My friend Ty switched out his customary Toy Story Woody hat for a Santa hat yesterday. The overachievers in my neighborhood have already paid someone to put up the lights, and Trader Joe’s has 383 peppermint flavored items. . . so you know what that means! Christmas is just around the corner.
Just in time for the season, Daniel Darling and Moody Press launched a delightful text to help us prepare for both the Christmas season and for a life of loving the Messiah. The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely Story of People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus is available at Amazon, CBD, and fine bookstores everywhere.
Working his way through the Gospel accounts of Nativity events, the author walks us through the cast of familiar characters; some you would expect to see, like Joseph and Mary, the Wise Men, and Simeon. Others perhaps you have rarely considered, like murderous Herod, or the adulterers and Gentiles in Jesus family.
I thoroughly enjoyed each of the character studies, but my favorite was the chapter on Joseph, the “supposed” father of Jesus. Joseph’s action to trust the command of God’s call on his life truly sang with the impact of the Gospel story. Joseph was asked to do a hard thing, and he did it: “Immediate obedience to a difficult mission.” (p.22) Think on this passage for a moment:
“By saying yes to God, Joseph was saying no to everything he had worked for. . .Joseph would be a pariah among his own people. He would bear the shame for sins he didn’t commit. And yet, it only foreshadows the shame that this baby would one day bear on behalf of Joseph and Mary and all who know Jesus.p. 23
This book could be employed either for personal meditation or for a family devotional text. The style is conversational, and each chapter concludes with a few questions that could be used for discussion or journal prompts. Some of the questions feel a little out of place, but they were generally helpful for additional reflection.
Dan Darling makes each of these Christmas character studies feel like a sweet walk with a a good friend after a long absence: you have history together, but you can always learn more. I heartily recommend you grab a copy for yourself and a dozen more to give for early Christmas gifts! As Dan put it, “let’s let the characters of Christmas point us back to the One whose light illuminates us all.” (p. 14)