Ever gotten your hands on a book with so many possibilities it got hold of your heart? Well, that’s exactly what happened the first time I laid eyes on Glenys Nellist’s new book ’Twas The Evening of Christmas. Glenys Nellist, an English gal engaged in fabulous ministry with children in Michigan, is a grandmother, a mom to four young men, and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. Glenys has written several children’s books based on scripture. Her books fill my shelves because her words in rhyme make the Bible sing.

A poem published anonymously in 1823 as A Visit From St. Nicholas, is affectionately known by it’s first line, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. In 1837, Clement Clarke Moore claimed ownership. Glenys wrote the birth story of Jesus with this cadence and rhythm. She has a true gift of poetry, especially using child-friendly phrases that children (and I) love.

I got my hands on this book in October, just as I was planning the Kids and Candles Christmas Eve service. The very next day I was joining a team of long-time children’s ministry folk and the book made its way around the table in no time. Since then, several of us have collaborated on the many ways we’ve incorporated it into our advent events and Christmas Eve.

Glenys shared 3 of her top ideas to use ‘Twas The Evening of Christmas in the classroom is 1) Students act out the story as a narrator reads, 2) Read aloud in a service with images shown on the big screen (permission can be obtained from Zonderkidz), and 3) Make it interactive by reading each stanza, but omit the last word and have kids fill in the missing rhyme. We are doing #2 with a spontaneous nativity as children come forward with various headpieces as shepherds, angels, stable animals on Christmas Eve. I shared the story at our Preschool last week as the Mystery Reader with idea #3. The children LOVED it!

Elena Selivanova has illustrated this book with great beauty and uncluttered images. The focus is on the baby and isn’t that the way it should be? I especially loved the way Elena depicts Mary always looking at Baby Jesus and the eyes of the shepherds as the angels come to bring the good news of His birth.

I’ve already ordered several copies TWICE, and am giving them as gifts this season. What’s next? Glenys will be adding to her Love Letter series with Easter Love Letters From God to be published January 30th. Just in time for Lent! This latest book in the Love Letter series has seven stories with seven lift-the-flap love letters from God, beginning with the ride into Jerusalem and ending with the resurrection.

I’m thrilled to share as part of this blog post, Zondervan is providing a free book giveaway of ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas! Comment below with your favorite part of the Christmas story and you’ll be entered to win. The winner will be announced next week! (This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address…no PO boxes).

“As Mary and Joseph got ready for bed, they snuggled their baby and kissed his sweet head.” – Glenys Nellist, ‘Twas The Evening Of Christmas

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19