SUMMARY: Context is something that is hard to maintain when looking at history. The social norms, smells, colors, family dynamics and politics, especially in a foreign region, are lost, or at the very least dimmed, through the lens of time. But that is author Daniel Darling‘s strength in The Characters of Christmas.
“There is something wondrous, really, about the people who make up the story of Jesus’ birth, isn’t there?” Darling writes, “Something wonderfully ordinary about each of them…The Holy Spirit didn’t choose aristocrats or princes to bear, announce, and celebrate the coming of the long-promised Messiah.”
From Joseph who takes a backseat in the Christmas story, to a teenage girl Mary who had to deal with her town’s shaming, to the scruffy shepherds who were the outcasts and poor of ancient society, Darling does a superb job of painting the situation of the characters he writes about.
“The Christmas story reminds us that God moves in and among those whom society most often leaves behind,” Darling pens. “That the thread of redemption woven throughout Scripture winds its way through a lot of small towns and seemingly little lives.”
In the afterword, Darling invites the reader to put themselves in each of the character’s positions to look “at the incarnation for their point of view” and to “realize that all the characters of Christmas point not to themselves, but to the central figure in the Christmas narrative: Jesus, the One whose birth, life, death, and resurrection change everything.”
The book, with whimsical silver and gold metallic stars on the front, contains 11 chapters, ranging from 10-18 pages, including the questions, suggested readings, and a recommended Christmas song to listen to. It is small, group-friendly, and when combined with his podcast on each chapter (see below), it makes for a robust look at the Christmas story.
KEY QUOTE: “May this season of wandering and seeking find you finally home, at the feet of the One whose birth changes your trajectory and reorders your worship.”
BONUS: In 2020 and 2021 Darling produced a 12-part podcast to accompany the book.
BONUS II: Darling has a plethora of resources for your church including a discussion guide, slides, promotional materials and more on DropBox.
DID YOU KNOW? Sunday to Saturday has a Good Reads page where we post all of the books we have read – even the ones that didn’t make the cut.
Our latest curated items on Christmas:
Despite Christ’s birth being foretold and chronicled in the Bible, it is sometimes difficult to accept that Jesus came to Earth as a baby. Thousands of years have separated us from the birth of Christ, making it is easy to begin questioning the legitimacy of the Biblical account. That is where author Rebecca McLaughlin’s Is Christmas Unbelievable? comes into play.Read more