Christmas Time: It’s All About Jesus! Written by Sue M. Barksdale (with contributions by Dr. Russ Barksdale) and Illustrated by Alicia T. Young
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Aneko Press in exchange for an honest review.]
About the kindest thing that can be said about this book is that it has cute rhymes with a decent poetic flow, occasional quotations or at least very good paraphrases of scripture, and it contains a few illustrations that are strongly evocative of the architecture of the Middle East during the time of Christ. In general, the illustration of this book succeeds wonderfully in presenting a very cute and visually appealing picture, with rounded figures that appear kindly and friendly. In choosing to write a book with a clear point, opening outside of the story of the birth of our Savior to look at the symbols of contemporary Christmas observance (for those who observe it, that is), and in choosing to paraphrase the biblical account to make it more easily understandable to small children (the intended audience of this book, along with their parents), much reliance for the accuracy of its presentation depends on the skill of the author (and to a lesser extent the illustrator) in presenting material that is both appropriate for its intended audience as well as accurate to the biblical account in the Gospels.
This achievement is, at best, mixed. In terms of its structure, the book certainly wishes to make it appear as if Christmas is all about Christ , and in its introductory and closing sections strenuously seeks to argue for this. In general, most of the book contains a simplified version of the Gospel account that hits the high points at least of what happened to Mary, even if it does ignore most of the account of John the Baptist’s conception and it (understandably) soft-pedals the concern Joseph had about marrying a woman who was pregnant with the child of another, an issue that would make for awkward conversations with small children that are probably best avoided. Aside from the main poetic narrative of the story, the book closes with a set of devotions that are an acrostic of the word glory that encourage children to practice the various non-biblical customs around Christmas including gift-giving, Christmas trees, wreaths, carols, candy canes, and so on. It is this section that contains the most aggressively heathen approach to the day in the guise of making Christmas about Christ, and significantly contains no relevant passages that justify the continuance of various syncretistic practices adopted from the pagan peoples of the early Roman empire.
Although this book has cute pictures and the main narrative of the story, aside from its opening and its concluding devotionals, manages to hew mostly close to scripture, albeit in a simplified and bowdlerized fashion, it cannot be recommended because its ultimate aims are to promote an unbiblical festival as if it was ordained by God, promotes heathen customs as if they were Christian, and ultimately fails to present a viewpoint of the birth of Christ that is based on any kind of truth, which would require an examination of the genuine biblical festivals of God, most notably the Feast of Trumpets. Given that small children are among the most impressionable audiences that exist, a book that is so cavalierly inaccurate in its approach is particularly troublesome in that context, given that a parent who would wish to teach his or her children about the biblical truth of the birth of Jesus Christ would have a lot of explaining to do to counteract this book’s message, which has a lot more to do with cultural politics in seeking to counter anti-Christian efforts that seek to marginalize Christmas observance in the public sphere than to deal with the actual biblical warrant, or lack thereof, for Christmas as a festival. A book that has to be counteracted to such an extent cannot be recommended, except as an example of political discourse designed for young audiences.
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