Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Very First Christmas


The Very First Christmas, Paul Maier
Illustrated by Francisco Ordaz
(Concordia, 1998), hb., 32 pp.
Ages 5+

I was so impressed with Maier’s book on Luther that I wanted to see this book of his on Christmas as well. Maier’s chief concern here is to relate the real events of the birth of Christ to reassert to reality of the event. In his introduction Maier states:

Children’s Christmas books are often long on fancy but short on fact. Many of them ignore the central theme of the first Christmas and opt instead for Grimm’s fairy-tale settings ….
This is certainly correct in assessing much of children’s literature, though there is an increasing number of good books on the topic (here is one example). Maier sets up his story as a conversation between a mother and her “bright eight-year-old son” who is inquisitive and has decided he only wants true bedtime stories from now on. The mother has done some study and tells the story of Christ birth in an engaging way filling in various historical details which are at times overlooked (for example the fact that the word the Bible uses for Joseph’s vocation can refer to someone who works with stone and well as one who works with wood).

In the end, this is as good a book though not as good as the Luther book. The illustrations here are not as good as the ones in the Luther book. I also take issue with the way Maier essentially slights fairy tales. I appreciate and affirm his point on the historicity of Christ’s birth, but I see no need to pit that against fairy tales. Probably this is the influence of C. S. Lewis on me as he affirmed the value of fairy tales as another way to express important truths.

This critique, though, affects only a bit of the positioning of the book. The story is well done and this book will be a good resource for families. I recommend it warmly and will plan to get a copy for our church library.

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