It was in 1998 when Eric D. Huntsman's family started having a daily Christmas devotional from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24. Initially, they used a small booklet an aunt had given him with a scripture, a carol and a Christmas story.
"Each evening we gather in the living room, light the candles of our Advent wreath and then read a story together, recite a scripture passage, and sing a carol before we join in family prayer," Huntsman, an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, writes in "Good Tidings of Great Joy" (Deseret Book, $24.99) where this list has been published. "Our children have taken to calling this routine 'doing Christmas,' which is fitting, because our tradition has helped us focus on the true meaning of Christmas during the entire month."
During the past dozen or so years, they have developed, adapted and changed their own "Christmas Season Book" and the readings and songs are drawn from a variety of sources. Here are suggestions for a scripture, story and carol from "Good Tidings of Great Joy" for each day in December leading up to Christmas and a few for afterward, too. The texts of most of these can be found on the Internet or in published collections.
Suggested story: O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi.” This well-known story of a poor young couple’s love for each other is a nice way to begin the season as we start thinking of getting or making our own gifts for each other. We frequently shorten or summarize it for our children.
Suggested scripture: Moses 6:51–52, 57
Suggested carol: “Angels We Have Heard on High,” "Hymns," No. 203
Suggested story: “On the Symbolism of Christmas,” from “The Sixth Word,” by Sherry Dillehay, "Especially for Mormons," Vol. 2. This, or a story like it, can serve as a good vehicle for helping children understand the symbolism of so many of our Christmas decorations.
Suggested carol: “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” "Hymns," No. 202
Suggested story: “A Different Kind of Christmas,” by Lael J. Littke. This touching story is set in pioneer-era Utah and describes the love that a mother, who has lost her daughters, develops for her foster son.
Suggested carol: “Once in Royal David’s City,” "Hymns," No. 205
Suggested story: “The Cobbler and His Guest,” by Anne M. Boyles
Suggested scripture: Psalm 24:9–10
Suggested carol: "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks," "Hymns," No. 211
Suggested story: “It Takes a Child” (unknown author). In this story a homeless man teaches a mother about unconditional love.
Suggested carol: “The First Noel,” "Hymns," No. 213
Suggested story: “Christmas Day in the Morning,” by Pearl S. Buck. Later in life, a man reflects about the first, true Christmas gift he ever gave.
Suggested scripture: Isaiah 9:6–7
Suggested carol: “Joy to the World,” "Hymns," No. 201
Suggested story: “In the Great Walled Country,” by Raymond MacDonald Alden. A story mostly fit for young children.
Suggested scripture: Isaiah 11:1–4
Suggested carol: “It Came upon a Midnight Clear,” "Hymns," No. 207
Suggested story: “A Brother Like That” (unknown author)
Suggested scripture: Isaiah 40:1–5
Suggested carol: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Hymns," No. 209
Suggested story: “Mr. Jinks Hands Out the Holly,” The Children’s Friend, December 1958
Suggested scripture: Micah 5:2
Suggested carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” "Hymns," No. 208
Suggested story: “Keeping Baby Warm,” by Lynda H. Laughlin
Suggested carol: “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains,” "Hymns," No. 212. This carol was written by Latter-day Saint composer John Menzies MacFarlane (1833–1892).
Suggested story: “The Christmas Gift,” by Hugh Oliver
Suggested scripture: 1 Nephi 10:4–5
Suggested carol: “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” "100 Carols for Choirs," No. 19
Suggested story: “The C-C-Choir Boy,” by Fred Bauer. A boy with a stutter finds he can sing a solo in his school pageant if he only keeps his thoughts on the baby Jesus.
Suggested scripture: 1 Nephi 11:13–21
Suggested carol: “What Child Is This?” "The New Oxford Book of Carols," No. 98
Suggested story: “Bethann’s Christmas Prayer,” by Marilyn Morgan Helleberg. A young girl melts the heart of a sad, older woman who has suffered a terrible loss.
Suggested carol: “O Holy Night,” "The Christmas Songbook Treasury," page 68
Suggested story: “Pattern of Love,” by Jack Smith
Suggested scripture: Jacob 4:4–5
Suggested carol: “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella,” "The Christmas Songbook Treasury," page 59
Suggested story: “The Littlest Angel,” by Charles Tazewell. Though rather inaccurate doctrinally, this story makes a nice point about God’s love for a child and his acceptance of gifts of the heart
Suggested scripture: Jacob 7:11–12
Suggested carol: “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” "The New Oxford Book of Carols," No. 169
Suggested story: “Special Delivery,” by Mrs. Charles Stephan
Suggested scripture: Malachi 3:1
Suggested carol: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” "Hymns," No. 214
Suggested story: “The Little Match Girl,” by Hans Christian Andersen
Suggested scripture: Mosiah 3:5–8
Suggested carol: “Picture a Christmas,” "Children’s Songbook," page 50
Suggested story: “Trouble at the Inn,” by Dina Donahue. Another one of my favorites, this touching story is about a mentally slow boy whose tenderness causes a rather surprising change in the community Christmas pageant.
Suggested scripture: Alma 7:9–10
Suggested carol: “Oh, Hush Thee, My Baby,” "Children’s Songbook," page 48
Suggested story: “I Knew You Would Come,” by Elizabeth King English
Suggested scripture: Helaman 14:2–8
Suggested carol: “Stars Were Gleaming,” "Children’s Songbook," page 37
Suggested story: “Someone Missing at the Manger,” by Elizabeth Starr Hill
Suggested scripture: Luke 1:26–38
Suggested carol: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” "100 Carols for Choirs," No. 50
Suggested story: “Once in a Lifetime Christmas,” by Will Wright. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite stories that we read at Christmastime, recalling a Depression-era Christmas when an entire town worked together to give its children a Christmas they would always remember.
Suggested scripture: Matthew 1:18–25
Suggested carol: “When Joseph Went to Bethlehem,” "Children’s Songbook," page 38
Suggested story: “The Gift of Love,” by Thomas S. Monson
Suggested scripture: Luke 1:39–56
Suggested carol: “Away in a Manger,” "Hymns," No. 206
Suggested story: “Unexpected Christmas,” by Marguerite Nixon. Another one of my favorites, this story tells of a city couple who learn the true meaning of Christmas when they are forced to spend Christmas Eve with a humble farming family.
Suggested scripture: 3 Nephi 1:13–14
Suggested carol: “Once within a Lowly Stable,” "Children’s Songbook," page 41
Suggested carol: “Silent Night,” "Hymns," No. 204
Although we do not usually hold a devotional on Christmas Day, a personal tradition of mine is to read or listen to George Durrant’s retelling of his missionary Christmas. Alone, sick, and away from family, young Elder Durrant spent the day with the biblical Christmas story, gaining his own testimony that Jesus Christ was the Son of God (Durrant, “Don’t Forget the Star,” 30–38).
The Sunday after Christmas
Suggested scripture: Luke 2:21–39
Jan. 5 or 6
Suggested story: “The Other Wise Man,” by Henry Van DykeComment on this story
Suggested scripture: Matthew 2:1–12
Suggested carols: “With Wondering Awe,” "Hymns," No. 210, and “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” "The Christmas Songbook Treasury," No. 46
After the Christmas Season
Read the scriptures describing the flight to Egypt and return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:12–23) and of the boy Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:41–52). After that, read one of the Gospels, or all of them, between Christmas and Easter. Perhaps beginning on Palm Sunday, read the accounts of the final days of the Savior’s life, in preparation for celebrating the glad tidings of the Easter season (see Huntsman's "God So Loved the World").