For Christians all around the world, Christmas is more than just a time of togetherness and gift-giving; it's a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Many picture books deal specifically with the Nativity, exploring various figures from the wise men and shepherds to the angels, the animals in the stable and the Holy Family themselves. Here are a few that I would recommend.

The Stable That Bob Built - VeggieTales is a Christian video series that uses computer-animated vegetables to tell stories with Biblical resonance. This particular book is a tie-in with the VeggieTales Nativity Playset, which includes several small plastic figures of familiar Veggie characters in a Christmas pageant. The book is a story-within-a-story, since it's all about how this stable and all of the play's participants come together, but it also tells the tale of the Nativity in the process. Filled with the zany humor that has made VeggieTales so popular, this take-off on The House That Jack Built is great for youngsters who have already come to love Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber and the whole cast of Veggie characters.

Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers - This solemn book by Andrew Clement is written from the perspective of an angel, imagining how the first Christmas must have seemed to a resident of celestial spheres. Angels themselves do not appear in the book's pages, but Kate Kiesler's luminous paintings often include doves to symbolically indicate them. The poetic writing style aims at an audience of older children, as do the intricate illustrations, which include several historically accurate details, especially in terms of architecture. One of the most aesthetically pleasing Nativity books on the market.

The Very First Christmas - Paul L. Maier writes this rather dry book in which a mother aims to give her son all of the facts about the first Christmas. Published by the Aid Association for Lutherans, it features extensive scriptural quotes and realistic illustrations. While children may find the tone of the text to be a little too overtly educational, the gorgeous paintings by Francisco Ordaz are likely to make up for that.

This Is the Stable - A progressive story aimed at young children, this book written by Cynthia Cotten is very much along the same lines as The Stable That Bob Built, but it focuses only on the Nativity, without the storytelling device of a modern pageant. The repetition in the gentle rhyming text makes this an ideal book for helping children to learn the key components to the Nativity scene, and the clever illustrations are filled with folksy designs and unusual details, including a dark-skinned Holy Family. A good choice for those just getting to know the story.

Who Is Coming to Our House? - The mouse knows someone is coming in this cute book that imagines the anticipation of the stable dwellers as Mary and Joseph approached Bethlehem. All of the creatures have a sense that something exciting is about to happen, but they consult with one another nervously, not sure what to make of it all. Another book for the younger end of the age spectrum, it has repetitious rhyming text and a durable board book format. While the story, written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, does not make the significance of the visitors as clear as it should, this is a nice book to be used in conjunction with more detailed efforts. Additionally, it may help young children learn about various animals. Sixteen different animals merit a specific mention, and though the usual suspects like cows, lambs and cats are present, so are less traditional animals like peacocks, owls and spiders.

On Christmas Morning - Published by Ideals, this small book by Patricia A. Pingry is framed by a modern family celebration of Christmas but delves into the story of the Nativity as well. Pingry's rhyming text is not remarkably poetic, and at times the punctuation doesn't make a lot of sense. However, her words are sufficient to get the story across, and Gene Barretta furnishes rather cartoonish pictures that convey the ideas at hand but aren't particularly memorable. There's a certain generic flavor to this board book, so I would recommend it less heartily than most of these others, but it's still a suitable Nativity board book and would work especially well in a church nursery.

The Most Precious Gift: A Story of the Nativity - This book reminds me of The Little Drummer Boy, as it involves a young boy making a journey to the newborn King even though he worries because he has no gift to give him. Lyrically written by Martin Crisp and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, the story focuses on an Egyptian boy named Ameer and the loyal dog he loves. Together, they tag along behind the wise men, and readers join them on their journey, immersed in the beauty of Cooper's oil paintings. An exceptional picture book.

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale - This tender book by Martin Waddell is another that focuses on the animals surrounding Jesus at birth, with the ox serving as the sage of the stable who gently welcomes in one visitor after another. While there is much to love about the way in which the story is written, what really draws the reader in are the light-infused paintings by Jason Cockcroft, which give the animals such personality and emphasize the beauty of the scene, especially in comparison to the harsh weather outside.

Every year, amidst the stories about Santa and gift exchanges and lavish dinners, at least one or two new books remind readers to take a step back and focus on the reason for the season. Take a look for yourself when you see the Christmas section at the local bookstore, and if you see any of these on display, consider buying one. They certainly are not the only books of this nature on sale this time of year, but if you're looking for a good Nativity story, this list won't steer you wrong.