I made the mistake of putting off reviewing Sally Lloyd-Jones’s My Merry Christmas for too long. I mean, no doubt the publisher agrees with that statement given that I received it several weeks ago (apologies, and thanks for the book! Which I agreed to review, but about which I did not agree to write a positive review!). But it was also a mistake because I’m never more than lukewarm on Christmas in the first place. And now that it’s February, I’m pretty much completely over it. (The Incarnation, on the other hand, I hope I’m not over and I hope never to get over.)
So take this review with a grain of salt and with my wife’s endorsement of the book thrown in to boot–she says it’s excellent, and she likes Christmas far more than I do even at the best of times.
Overall, My Merry Christmas is fine. Not earth-shakingly good, not terrible heresy, just fine. I’m no judge of the artwork of children’s books or of poetry, so I have no comment on that one way or the other. But in terms of its theological content it’s well, fine. we learn from this book that at Christmas (in order, and paired with the bit of Christmas cheer being highlighted):
- Jesus is a light for us–that’s why there are lights at Christmas;
- Angels were there–that’s why there is an angel on the tree;
- God’s Son was born–the angel on the tree still;
- Jesus gives us life–that’s why we use evergreen trees when others have died;
- Wise men followed a star to the King–that’s why there is a star at the top of the tree;
- Jesus is God’s gift to us–that’s why there are gifts under the tree.
And, if this weren’t a children’s book, I’d have much more to say. True, the theology is fine, but there’s no mention of the reason for Christmas (i.e. the salvation of God’s people), the cross, or the resurrection. And it’s always dangerous to separate one of these (Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection) from the others when you’re talking about purpose. Likewise if this weren’t a children’s book I’d talk about how dangerous it is to pick secular things (Christmas trees, ornaments, etc) and try to flog theological lessons out of them. That way lies the allegorization of everything that Medieval exegetes got far too caught up in.
But again, none of this is terribly useful here. Get this book for your kids to teach them a few truths about Christmas, but be sure to get others as well–especially useful, for example, is Sally Lloyd-Jones’s Jesus Storybook Bible.
Dr. Coyle Neal grouses about Christmas in Bolivar, MO., where he is also co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University.