Journey to Bethlehem: A Treasury of Classic Christmas Devotionals

By Leland Ryken

... Show All

Journey to Bethlehem: A Treasury of Classic Christmas Devotionals

By Leland Ryken

... Show All

A 30-Day Anthology of Classic Christmas Writings 

For centuries, Christians have treasured the same classic hymns and passages at Christmas. While these works have stood the test of time, believers can be tempted to adopt them as commonplace and fail to consider their deeper meaning.  

Journey to Bethlehem presents an insightful selection of Christmas classics from the greatest English and American poets to important historical church figures such as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Spurgeon. Ideal for reading during the month of December, yet applicable for use year-round, each of the 30 readings consists of a classic work, literary analysis, takeaway summary, and Bible passage. 

Literary expert Leland Ryken analyzes each hymn, poem, and prose to approach these classic works in a fresh way. By highlighting how each passage is edifying and stylistically satisfying, readers will experience a new fondness for these classic works as they meditate on the mystery of Christ’s incarnation.

  • 30-Day Christmas Anthology: Each daily reading guides readers through the month of December
  • Features Classic Christian Works: Writings by historical church figures, including Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Spurgeon
  • Written by Leland Ryken: Literary expert and author or editor of over 60 books including The Soul in Paraphrase and The Heart in Pilgrimage
  • Offers a Fresh Perspective: Examines classic works from a literary perspective to provide Christians with new insights 

Read Chapter 1


Leland Ryken

Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly fifty years. He served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible and has authored or edited over sixty books, including The Word of God in English and A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible.

Product Details

Title: Journey to Bethlehem
Subtitle: A Treasury of Classic Christmas Devotionals
Published: September 19, 2023
ISBN-10: 1-4335-8419-0
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-8419-0
Category: Bible Studies & Devotionals
Christian Living
Retail Price: $29.99
Binding: Cloth Over Board
Trim: 6.0 in x 9.0 in
Page Count: 144

Table of Contents

Editor's Introduction
Part 1: Christmas Hymns
  1. Joy to the World (Isaac Watts)
  2. Angels, from the Realms of Glory (James Montgomery)
  3. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus (Charles Wesley)
  4. Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning (Reginald Heber)
  5. It Came upon the Midnight Clear (Edmund Sears)
  6. Once in Royal David’s City (Cecil Frances Alexander)
  7. As with Gladness Men of Old (William Chatterton Dix)
  8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Charles Wesley)
  9. O Little Town of Bethlehem (Phillips Brooks)
10. Silent Night (Josef Mohr)
Part 2: Classic Prose Devotionals
11. Mary, Our Example (John Calvin)
12. Bethlehem, the Town God Chose (Bernard of Clairvaux)
13. Journeying with the Wise Men (Lancelot Andrewes)
14. The Paradoxes of the Incarnation (Augustine)
15. A Christmas Prayer (from Lessons and Carols)
16. The Greatest Birthday (Charles Spurgeon)
17. Nicene Creed
18. On the Incarnation (Athanasius)
19. The Excellency of Christ Seen in Christmas (Jonathan Edwards)
20. The Birth of Jesus (Martin Luther)
Part 3: Christmas Poems
21. The Magnificat (the Virgin Mary)
22. A Hymn on the Nativity of My Savior (Ben Jonson)
23. In the Bleak Midwinter (Christina Rossetti)
24. The Consecration of the Common Way (Edwin Markham)
25. A Christmas Carol (G. K. Chesterton)
26. A Christmas Hymn (Richard Wilbur)
27. No Room for Jesus (author unknown)
28. Wilt Thou Love God as He Thee? (John Donne)
29. On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity (John Milton)
30. Journey of the Magi (T. S. Eliot)

Person Index
Scripture Index



“To read Journey to Bethlehem is to take a class in poetry, church history, and theology all at once—and to do so with a master teacher. And like the best teachers, Leland Ryken doesn’t just instruct, but he also delights. You will learn new things about old favorites in these pages as well as encounter hidden gems from the best Christian poets, preachers, and thinkers. This book is a gift—not only for Christmas but for any time.”
Karen Swallow Prior, author, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

