Max Lucado, pastor at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas and author of over 50 books including When God Whispers Your Name, turns his attention to Christmas in Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born, Hope is Here (Thomas Nelson, Sept.). In it, he shares what the holiday means to him—“That God sent his son as a gift to the world.”

What inspired you to write Because of Bethlehem?

I feel it’s more and more difficult for us to keep our focus [on the story of Christmas] during the Christmas season. So many things compete for our attention: parties to go to, trips to make, gifts to purchase. I really wanted to see if I could answer the question, “What’s the big deal about Christmas?” and put it in a book that’s accessible to people who are very busy. That’s why I loaded this book with stories—Christmas memories, stories of hope, and the biblical story of Christmas. I also wanted to make a contribution because it’s a tough season in our country—we’re fearful at the next batch of news, and this presidential election hasn’t done anything to calm our fears. Nothing calms the spirit like the message of Christmas, and I think our country needs to be calmed.

And yet a lot of people experience sadness and loneliness at Christmas.

When somebody is in the middle of a tough stretch, December often makes it even more difficult because it seems to either bring out what is really bad or really good in the world. Whether a person attends a church or not, whether they have a vibrant faith or scarcely have a faith, I think each one of us can clear some time in the season and really think about the message of Christmas—that God sent his son as a gift to the world. And let the Christmas experience sink in really deep. It’s easy to look up on December 26th and realize that you’ve gone to a lot of parties and opened a lot of presents, but you’ve never really experienced Christmas. We can make a decision that we’re not going to let that happen.

Why do you write in the book that Christians should celebrate Christmas all year long?

When January comes along, we can continue that sense of comfort and warmth that comes at Christmas by returning to the Christmas story, which gives us two great promises: God understands you, and God can redeem you. I encourage people to make it a point to reread the Christmas story every month, and allow Christmas to be Christmas every month. We need to keep coming back to it.

What is the main thing you want readers to take away from Because of Bethlehem?

Don’t get sucked into the shopping part of Christmas. It’s fun, but don’t get so caught up in it that you miss the manger and the beauty of Christmas.