New Bible translation, Precious Moments line among Christmas offerings

Economic forecasters have projected a doom-and-gloom Christmas shopping season this year. But despite the economic pinch, those who believe in the true Christmas story have a source of joy to tap into that transcends the material. If anything, tough economic times may provide the impetus to return to our Christian roots, seeking gifts that reflect the hope we find in Christ's winter birthday.

There are plenty of items out there from which to choose. We offer here a sampling of some of the more intriguing gifts to the perennial favorites.

Bible scholars have a new option this Christmas with the release of The ESV (English Standard Version) Study Bible, which was created to help people understand the Bible in a deeper way.

The translation was produced by Crossway, a not-for-profit publishing ministry, and all receipts from the ESV Study Bible go directly toward the support of this ministry goal around the world.

As part of its plan to provide a "powerful, compelling, life-changing reality," the study Bible augments the text with recent evangelical Christian scholarship. It was created by a team of 95 evangelical Christian scholars and teachers.

Its 2,752 pages include 20,000 study notes, 200 full-color maps, 40 new illustrations, 200-plus charts, timelines, 50 articles, 80,000 cross-references and introductions. Altogether the ESV Study Bible comprises 2 million words of Bible text, insightful explanation, teaching, and reference material—equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library, all contained in one volume.

 The ESV is described by its publishers as an "essentially literal" translation that is committed to the principle of "word-for-word" translation."


Christmas cowabunga
Surfing fans will love the new DVD "Walking on Water," produced by a ministry bearing the same name. The outreach video, being released in time for Christmas, has been part of two U.S. tours—one on the West Coast, one on the East Coast.

"I had the privilege of being at the world premiere of the Walking on Water movie and was blown away," said Kevin Palau, executive vice president of the Luis Palau Association. "It is a world-class film in every way and an amazing tool for outreach. Tens of thousands have already experienced it in theaters, but as a DVD I expect it to have a huge Kingdom impact."

In the film, Bryan Jennings, founder and director of Walking on Water, takes up-and-coming surf stars Luke Davis and Tyler Hallen around the world in hopes that they will be forever changed, as he was as a teenager. Along the way they meet up with three-time world champion surfer Tom Curren, teen shark-attack survivor Bethany Hamilton, top professional surfers C.J. and Damien Hobgood, and many others. The video includes scenes from Hawaii, Peru, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, and France.

The film retails for $24.95 and is available at www.walkingonwater.com/themovie.


A wet winter Christmas
What is Christmas without a little snow? A new product makes that possible even in the warmest climates, thanks to a new DVD that creates a soothing desktop for your TV. "A Snowglobe Christmas" is a 52-minute DVD that is set on a continuous loop and features theatrically lit Austrian snowglobes set to a variety of Christmas music. It also contains a segment on how the snowglobe was invented and a humorous interview about the trials and tribulations of working with an international cast of snowglobe characters.

The video stars snowglobes from the Original Vienna Snowglobe company in Austria—which produced the first snowglobes in the country. The company is said to have made the famous snowglobe for the classic movie "Citizen Kane," a replica of which appears in "A Snowglobe Christmas."

Produced by Ron Ranson, the DVD includes 25 pieces of holiday music.

"We didn't have to use trick photography to make the snow fall slowly and romantically," Ranson said in a news release. "These Austrian snowglobes snow for a long time using a secret snowflake ingredient known only to the inventor's grandson, who appears in the DVD. The result is a hypnotic mix of old world style, high-tech theatrical lighting and creative wizardry."

Best of all, the recipient will never have to shovel the driveway.

The DVD sells for $19.95 and is available at www.snowglobechristmas.com.


Precious girls
After three decades of making memories precious for its porcelain fans, Precious Moments is unveiling a new line of resin dolls designed for girls. The line is launching with the new Precious Girls Club, a virtual world, book series and product collection for girls ages 4 to 12 that is built on the brand's wholesome values and faith-based messages.

"The Precious Girls Club allows us to help parents keep their little girls precious in the digital age, while staying true to the message that made our brand everything it is, and has been, for the past 30 years," said Bret Moore, vice president of marketing for Precious Moments. "It's a fun and engaging way for moms and grandmothers to share their Precious Moments connection with their kids and grandkids."

According to company officials, the Precious Girls Club is based on an all-new book series for girls that revolves around the life of Katie Bennett and a diverse group of her friends as they learn about wholesome values in a fun and engaging way. Besides the figurines, the product line includes books, jewelry, charms, and other related accessories

Each product comes with exclusive codes that can be used to unlock online content and membership benefits. The figurines retail for $15, while the charms are $7.50. Other items include a plush dog named Patches and club T-shirts.