“With his insightful analysis of content, context, and form, Leland Ryken lifts the veil of familiarity from famous hymns, poems, and prose selections to reveal a new realm of Christmas, glowing with exuberant joy and singing with quieting peace. This is a weighty collection for the culturally curious as well as the literary enthusiast that opens the eyes afresh to what Christmas truly means. I highly recommend Journey to Bethlehem as a companion anthology to Ryken’s two previous treasuries, The Soul in Paraphrase and The Heart in Pilgrimage. There is rich reward in reading and rereading these works together.”
Carolyn Weber, Professor, New College Franklin; award-winning author, Surprised by Oxford

“This anthology is a feast. Choosing thirty classic texts for the Advent season is not an obvious undertaking. In Leland Ryken’s capable hands it has been beautifully done. Not only are each of these selections rich, but the commentaries by Ryken are most enlightening. Readers can memorize them, pray them, sing them, or simply revel in them. They will draw you closer to God.”
William Edgar, Professor Emeritus of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary

“With his signature talent for identifying challenging but accessible devotional material and skill for unpacking what makes those devotionals work, Leland Ryken offers up a collection of poems, hymns, carols, and sermon excerpts that delve into the meaning of God made man, of the Almighty Creator lying helpless in a manger. The ideal companion for Advent.”
Louis Markos, Professor in English and Scholar in Residence, Houston Christian University; author, The Myth Made Fact

“Ryken has assembled, contextualized, explicated, and applied a strong group of classics, both familiar and lesser known, whether cheerful and comforting or provocative and edgy. You’ll learn a lot as you’re being blessed and fortified. I think every pastor should have a copy handy for the Christmas season, as should families for their devotional gatherings. And aspiring writers of hymns, poetry, and edifying prose will get a short course in literary standards and ideals.”
Mark Coppenger, Former Professor of Christian Philosophy and Ethics, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, If Christianity Is So Good, Why Are Christians So Bad?

“Leland Ryken is a master anthologist with an encyclopedic knowledge of devotional poetry and literature. This Yuletide anthology is a rich feast designed to nourish the soul on the truth and wonder of the incarnation with a masterful selection of hymns, devotionals, and poems.”
Gregory E. Reynolds, Editor, Ordained Servant; author, The Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures and Yuletide: Poems and Artwork

“Leland Ryken’s Journey to Bethlehem is such a rich resource. Sometimes it’s overwhelming how many books, devotionals, and resources exist for Advent. Ryken solves the problem by curating the best of the best for us. This volume will become an annual coffee-table staple in our household!”
Brett McCracken, Senior Editor, The Gospel Coalition; author, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World

“What a valuable collection of Christmas gems: classic hymns, devotionals, and poems that celebrate Christ’s coming with words of weight and beauty. They are polished and packaged for us here, offered with just enough background and explication to help us relish and understand. This is a Christmas gift that will last.”
Kathleen Nielson, author; speaker

“This powerful but accessible volume instructs, delights, and edifies. It is a blessing that readers will long to share with others.”
David V. Urban, Professor of English, Calvin University; author, Milton and the Parables of Jesus

“Leland Ryken has been rendering great service to the church by recovering its rich devotional heritage and making it accessible for contemporary Christians. Now he takes up Christmas, the favorite holiday, helping us meditate on the birth of Christ by unpacking the classic works of songwriters, poets, and theologians.”
Gene Edward Veith Jr., Professor of Literature Emeritus, Patrick Henry College; author, Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature

“This volume provides the reader with a rich selection of well-edited Christmas texts drawn from across the ages, selected for their unique perspectives and artistic expression, and paired with thoughtful essays. The texts and commentaries are brief enough to read as devotionals, say after a family meal, and weighty enough to prompt one to ponder throughout the day.”
James C. Wilhoit, Professor of Christian Education Emeritus, Wheaton College

“Advent can often feel like a treasure barely opened; we can tell the glories go far deeper than we’ve seen, even after many seasons. In Journey to Bethlehem, Leland Ryken plunders the poems and prose of Christian history to help us pause before the manger and, with the shepherds, stand in deeper awe. The devotionals included here shed fresh light at every turn, showing the riches of Christ more clearly—and showing why those riches are called ‘unsearchable.’”
Scott Hubbard, Editor, Desiring God; Pastor, All Peoples Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota