Monday, December 12, 2011
Book Review: The Christ of Christmas
P&R Publishing, $11.99 (2009 reissue of 1983 book)
I'll admit that I found the beginning of the Advent season a little bit frustrating from a spiritual standpoint. The Christmas story is more than just a story, and I've tried for the past few years to find really good resources that celebrate this miracle, and proclaims its significance in a meaningful way. When I look in local bookstores, even Christian bookstores, most of what I find have been children's picture books, holiday romance novels and books that give only a very surface "Christmas is a time for family warmth" analysis of the season. I was starting to think that perhaps what I was looking for wasn't there at all.
Then I found a wonderful post of Advent resources by Becky Pliego over
at Desiring Virtue. This led me to order The Christ of Christmas, and it's a rewarding read that I cannot recommend highly enough for this season!
This little book contains several Christmas messages by the late James Montgomery Boice of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He covers many different aspects of the Christmas narratives from why belief in the virgin birth is critical to the first Christmas itself to the importance of Scriptural references detailing how others such as Simeon responded to Christ's birth, and what they mean for believers today.
Boice manages the difficult feat of combining very logical explanations of Biblical text with expressions of the absolute wonder that this season brings. As I read through the messages, I learned a lot not just about the various parts of the Advent and Christmas stories, but about interpreting Scripture in general. For example, in "The Genealogies", Boice discusses the apparent contradictions in Luke and Matthew's genealogies of Christ and explains how best to read these texts alongside one another. This advice not only makes those particular texts come alive for me in a new way, but also has practical interpretations for other portions of the Bible that I may study.
Boice's thorough and reverent approach to Scripture also shines through when he speaks of Christ's birth and of who Jesus really is. Whenever an author makes claims about Jesus, I look to see upon what that author bases his claims. In Mr. Boice's case, the things he tells us of Jesus Christ come directly from Scripture. He states his conclusions clearly and logically, and essentially tells us that we should believe a particular thing about Jesus because we see these exact things said of Christ in the Bible. Boice is able to take the accounts of the gospels and explain to readers how they work together to show us who this new baby Jesus really was and why even the small details of the Christmas story are important.
However, Boice's messages are not only deeply learned, but his own personal wonder over who Christ is and what great things this Christmas season means comes through in every chapter. Not only did I learn a lot about Scripture and about our Christ of Christmas, but the author's contagious joy shows through on the pages and makes reading this book a delight. If you are looking for something thoughtful to read this Advent season, this is definitely a book to consider.