For more information, visit www.preciousgirlsclub.com.


'Save the Planets'
One of the newer offerings from Big Idea Inc., offers an out-of-this-world experience, thanks to "3-2-1 Penguins!: Save the Planets!" The DVD features three new episodes of the Penguins, who are dedicated to responding to distress calls from across the galaxy.

Released this summer, the series follows the adventures of two young kids and four space-traveling penguins. Buckle up for an intergalactic adventure like never before as Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel and Kevin save the inhabitants of planets while learning valuable lessons based on the book of Proverbs in contentment, sharing and moderation.

The Penguins series has sold 1.5 million videos to date and is one of the top-rated shows on Qubo, a children's programming endeavor involving three broadcast networks, a new digital television network, and numerous children's entertainment producers. The show airs weekly on NBC, ION and Telemundo.

The Penguins were featured this fall through licensing agreements with Applebee's, Chick-fil-A, Nathan's Famous, Chuck E. Cheese's and through Litehouse Foods Caramel Apple Dips.

The DVD retails for $14.99.

For more information, visit www.bigideafun.com.


Holiday veggies
Also from Big Idea comes the VeggieTales: Holiday Pack!, a collection of two of the most beloved and best-selling VeggieTales holiday classics on DVD, "The Toy That Saved Christmas" and "The Star of Christmas."

They are combined with perennial music favorites on "The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree" and "A Very Veggie Christmas" on CD." Altogether the package has 29 songs and is more than two hours long.

"The Holiday Pack contains all of our best loved Christmas titles in one package," Greg Fritz, senior vice president of marketing and licensing for Big Idea, said in a news release. "These heartwarming stories and songs celebrate the wonder of Christmas and teach important lessons in giving and God's love in a unique way that children can understand and parents can appreciate—an especially timely message during the busy holiday season."

The package retails for $24.99.

For those on a tigher budget, Veggie Tales is also offering various CD and DVD singles for under $11.

For more information, visit www.bigidea.com.


Chronicling Caspian
"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," the second installment of C.S. Lewis' seven-book epic, comes to DVD and Blu-ray Hi-Def Dec. 2. Produced by Walden Media and Walt Disney Pictures, the film has grossed almost $420 million worldwide.

"Prince Caspian" will also be released in a special two-disc Collector's Edition that includes special audio commentary by the director and actors, behind-the-scenes footage, a tour of the film's locations and sets, inside views of the technology and production used to make the film, bloopers and deleted scenes. All DVD packages will include a special DisneyFile, a digital copy of the movie that can be viewed on a variety of portable devices.

Rated PG, the DVD of "Prince Caspian" has a suggested retail price of $29.99, and the two-disc Collector's Edition is $39.99. The two-disc Blu-ray package is priced at $39.99, with a three-disc Blu-ray Collector's Edition priced at $40.99.


Gift deployment
For the person who has everything, perhaps consider purchasing Rapid Deployment Kits for the military in the name of a relative or friend. The kits are a project of Campus Crusade for Christ's Military Ministry.

Each month between 10,000 and 15,000 requests are received for the kits, which are used to assist military chaplains.

About 1.9 million RDKs—each containing a pocket-sized New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs, a daily devotional, and a booklet that clearly shares the gospel—have been distributed since September 2001.

The kits are small enough to be carried in a soldier's pocket and are packaged in a waterproof bag. They cost just $3.25 a unit, which includes shipping and distribution costs. A donation of $26 will provide seven kits, while $52 would provide them for 16 soldiers. Donations are also tax-deductible.

For more information, call (888) CRUSADE or visit www.biblesfortroops.org.


The skinny on the New Testament
Another option to benefit soldiers would be the Military BibleStick, a thin audio New Testament, which began distribution in July by Faith Comes by Hearing.

The Audio Bible is about the size of a pack of chewing gum and easily fits into a uniform pocket. It was also designed to be rugged enough to withstand unpredictable weather. With a matte black finish, matte black ear buds and a red-light-only operation, the Military BibleStick has an intentional low-key design to reduce visibility and to be used in low-light situations. 

"The format is perfect for the military lifestyle," said one Army chaplain deployed to Iraq.

More than 7,600 of the listening devices have been sent to military chaplains around the world.

In addition to helping a soldier, proceeds from the BibleStick are pumped back into the ministry so that people can hear the Bible in their native language. Like the Rapid Deployment Kits, the audio Bibles make a wonderful gift to give in the name of a loved one.

For more information, visit www.faithcomesbyhearing.com.