The Christmas Story In 40 Days, by Chris Loehmer Kincaid
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Life Sentence Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]
Aside from the title of the book, there is almost nothing to suggest any sort of interpretation of the chronology of Christ’s birth, aside from a suggestion by the author in the introduction to take this as a 40 day devotional to be read starting in November in order to finish by the end of December. This is a very good thing, for while the title would tend to indicate that this is merely a seasonal book, and likely be marketed accordingly, the content of the book is quite appropriate for those who understand based on the chronology of the course of Abijah within the Hebrew calendar, as well as the seasonal references to shepherds being out in the field, as well as the way in which the Romans used the traveling of the fall festival season as a way of prompting the people of his empire to return to their hometown to be counted as loyal subjects of the Roman Empire that Jesus Christ was almost certainly born at or around the Feast of Trumpets, well before the heathen festivals of the winter solstice that were repackaged as a counterfeit festival known today as Christmas. What this means is that the book’s title notwithstanding, this is a book that does not contain offensive pagan material masquerading as Christianity, and should therefore not be judged merely by its cover.
As a matter of fact, the book itself is a straightforward and thoughtful meditation on the context of Jesus Christ’s birth. The book divides the story of the nativity into 40 very short passages (mostly only a verse or two long), organized in a more or less chronological order, with a bit of a flashback to cover Joseph’s concerns about marrying Mary as a pregnant unwed teen. Most of the book is told from the Gospel of Luke, which is chosen because of its careful attention to detail as well as the fact that Luke is written from the point of view of an outsider, one of the reasons I have always appreciated the perspective of the Gospel of Luke as well in my own personal devotional reading. Each day’s reading, two brief pages in length, is formatted in the same way. The day of the reading takes up the top of the first page, while a silhouette of Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus in a stylized manger takes up the top of the second page. Immediately below the day of the reading the Bible passage is printed in italics, with a set of discussion questions and a brief commentary  that examines relevant issues to that passage and seeks to prompt personal thought, which spills over into the second short page as well. Below this comes some notes for readers to scribble very short comments about the material, with page numbers at the very bottom of every page. This consistent design makes the book easy to read, and it should not be demanding for anyone to think and write at depth about the material.
Concerning the material itself, most of the questions and discussion topics are very appropriate, dealing with questions of faith in practice, and also better understanding what life was like during biblical times. The sentence structure is simple enough that it could be profitably read by any audience from the preteen range on up, assuming that friends or family would be able to explain and answer any questions that might result from reading this particular book. This is not to say that the various notes are perfect. After all, the author seems to cast doubt on there being an inn in Bethlehem during the time in the devotion for Day 34, to be precise, considering that the town was far from major trade routes. Nevertheless, despite its small size, the fact that Bethlehem was the birthplace of David and would have been on the way to the Negev, if anyone was going that way, meant that it was possible that the town had one solitary inn, much as there is one known solitary inn in the wilderness between Jerusalem and Jericho, known (understandably) as the Inn of the Good Samaritan. In the ancient world, inns were not motels or hotels on the large scale of our contemporary ones, but were small buildings the size of a house, divided up into a few rooms with common space, appropriate for the few itinerant travelers that lacked family or hosts in various local communities. These small quibbles aside, this is a book written in a straightforward and simple fashion that focuses attention on what the Bible actually says in the Gospels rather than what people read into it, and that alone makes this a worthwhile read, easy to understand but by no means shallow in its approach.
 A fair sample of this commentary may be taken, at random, from Day 11 of the devotional, which examines Luke 1:26-27. The first paragraph of this commentary reads as follows:
“What do we know about Joseph and Mary? Tradition tells us that Mary was young, a teenager, possibly as young as fourteen. Joseph was older, maybe thirty years old or more. That was a common age spread for the time. We have a hard time putting that into our modern view of marriage. In addition, this was most likely an arranged marriage. Mary and Joseph probably knew each other through family ties, but they had never dated, as couples would today. They almost certainly hadn’t spent any time alone together (30).”