The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings

The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings by Stephen Mitchell (written and narrated)

Published November 2nd 2021 by Macmillan Audio, St. Martin’s Essentials

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’m not sure what I was expecting as I began this book, but this was not quite it. I did enjoy this book, some chapters more than others. This is the story of The First Christmas as viewed through the eyes of some of those who were there including The Inn Keeper, an ox, Mary’s donkey, the shepherds and the wisemen. Stephen Mitchell took scripture as well as what was known about the customs and history of the time and told the story we know so well from scripture. This is not the picture we westerners have imagined over the years with an angelic Mary holding baby Jesus with halos shining, but an exhausted Mary leaning up against the wall of a stable, a scared couple who could be stoned or killed at any moment for pre-marital sex or infidelity, and two animals who lovingly looked on and observed the miracle of human birth (I loved the comment about the ox wondering why nobody licked the afterbirth off the baby).

The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings

This is a story of a Miracle, strength, acceptance, belief and love that is the central tenet of Christianity, a relatively short story in the gospels fleshed out in an interesting way that enable me to see, feel and experience the story in new ways. Scripture is included and although there are questions, it is still the story that I know and love. I did a read/listen with this book. The author also narrated the book which allowed him to use his voice to provide emphasis where he wanted, but I found it slow and rather mundane. In this case, I definitely enjoyed reading this one more than listening. If you are looking for a different take on the First Christmas, I recommend you pick this one up. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.

Our Gift-Giving God: A Devotional

Our Gift-Giving God: A Devotional by Andrea Levin Kim

Published November 19th 2018 by Lucid Books

3.5 Stars:

Our Gift-Giving God is a great devotional to read during advent. It has eight chapters, each one dealing with a gift from God, paired up with a Christmas symbol or tradition. The author suggests beginning on the first day of December and learning about and meditating on each gift for three days. Each gift and supporting Bible verses are followed by questions and a prayer. The book concludes with the gift of Christmas. I found some of the pairings quite interesting. They were:
A Christmas Tree – reminds us of the need to be rooted and fruitful.
A Fireplace – can point to renewal and new beginnings.
A Dove – God’s blessing and approval.
Christmas Music – Joy, a wonderful gift especially shared at Christmas.
Frankincense / Scents and smells at Christmas – indicates enduring friendship.
Bread, Cakes & Christmas treats – reminds us of God’s provision both immediate and enduring.
Angels – Mercy
A Candy Cane – Protection
Christmas Day, the Christmas Gift – Hope

I enjoyed this book and even though it is not Advent, I am preparing for the Christmas Season. I liked the information around each gift and the scriptures referred to. At the end of each chapter, the author does a summary and provides more detailed biblical references, that support her interpretation. I would suggest these verses and references could be used over the days of mediation. The closing of the chapters has a reflection and prayer. I enjoyed reading and studying these verses, and recommend this one to anyone looking for a book to read and study during the Advent Season.