A Bethlehem Christmas: Celebrating the Joyful Season
Bestselling author and beloved evangelical pastor Charles R. Swindoll takes the Christmas story to another level as he beautifully retells the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus --- not from a single individual's perspective but from three separate ones. Swindoll believes that by presenting this well-loved biblical story from a fresh vantage point, informed readers will revisit the all-too-familiar seasonal Christmas account differently as they gain new insights gleaned through several diverse experiences. He tells of the birth of the Savior as written first by Mary, then as Joseph and finally as the angel Gabriel.
Swindoll opens with the faith-shattering circumstances surrounding Zacharias, the elderly priest, who is offering sacrifices in the Holy Place when an angel foretells of the birth of Zacharias's son, John, to Elizabeth in her old age. Sudden hope mingled with unbelief, and then denial and doubt, lace Zacharias's response to the angel whereby he is rendered mute until the son is born.
Once the historical stage is set, Mary's voice is then offered as she tells of her childhood home, family and faith. Most significantly, her meeting with Joseph is described as is her burgeoning love and growing respect for Joseph as her future husband. Written almost like a journal, Mary shares her deepest feelings formed from the angel's visitation to her and of his prophecy that she will bear the Savior of the world. Swindoll delves more deeply into the womanly cares and concerns of Mary as she is rejected and misunderstood by those closest to her. Then, she finds respite and encouragement through the now-pregnant Elizabeth and finally as Joseph is reassured by a heavenly visitor that Mary truly is a virgin; he, in turn, comforts her and they marry. Her story continues through their journey to Bethlehem, and even the birth of the Messiah is lovingly presented.
Joseph's perspective mirrors Mary's in timeline and happenings. However, readers now gain the man's thoughts and inner-workings from the time he is introduced to Mary until he takes her as his wife, and they journey to Bethlehem. Readers will appreciate their parallel yet distinctive takes on the same life events. Finally, the angel Gabriel speaks, and it is from the heavens that readers gain yet a third unique look at the birth of Jesus.
Not only will readers appreciate the author's fine storytelling ability, they will find themselves lingering long over the rich and vivid tapestry of artwork strewn generously from beginning to end. Some of the artwork included here is “The Adoration of the Child” by Gerrit van Honthorst, “The Annunciation” by Philippe de Champaigne and “Joseph's Dream” by Luca Giordano. This seamlessly written holiday book will draw readers, young and old, to its lively text and meaningful message of hope, faith and love. Swindoll's work is always delightful and instructive, and this newest offering is a veritable (non-calorie) feast for the senses.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 13, 2011