An exclusive Nativity crèche, a Fisher Price Little People Advent calendar and a plethora of Advent and Christmas books greet holiday shoppers at Cokesbury bookstores and Cokesbury.com.
"We have an exclusive Nativity set that you will not find anywhere else," said Cathey Clark, merchandise manager at The United Methodist Publishing House. "This nine-piece set was created by Abbey Press and customized for us. We put forth a lot of effort to find unique crèches and Nativity sets that you will most likely not find in other stores."
Advent calendars and activity books - popular standbys - are updated for today's youngest consumers.
"This year, we are particularly excited about the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Advent Calendar," Clark said."It has soft, fabric pieces with Velcro on them - great for little fingers and washable, if those fingers are sticky.
"There are a couple of new interactive products - reusable sticker books that can be played with over and over. My favorite is the Activity Pack sets that include a book, coloring book and a poster with reusable stickers. There are three sets - The Christmas Star, Jesus and Noah."
Store visitor, Andrew Donaldson, shows how to use a special holiday item offered by Cokesbury - a Fisher-Price Advent Calendar made of fabric. Donaldson visits Cokesbury weekly through a community-based transition program.
Advent and Christmas Bible studies and meditations help children, youth and adults remember the real reason for the season. "The Family Book of Advent: 25 Stories and Activities to Celebrate the Real Meaning of Christmas" by Carol Garborg is a fun resource for parents and children.
The special 25th anniversary edition of "Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect" by Richard H. Schneider features an embellished cover with glitter and a sticker sheet that children can use to decorate a picture of a pine tree in the back of the book.
Clark offered several recommendations for Advent and Christmas, including 10 books for study and contemplation.
- "A Different Kind of Christmas: Living and Giving Like Jesus," an inspirational, five-week, churchwide study, based on the Rev. Mike Slaughter's book, "Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving Like Jesus"
- "The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem," a seven-week study by the Rev. Adam Hamilton
- "Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World?" by Chris Seay, Greg Holder and Rick McKinley
- "Christmas from the Backside: A Different Look at the Story of Jesus' Birth" by the Rev. J. Ellsworth Kalas
- "Christmas Gifts That Won't Break: An Advent Study for Adults" by the Rev. James W. Moore
- "God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- "Preparing the Way: An Advent Study based on the Revised Common Lectionary" by Susan Mink
- "Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent," daily meditations by Enuma Okoro
- "The Gospel of Christmas: Reflections for Advent" by Patty Kirk
- "When God Comes Down: An Advent Study for Adults" by the Rev. James A. Harnish
"The celebration of Advent," Clark said, "is a core part of our churches' commemoration of the birth of Christ. The studies that the United Methodist Publishing House produces are aids to the Scripture story for personal reflection.
An exclusive, nine-piece Nativity set is one of many Christmas items offered by Cokesbury Bookstore. The crèche was created by Abbey Press and customized for Cokesbury.
"Those days leading up to the Nativity help to set the heart for worship, making the liturgies, resources and music a valuable aid in the celebration."
And even with the news that the 200-year-old brand will close all 38 of its standalone retail stores and 19 seminary stores across the United States, Clark believes Cokesbury is still the best outlet for United Methodist customers.
"With all the channels for products," Clark said, "Cokesbury has the best of all worlds for customers to get what they need. We pride ourselves on our unique product assortments for churches and laity that meet much broader needs than other Christian retailers."
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.