sleet who in turn uses the mother and child as Mary and Jesus in the live Nativity he is late for (see Do You Believe, Marriage Retreat), then it’s not Christian. Stay away.

Step Three: Is the book written by Lori Wick, Beverly Lewis, or their comrades?

If step two fails, then open the front cover to see the author’s picture and bio. If the author is a middle-aged woman who is married with two or more kids (including adopted children), a foreign exchange student, six cats and three dogs, loves to knit/crochet/craft/bake/paint tables/re-purpose furniture, has a short haircut and too much or too little makeup on, is pleasingly (or not) plump, lives up North, likes Amy Grant, has a gluten allergy, and drives a Subaru, then this is the book for you!

Step Four: Is the book published by a legalistic publisher?

This step is the deciding factor in Christmas novels.

Step Five: WWJD?

Can you see yourself reading this book, snuggled under a blanket with a cat or dog under your feet, drinking a non-alcoholic beverage, with Jesus and St. John reading over your shoulder? If not, do not.

Step Six: Is the author associated with a big-name writer?

As a last resort, do a quick Google search to see if the author has ever written a book with/collaborated/shook hands with/collaborated/had tea with/gotten an autograph from/stalked a big-name Christian author, if not, steer clear.

And that’s your Christian fiction guide, holiday edition! Remember, leave room for Jesus, in fiction and in real life! (sarcasm) 

Why the Christian Holiday Genre Should be Better Than it is

Image result for love inspired christmas

The Christmas season seems to start earlier every year, which in turn gives entertainment companies an excuse to sell more and more content as time goes forward. As a writer and book critic, it seems to me that this year has brought a certain influx of Christmas fiction in the Christian/Religious genre. I’m sure we’ve all seen posters like the one pictured above – these types of Christmas books are a dime a dozen. While I was compiling books to add to our Upcoming Christian Novels page, I had to wade through a bottomless pit of Love Inspired fiction and other cheesy Christmas themed books to find anything of substance. In the end, I caved and added a few titles that seemed at least somewhat promising. I wanted to give the authors I included a chance to prove me wrong. I have nothing against Love Inspired, but around Christmastime it seems like every one of their novels has the same plot structure. Furthermore, none of their books appear to be reaching anyone with the Gospel message. This leads me to the following question.

  1. Shouldn’t Christian fiction, holiday themed or otherwise, be held to a higher standard? I, for one, can see no difference between the Religious/Inspirational Christmas fiction genre and your average hometown Christmas film (I see you Hallmark Channel). Anyone claiming to be a Christian must know that Christmas is not about fantasy-based romance, magical colors floating through the air, or cheap sentiment, rather, it is supposed to be a celebration of our Savior’s birth.
  2. Do these novels preach this message? No, they do not. I say with great sadness that these novels are no different than a secular Christmas book. There is more to Christmas than boy-meets-girl in his/her hometown, cheesy suspense, saving the family business/farm/company/estate while trying to catch a husband/wife, and Christmas weddings/engagements/baby showers in the snow. I have nothing against the Christmas genre in all it’s forms, as long as it points people to Christ. Books like Max Lucado’s The Christmas Candle are a great example of how to create a well-written fictional tale that points people to the Savior and the true meaning of Christmas (he even manages to include miraculous elements without being cheesy). Authors, take a cue from this novel and others like it. Stop worrying about filling quotas and consider what the purpose of your writing is. Take an honest look at your manuscript, does it point people to Christ, or does it point them to temporary pleasures?