How do you take a familiar story you think you know so well and still see it as something central to your faith and life? When you’ve heard a story as far back as you can remember, how can you still see the real meaning behind it? Furthermore, what do you do with a story hijacked and watered down by media through an over-commercialized approach to Christmas?
In Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ, pastor and author Timothy Keller answers these questions by helping the reader understand the significance of Christmas.
“Christmas is the only Christian holy day that is also a major secular holiday – arguably our culture’s biggest. The result is two different celebrations, each observed by millions of people at the very same time.”
Keller’s fear is the true roots of Christmas will become more and more hidden to most of the population.
I work in a church and part of what I do in my job is to help people understand the true meaning of Christmas. But, year after year, I find myself a victim of Keller’s fear as I allow the true meaning of Christmas to become more and more hidden. For this reason, every year I do something(s) to help fight against my complacency and drift. Last year I did an Advent devotional by He Reads Truth and read Hidden Christmas. This year I’m doing the 2017 version of the He Reads Truth Advent Devotional and will also read Paul Tripp’s new Advent devotional, Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional.
How many good books about Christmas have you read? We love the movies (Elf, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone) and the TV specials, but how many great books about Christmas exist? Many books have been written, but I don’t know of many that lead the reader to discover the hidden truths about Christmas. In the introduction, Keller says he hopes to make the facts about Christmas less hidden. Mission accomplished.
- The book is helpful to the follower of Christ, but is also engaging and thought-provoking for the non-believer.
- The world is a dark place, and we will never find our way or see reality unless Jesus is our Light.
- To learn the hidden meanings of Christmas, we must understand that we can’t save ourselves or know ourselves without the light of God’s unmerited grace in our life.
- He helps the reader understand the significance of the genealogy in Matthew 1 and the crucial role the women listed in the family tree play in the Christmas story.
- The role of courage necessary for a true relationship with the Lord. We learn this courage by watching Jesus and the ways He demonstrated true courage.
- Jesus turns the world’s picture of success upside down. We see this beautifully demonstrated in Jesus’ humble birth.
- My favorite chapter talked about the deep faith of Mary, and how we can watch and follow her example of faith. Her world turned upside down, and in the middle of it all, she showed great faith and trust in the Lord’s plan. She shows (according to Keller) measured incredulity, simple acceptance, and faith exercised from the heart. Mary shows us how to wrestle with faith and doubt and how to still trust in the Lord.
- What makes the difference with Christianity is the incarnation of Jesus taking on flesh and being born as a baby! Keller writes in this incarnation, Jesus becomes above all personal, someone with whom we can have a relationship.
The bottom line is that Keller takes the familiar aspects of the Christmas narrative and helps us see the hidden meanings behind them all. He does this with things like the faith of Mary and Joseph, ‘light,’ and the shepherds. He helps us take that which is so familiar to us and helps the reader understand more of what’s going on in the biblical text and narrative.
Hidden Christmas will be one book I will read every few years at Christmas. Another book I love is Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. Both books are excellent and are well worth your time to better understand the true, hidden meaning of Christmas.
Do you have any Christmas books or devotional guides you’d recommend for others to read or study?