Over the years, many of the authors I enjoy have written books about Christmas. Here are four recent books about Christmas that I would recommend to you.
Child in the Manger: The True Meaning of Christmas – Sinclair Ferguson
Sinclair Ferguson is one of our day’s best Reformed theologians. I have read many of his books and heard him speak many times at the Ligonier National Conference. He has been a pastor and seminary professor in numerous churches and seminaries throughout the world, and is also a Ligonier Teaching Fellow. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed and was blessed by this book.
Dr. Ferguson writes that this book sets out to explore the question of the real meaning of Christmas. He tells us that when we find the answer, we realize that it isn’t only for the Christmas season. He states that at the center of history stands the person of Jesus Christ. He does so because he is at the center of God’s story. Christ who is the creator of all things has entered his own creation in order to become our Savior. That is what gives Christmas meaning. It is what gives history and our lives meaning too.
He writes that the heart of the Christmas message is a baby bound in swaddling bands and lying in a wooden manger, who is destined to be bound again later in life and laid upon wood on the cross of Calvary. He tells us that the meaning of Christmas is this: The Light of the world has come into the darkness of the world, in order to bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and to illuminate them with the grace of forgiveness. He tells us that Christmas is not coming, but it has already come. The Word already has been made flesh. He already has lived, bled, died, and risen again for us. Now all that remains is to receive him. For Jesus is the meaning of Christmas.
Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for
- More of this book review and reviews of
- An Even Better Christmas: Joy and Peace That Last All Year by Matt Chandler
- Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ – Timothy Keller
- Christmas Playlist: Four Songs that bring you to the heart of Christmas – Alistair Begg
He tells us that Philippians 2:5-11, which he calls a bold, even a daring passage, is the inside story of Christmas. As we mature as Christians, we begin to count others as more significant than ourselves. This is what the Christmas gospel does. Or to state it differently, this is what the Christ of Christmas does. But he does so only when we discover the true meaning of Christmas.
The author tells us that the New Testament does not obligate Christians to celebrate Christmas. However, he writes, the wisdom of the church throughout the ages suggests that if we do not celebrate the incarnation of Christ deliberately at some point in the year we may be in danger of doing it all too rarely, perhaps not at all.
In his writing and speaking, Dr. Ferguson has a wonderful way with words. Here is an example as he writes of the birth narrative: “The one who populated the forests with trees lies within the bark of one. The one who has always been face to face with his Father now stares into the face of his teenage mother. The one whom the heavens cannot contain is contained within a stable. He who cradles the universe is himself cradled in an animal’s feeding trough.”
Today, most people in the United States celebrate Christmas. The author states that they love to hear Christmas music, even to sing the familiar Christmas carols. But he tells us, their hearts seem to go cold when they hear about the true meaning of Christmas, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The response is then, whether they say it or not, “Let’s sings the songs, but don’t talk to us about being saved from sin!” Let us enjoy Christmas without Christ!”
Finally, Dr. Ferguson tells us that the true meaning of Christmas is seeking, finding, trusting, and worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ.
I enjoyed reading this book just a few weeks before we celebrate the birth of the One who came to save us from our sins. Ferguson writes about Jesus, “The heart of the Christmas message is a baby bound in swaddling bands and lying in a wooden manger who is destined to be bound again in later life and laid upon wood on the cross of Calvary.”
An Even Better Christmas: Joy and Peace That Last All Year – Matt Chandler
Respected pastor and author Matt Chandler tells us that he loves Christmas because it’s the start of the story that means one day everything will really be perfect. In this short book, he offers to the reader something better than all of those Christmas ads do – not just for this season but for every day and month of your life. He shows that, whoever you are and whatever is going on in your life as you read the book, how the first Christmas can meet you where you are and provide you with hope right where you are. He wants us to have an even better Christmas than those ads offer, by celebrating not only that Christ has come, but also that his power is at work in the present day, and that he will return on one future day—this time not as a baby but as a ruling, restoring King.
He starts the book by going back centuries before the famous events of the nativity story because this was a time when the world was clearly in a mess, and when God’s people were truly struggling. He tells us that even at Christmas, the truth is that our world is a mess, and that if we are honest, we will admit that we are as well. But he writes, God has got involved in the mess of this world so that he can share his joy with you now and bring you into his perfection one day. He encourages us to invite God in, keep walking through the valleys and the peaks of this life with him… and look forward. This season, you really can find all you want—not by looking to Christmas but beyond Christmas, to the return of the one who came at that first Christmas.
Among the subjects that the author covers include joy, fear, God’s glory, and being rescued by God. This is an easy to read book, and would be a good one to give to an unbeliever this Christmas season.
Here are 10 of my favorite quotes from the book:
• Christmas is about acknowledging that sometimes things are not great and we do struggle and suffer, even at Christmas—and that God knows this, God hears us, and God has got involved for us.
• You are never too bad for God. And you are never good enough for God.
• We tend to have a very small concept of God. We think he’s a tame house-cat. But he isn’t. He’s a lion.
• The God of Christmas did not come to condemn me, or you. He came to rescue us.
• He’s not the God who gives you a second chance and then tells you to do better this time round. He’s the God who comes to give you a third chance and a fourth—to keep forgiving you. That’s grace, and you can never out-sin the grace of God.
• God did not send his Son at Christmas to condemn us—he sent his Son at Christmas so that at Easter he could save us.
