In Joy To The World, the newest book from author Scott Hahn, we are introduced to each of the major characters in the Christmas story. Scott provides contexts to the story of Jesus’ birth that brings new life to a timeless story.
I was especially touched by the approach that Scott takes with the family aspects of the Christmas story. He points out that in Matthew’s narrative the “history of salvation” is traced “not by way of epic battles and conquests–and certainly not by way of influential ideas–but by the way of family.” The idea of the Kingdom of God being a family entity has been one of the most important ideas in my own Spiritual Formation over the past couple of years. I have come (am coming) to understand the importance of seeing one another as brother and sister and understanding our place as Sons and Daughters of God.
And that’s how Christmas changed everything. By establishing the conditions for our adoption as children of God–by bringing about a certain identification between man and God in Jesus Christ. — Scott Hahn in Joy To The World
Additional to the Holy Family, Scott looks at the Shepherds and the Magi. Shepherds weren’t normally the recipients of good news in ancient Palestine. And the Magi weren’t even Jews. Yet, both of these groups recieve the message of the good news before anyone else. God proclaiming to the “least of these” that salvation has come to the planet. These unlikely groups are given the news that the Kingdom of God is at hand, even before John the Baptist has a chance to proclaim it!
We’re also presented with the horrors of King Herod. We learn a bit of his background. We learn how he was ruthless, and dictatorial, and paranoid. We learn how his paranoria leads to the Massacre of the Holy Innocents.
As we prepare to move into the Advent season, and all the joy and hope and life it brings, we must come to understand that these were real events and real people and real stories. Scott takes us to the places. He introduces us to the people. He brings the story to life.
And, we being our march to the manager. That rough hewn place in a cave in Bethlehem. It’s where Scott begins his book. With a story from Bethlehem. In the modern day. Yet, with names and faces and children born into the most dire of circumstances. Surrounded by walls and wars and a young girl who delights in rocking these babies whose parents are displaced or imprisoned or dead.
And it is into situations just like that where we see Messiah. We see a young girl swaddling a newborn baby. We see shepherds worshipping in awe and reverance. We see Magi from the east bringing gifts. We see an adopted father who sees himself as more than just an adopted father. We see salvation.
Surely Jesus’ name, given by heaven, tells us something about His purpose. He came to “save His people”–more specifically, to save them “from their sins.” To do this is a pur act of merciful love, becuase sins are by definition offenses against Almighty God. Yet it is God Himself who has taken flesh for the sake of our salvation. He came, moreover, not just to save the wayward members of His chosen people but to save even the gravest sinners of Babylon and Egypt. — Scott Hahn in Joy To The World
FTC (16 CFR, Part 255) Disclaimer: I received my copy of Scott Hahn’s book Joy To The World from Blogging For Books for this review.