For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been looking through Christmas picture books, looking for the ones that we enjoy the most. As I looked through our books and thought about what we liked about them, I was reminded of a book review I read years ago in The New York Times.
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This excerpt of the article has stuck with me for years now:
“Replacing the slippery Holy Ghost with anthropomorphized spirits, the infant Christ with a crippled child whose salvation waits on man’s–not God’s–generosity, Dickens laid claim to a religious festival, handing it over to the gathering forces of secular humanism. If a single night’s crash course in man’s power to redress his mistakes and redeem his future without appealing to an invisible and silent deity could rehabilitate even so apparently lost a cause as Ebenezer Scrooge, imagine what it might do for the rest of us!” [Kathryn Harrison, “Father Christmas,” The New York Times Review of Books, December 7, 2008, p. 14]
Now, I actually love reading most of Dickens’ works. Some of his characters are like dear friends that have encouraged or inspired me at different times of my life, but as I read this review (which is probably not the original source of this idea), I noticed for the first time the absence of the true story of Christmas in most books and movies. I mean, you could argue that A Christmas Carol (and the multitude of adaptations) is actually about peace on earth and goodwill, and I would not disagree, but there is more to the Christmas story than kindness and charity (important as those values are). Christmas is about the magical, amazing epic that God came to earth as a baby, lived His life in humble obscurity, died a horrible death to give us eternal life, rose from the dead, AND that He is coming again! Advent celebrates that God is now with us and that He is coming back for us. The best Christmas picture books stick to the “Christmas story,” which is usually Luke 2 (literal or paraphrased). It’s good, but stops short of what this holiday truly is about: the magical mystery of that baby, who was God, gave His life, rose from the dead, and is actually coming back to us.
As heartwarming as the typical Christmas stories of hard-hearted men who learn to love again through the kindness of others can be, they still fall very short of the miraculous magic of the reality of Advent. I have two more Christmas picture books to tell you about, both are family favorites, but they both fall into this category of a great message, but not really THE message. So, this coming year, I am on the hunt for Christmas books and movies that bring the focus on Jesus returning. I’ll let you know if I find any.
What about you? What do you think about this? Agree or disagree? Have any Christmas picture books that really sum up the meaning of Christmas? I would love to check out any suggestions you have!