REFLECTIONS ON THE CHRISTMAS STORY by Janette Oke
Genre: Religion and Spirituality
How Acquired: unknown (it’s been on a shelf for years)
Reading Began and Completed: December 5, 2004
Overall rating: Six out of ten
Recommendation to others: A nice quick exposition on the story of Christ’s birth.
Why I chose to read this book: One of my favorite series from adolescence is Janette Oke’s Canadian West, so having her name on this slim book was a big draw. I know that her faith mirrors my own, and that’s essential in a commentary on Jesus and His life.
Comments: This book is an hour-long read (give or take) and well worth it. Oke chose to structure her comments on Jesus’s birth within the outline of the elements of a story, beginning each section with a definition of an element (i.e. plot, theme, characters, climax). I’m not sure this was the best tactic, although it was unique. I much more enjoyed her presentation of the scripture and history surrounding each piece of the Christmas Story, and her comments did reveal facts or supposition that I had never considered.
This isn’t a book that I will reread each Christmas, as I might others, but it was a nice break from fiction and a wonderful reminder of what Christmas represents.
Scripture states, “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). The fullness of time—what a strange description of the world at that time. For the chosen people of God it could not have been more bleak. The once proud, powerful nation of Israel no longer was the heart of the world. Palestine served a foreign ruler. Arrogant and unscrupulous world leaders vied for position and power. Corrupt alliances, treasons, treachery, and vice were on every hand. Even many of the Jewish religious leaders had sold out to power and prosperity, which to some seemed necessary for survival. Those still clinging rigidly to the Old Testament laws tended to view them as their only hope of salvation, putting more faith in them than in the God who gave them.
Within the small country of Palestine the people were tired and depressed. They had waited “too long” for the Messiah—the Savior who would rescue them from the oppressors. Men appointed themselves as leaders and attempted to take the law into their own hands by gathering disgruntled followers into vigilante bands that tried to shake Roman rule.
Even though Roman dominance meant submission to Roman power, it did assure a measure of protection and security. And earlier Greek rule had resulted in a common language being used by many of the people from small country to small country. So people could move throughout the empire with a measure of freedom and, to some degree, converse with one another.
Simple, humble-hearted believers still were praying, watching, hoping, and waiting for the coming of the promised Messiah. Were these factors part of the reason God considered the time to be right? Or was it that the Jewish people—His chosen—had come to the end of their own resources? Were they humbled and humiliated and ready to listen to the voice of God?
We don’t know for sure, but we believe that God chose the time for a specific reason, and He who sees and knows all things knew the time was right. He planned it so. The Time (pp. 29-32)
Due to Mary’s pregnancy, the public celebration of [her marriage to Joseph] must have been lacking. Did Joseph and Mary feel cheated? Shamed?
Though they lived in the same house, they did not live as husband and wife until after the birth of Jesus.
Were they able to talk to each other about their fears and feelings concerning the momentous event that was about to occur?
Or was each of them locked away in a private world, confused and perhaps frightened by the event that was about to change the whole world as well as their individual lives? The Characters (pp. 70-71)
“…when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. …And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” —Luke 1:39-45
What a wonderful provision of a loving God to give to the young Mary, Elisabeth.
Elisabeth was a much older woman, devout, faithful, married to a priest, and kin to Mary. She too was expecting her first child. Mary needed someone she could talk to, someone who would understand. Mary especially needed someone to verify that the baby she carried was indeed as God had planned.
Mary spent three months with Elisabeth and must have returned home strengthened and encouraged and ready to face the days ahead. How like God to supply an Elisabeth. The Characters (pp. 73-74)
Jesus—the Bethlehem baby. Bundled against the chill of a winter night by a very young mother. Jesus—accepted by Joseph as his charge. Jesus—visited and praised by lowly shepherds. Jesus—worshiped by wise men who traveled far to lay their costly gifts at His tiny feet. Jesus—an infant feared by a mad king. Jesus—whose life and death have changed history—who can dwell with us and in us as our Savior, Lord, and King. Jesus—the ever-present God who frees us from the bondage of sin—a bondage more real and more devastating and more permanent than the bondage of Roman rule. Jesus—the tiny Bethlehem baby—yet a name that encompasses beauty and grace, hope and power. For we cannot think of the name without thinking beyond to a hill on Mount Calvary—and even beyond that to an empty tomb and His resurrection promise, “Lo, I am with you alway.”
The Characters (pp. 103-104)