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25 December 2012

{25 Days of Holiday Book Reviews}: The Bible

Today's guest poster is David Etkin of {Eat the Book}.  He is the host of Thursday #thirstdays, and has been instrumental in various blog tours, including the #Wonderschools tour.  I first met David on Twitter thanks to a monthly Title Talk chat, where we discussed the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness.  David is always so positive and encouraging.  He jokingly wondered (I hope) if being given today to post was an honor or a punishment, and I'd say honor.  I'm so pleased to have him writing today about his favorite book and favorite holiday story, that of Jesus' birth, which is the reason for the holiday season.    

David Etkin’s favorite Christmas book: The Holy Bible 
 As a man of Faith, the Bible is the most important Christmas book to me. Contained in its pages is the very reason why I celebrate the holiday. It is a Holy-day. It is a celebration of the day Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, was born.

That’s a lot to wrap one’s head around. God—made flesh—born as a babe—the Savior of the World. But that is the beauty of the story. The Gospel spins conventional wisdom on its head time and again. In God’s economy: the poor are rich; those who lose their lives gain it; the lowly are raised up; those who follow are leaders. And Jesus was born as a helpless child, yet he was the King of Kings.

Paul Hankins has quoted a couple times from the beginning of John:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
Jesus, born on Christmas, is that Word.

The most touching account of Jesus’ birth is found in Luke.

Luke 1:26—38
26God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37For no word from God will ever fail.” 38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. 

 The birth of Jesus takes place in Luke 2:1—21 where we learn that, when Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census, there was no room at the inn so Jesus was born in a manger. After his birth, he was visited by shepherds and magi. But I personally like verse 19:
19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 
 It’s amazing to think of Mary, a young lady, going through all this. She wasn’t married when the angel visited her to tell her that she was going to have a child (though not engaging in any child-producing activities) and he would be the Son of the Most High. She had a lot to treasure—a lot to store up in her heart. Yes, Jesus was God made flesh, but he was still her child, her helpless, adorable baby.

 I often tell my students that when reading historical accounts or even historical fiction, we read it knowing what eventually happens. We read it through a retrospective lens. That is why when I read about the German invasion of Poland in WWII in the upcoming Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz and the father, a Polish Jew, says, “Mark my words: This war won’t last more than six months,”—I cringed.

 It is reading the Biblical account of Christmas and Jesus’ birth through this retrospective lens that makes it so powerful. We enjoy this day, but we also know what’s to come.

On Christmas I celebrate the birth of my savior; I treasure these things up in my heart.

But I also know that this baby will become the man Jesus. The man Jesus who, though innocent, was crucified to forgive the sins of the world; to forgive the sins of this writer.

That is part of God’s economy too. And that is a cause to celebrate Christmas.

Merry Christmas, BlogFriends.

As the angels proclaimed to the Shepherds all those years ago:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 
Thank you, Amanda, for giving me the opportunity to share my favorite Christmas book with you. Sincerely,
David Etkin of {Eat the Book}

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