• That’s the point of Christmas. If you accept Jesus’ offer of rescue and forgiveness, you need no longer fear being exposed by God when one day you stand before his glory. Instead, you can know “great joy,” because you are exposed but you’re also forgiven.
• When it comes to 90 per cent of my life, I trust I can give it to Jesus and it’ll be worth it. I trust him to work it out. But I have 10% I’m nervous about, which I want to hang on to. I cling to it instead of giving it up. What’s the 10% that you want to hang on to as you stand and look this Christmas at the King in the manger? Jesus is worth your trust. He is worth giving everything to, including that 10% we all find hard. He can handle it.
• The beauty of the first Christmas is that God has got involved and put an anchor down for our souls, regardless of our circumstances.
• That moment all of us are so hungry for—when everything is made right and perfect—is coming.
Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ – Timothy Keller
Tim Keller states that the ideas expressed in this short book were forged not in writing but in preaching. Each chapter represents at least 10 or so meditations and sermons on each biblical text that he delivered in Christmas services across the decades.
He writes that Christmas is the only Christian holy day that is also a major secular holiday, resulting in two different celebrations, each observed by millions of people, which brings some discomfort on both sides. His fear is that the true roots of Christmas will become more and more hidden to most of the population. In this book he aims to make the truths of Christmas less hidden. He looks at some passages of the Bible that are popular because they are read each Christmas.
In the first chapters of the book, looking at the Gospel of Matthew, we learn about the gifts God gave us at Christmas. In the following chapters, looking at the Gospel of Luke, we consider how we can welcome and receive those gifts.
Through the Christmas story, Keller tells us about the Gospel. This is a book that I recommend you read and discuss with others, which I did a few years back with friends in a book club at work. Keller says many things about Christmas and the Gospel that I appreciated. A few of them are:
• To accept the true Christmas gift, you have to admit you’re a sinner. You need to be saved by grace.
• Christmas is not simply about a birth but about a coming.
• Christmas shows us that Christianity is not good advice. It is good news.
• Christmas means that God is working out his purposes. He will fulfill his promises.
• Christmas tells us that despite appearances to the contrary, God is in control of history, and that someday he will put everything right.
• Christmas means that for those that are believers in Christ, there is all the hope in the world.
• The doctrine of Christmas, of the incarnation, is that Jesus was truly and fully God and truly and fully human.
• No one is really neutral about whether Christmas is true. If the Son of God was really born in a manger, then we have lost the right to be in charge of our lives.
• Christmas means that the King has come into the world. But the Bible tells us that Jesus comes as King twice, not once.
• Christmas means that race, pedigree, wealth, and status do not ultimately matter.
• Christmas means illumination and spiritual light from God; it means reconciliation and peace with God by grace; it means God taking on a human nature.
• Christmas means the increase of peace, both with God and between people.
• The manger at Christmas means that, if you live like Jesus, there won’t be room for you in a lot of inns.
• Christmas means that salvation is by grace.
• Christmas means you can have fellowship with God.
• Christmas and the incarnation mean that God went to infinite lengths to make himself one whom we can know personally.
• The incarnation, Christmas, means that God is not content to be a concept or just someone you know from a distance.
• The joy that Christmas brings, the assurance of God’s love and care will always reinvigorate you no matter the circumstances of your life.
Christmas Playlist: Four Songs that bring you to the heart of Christmas – Alistair Begg
This book is about Christmas songs, but not necessarily the Christmas songs you might have anticipated. Alistair Begg, Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland since 1983, looks at four songs of the first Christmas, which were heard before, during and after the birth of the baby who lies at the heart of the real Christmas. This is a “playlist” that helps us to prepare for Christmas properly, and to celebrate Christmas joyfully.
In this short book, which reads like an extended sermon, he looks at the following four songs:
• Mary’s Song. This is a song inspired by her role in the events of the first Christmas, but in which she doesn’t sing about herself, but about God. The author writes that it is the first Christmas song in history.
• Zechariah’s Song. The author writes that Zechariah is singing about the truth that God has turned up. And he has turned up to redeem us—to pay the price, bear the cost, of freeing us and restoring us so that we can know him and live with him again, forever.
• The Angel’s Song. The angel’s choir declares what this baby will achieve: “On earth peace.” The peace of God that invades a life is based on the discovery of peace with God.
• Simeon’s Song. Simeon was a devout believer in God who was patiently waiting for the promises God had made to be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit had told him that he wouldn’t die until he saw these promises begin to unfold. About his song, the author writes “And this is why the wooden food trough led to the wooden cross, and why you will never get to the heart of Christmas if you don’t grasp the meaning of Easter. Christianity is not good advice about what we should do. It is the good news of what Christ has done. Christianity does not proclaim that you are worth saving or able to save yourself. It announces that God is mighty to save.” He goes on to write that between the events of the first Christmas Eve and the first Easter Sunday, Simeon’s words had come true.
This is a book about four songs that tell about the gift of redemption through faith in Jesus, the Son of God. The author writes that Christmas provokes a decision. At that first Christmas, Jesus came to you. Now you must decide whether you will come to him. This would be an excellent book to give a non-believer to read and discuss together.
These are four of my favorite recent books about Christmas. What are some of your favorite books about Christmas? Are you planning to read a book to help prepare for Christmas this year?