Review of The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus, by Daniel Darling
Every year during the Advent season, I like to read a book that helps me get my mind and heart around something other than gifts, Christmas parties, and travel. In the past I’ve read books such as Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller, Come, Let Us Adore Him by Paul Tripp, and The Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. You can find my reviews of these books through the links above.
Last year I read the excellent book, The Characters of Christmas, by Daniel Darling. The book came out in 2019, and I’m so glad I found this book right before Advent. In the book, Darling helps the reader see the Christmas story in a new way. To our discredit, we often go through the motions reading the Christmas story in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2. We’ve heard the story countless times, and while we still do hope to celebrate Jesus, we can lose our awe of the story.
Darling does a powerful job of sticking to Truth while also helping us get into the heads and hearts of characters in the story such as the innkeeper, the shepherds, and Joseph. Each chapter focuses on the characters who played a part in Jesus’ birth. As a bonus, each chapter includes discussion questions and Christmas song suggestions that go along with each of the characters.
The book caused me to reflect on some questions I’ve never had before. For example, why did God choose Mary to be the mother of Jesus? Why did He choose this ordinary girl in a small town? Out of all the women in the world, why Mary? I loved the way this book forced me to think and wonder!
My favorite chapters revolved around the genealogy in Matthew 1. Darling unpacks some of the names in the genealogy and in particular hones in on four women named in Matthew 1 (Tamar, Rahab, the wife of Uriah (Bathsheba), and Ruth). In these four women, we see how God knows and remembers The Forgotten, The Sinful, The Exploited, and The Outsider. That’s you and me. We’ve all felt forgotten, sinful, exploited, and like an outsider. But Jesus knows and sees us.
Like many of you, on Christmas morning we typically read the Christmas story in Luke 2. Before we open stockings and presents, we want to be reminded of why we gather together and celebrate. In 2019, after reading The Characters of Christmas, I shook things up and read the genealogy. It might have been my favorite Christmas morning as we talked about the love of God, so clearly demonstrated in Jesus.
I highly recommend The Characters of Christmas. If you’re looking for a great read this Advent season, look no further.