The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings

Image of The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings
Release Date: 
November 2, 2021
St. Martin's Essentials
Reviewed by: 

“More a stirring tale than a religious philosophy, The First Christmas can be enjoyed by readers of any faith.”

Travelers converging to Bethlehem congest the city arriving for the census. The night is bitterly cold when a young couple with a very pregnant woman astride a donkey request a room. Stressed by the overflow and hearing many sob stories, the innkeeper is beside himself, for his rooms are all filled. He perceives something special about the pregnant girl he estimates to be around age 14 or 15. But, what can he do? His place is overbooked, and there's no room for them. Overcome by compassion, he guides them to a stable in the back. At least by bedding down there, they are out of the cold.

Grateful, the man and young woman are led to a stall and given a bale of hay on which to lay. When the innkeeper returns leading the couple's donkey to an empty booth, he smiles, seeing the woman is sound asleep.

A mighty ox stabled nearby voices his thoughts about the new arrivals throughout this scene, especially regarding the donkey. The beast describes his life and feeling about other animals while contemplating how his peace and quiet are disturbed. As he witnesses the woman giving birth to a male child, he becomes protective of this baby.

We segue to three shepherds who were tending 227 sheep in the fields not far away. The sky lights up with an angel appearing and speaking to the frightened men:

"'Don't be afraid,' the angel said. His voice was music. Instantly each of them felt at ease. The trembling stopped, and they sat up to listen to his words with their mouths wide open. 'I bring you good news of a great joy, which will happen for all the people. To you, there is born this day, in the city of David, a child who is the Messiah. And this will be your sign. You will find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.'"

The shepherds, astounded by what they have witnessed, pack their belongings and follow the North Star where it leads them, discussing their experience as they travel.

Meanwhile, Mary—known in this tale as Maryam—shares her backstory of how she came to be visited by an archangel who proclaims she will give birth to a son. Betrothed and deeply in love with Yosef (Joseph), she cannot understand why she is chosen for this honor.

"You will name him Yeshua.

"She smiled. It was a good name, Yeshua. It was short for Yehoshua: 'The Lord is Salvation,' which was certainly true. Nothing could be truer.

"He will be great."

Maryam goes to Yosef to disclose how an angel appeared to her, stating she is now with child, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Yosef is not able to comprehend this, for he knows Mary is a virtuous woman. She loves him deeply, so how could she have been unfaithful? Was she seduced, or worse, was she raped? All he can consider is her betrayal. He cannot wrap his mind around this situation, and knowing this is serious, he decides to divorce her without ruining her reputation.

"He was in danger of getting trapped in his own harsh judgments. But even if he somehow managed to put aside his anger and sense of betrayal, how could he not be severe with Maryam? Adultery wasn't a casual sin. It was a capital offense—that is, it had once been a capital offense before the rabbis realized that God's mercy has precedence over the strict language of scripture. There must be a way out of the severity, prisoned in this bitterness and hatred; it would be the death of him."

Then an angel confronts Yosef in a dream, explaining how Maryam will give birth to a son conceived by the Holy Spirit, stating he should not be afraid. Yosef agrees to take Maryam as his wife, vowing to cherish this child who is not his. He asks for Maryam's forgiveness, deciding to adopt the baby as his own and treat him as his flesh and blood.

The wise men travel a long distance to pay homage to the infant, bearing gifts of great value, after which the donkey concludes this tale as a bystander throughout it all.

Each character shares their point of view in separate chapters. They are prefaced by an "interlude" by the author, describing his insight into every segment. We are given a glimpse into the past with thoughts of how this could be interpreted in today's world, giving credibility to that time's history.

A unique and different approach to the story of the first Christmas commences with a foreword supplying the author's imagination as to how the actual facts may have occurred. Considering this is a work of fiction, many details cited at the conclusion are Biblical translations unless specified differently. More a stirring tale than a religious philosophy, The First Christmas can be enjoyed by readers of any faith.