Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review: The Christ of Christmas

As we approach the festive time, I like to do some seasonal reading. With some sermons to prepare, it can be a useful primer to give some ideas for preaching, but also for the reader to stop, reflect, and rejoice on the reason for the season. This year my Christmas book was The Christ of Christmas by James Montgomery Boice.

As with his other Christmas volume, 'The King Has Come', The Christ of Christmas is a collection of Christmas sermons. Because of that, there can sometimes be a little repetition, where some of the thoughts from one year are repeated or mentioned in another year's batch of sermons. Nevertheless, there is much to feast on here as Boice tackles some of the familiar Christmas Bible readings.

There are four main sections - Christ and Christmas (based on Jesus' own telling of Christmas from Hebrews), The Virgin Birth and Christmas, The First Christmas (which focuses on Matthew's account of the wise men), and The People of Christmas (which focuses on Luke's account). Perhaps the heaviest section is on the virgin birth, where he extensively discusses and explains the necessity and the meaning of the fact that Jesus' mother was a virgin. There were several moments I wasn't entirely convinced by his reasoning, but all in all his arguments are good, seeking to be faithful to the text first and then to the theology of the church. Most helpful was probably the discussion on the two different genealogies as found in Matthew and Luke - I'll certainly be returning to that when it comes time to preach on either genealogy in order to be ready for the questions that invariably come!

At times it is obvious that you're reading lightly edited sermon transcripts, with the particular forms of the genre shining through, but it's good and helpful to have Boice continue to preach through the book even as he enjoys the glories of Paradise. The illustrations are helpful, the application is direct, and there is much for the preacher to reflect on when seeking to prepare to preach at a time of year when it can be difficult to say much, yet with a golden opportunity with visitors and once-a-year parishioners in attendance.

The Christ of Christmas would be a good devotional book with the reader taking a chapter per day for half of December and having the message of Christmas simply and clearly explained and applied. It's a good book which will profit many in the Christmas season.

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