Book Review: Good Tidings of Great Joy

I like to read an Advent or Christmas devotional in December. I didn’t have any new ones on hand last year and didn’t want to reread an old one. But then I came across Good Tidings of Great Joy: A Collection of Christmas Sermons by Charles Spurgeon in my Kindle collection.

I thought I could read a bit at a time, like a devotional book. And I could—but I just wasn’t getting as much out of the sermons as I did when I read them one at a time in their entirety. The only days I could work in reading a whole sermon at once were Saturdays. So that’s why I am just now finishing a book of Christmas sermons.

Spurgeon was not a big fan of Christmas, according to these messages. He thought it was too often used as an excuse for excess. And he disliked a superstitious keeping of church holidays. But he did concede that hard-working people could use the time off and that the holidays provided a time to bring out particular truths related to Christ’s birth.

There are eight messages in all, each focused on a text connected to Jesus’ birth. I won’t go into an outline or summary of each message, but I’ll just share a few quotes.

I. The Birth of Christ, Isaiah 7:14-15: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.”

Let us take courage here. If Jesus Christ was born in a manger in a rock, why should He not come and live in our rocky hearts? If He was born in a stable, why should not the stable of our souls be made into a house for Him? If He was born in poverty, may not the poor in spirit expect that He will be their Friend? If He thus endured degradation at the first, will He count it any dishonor to come to the very poorest and humblest of His creatures and tabernacle in the souls of His children? Oh, no! We can gather a lesson of comfort from His humble parentage and we can rejoice that not a queen, or an empress, but that a humble woman became the mother of the Lord of Glory!

And so, “let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Do not feast as if you wished to keep the festival of Bacchus! Do not live, tomorrow, as if you adored some heathen divinity. Feast, Christians, feast! You have a right to feast. Go to the house of feasting tomorrow! Celebrate your Savior’s birth. Do not be ashamed to be glad—you have a right to be happy.

Remember that your Master ate butter and honey. Go your way, rejoice tomorrow, but, in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem—let Him have a place in your hearts, give Him the glory

II. The Great Birthday, Luke 2:10: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

It is clear that if God condescends to be so intimately allied with manhood, He intends to deliver man and to bless him. Incarnation prophesies salvation. Oh, believing Soul, your God cannot mean to curse you.

If you know yourself lost by nature and lost by practice. If you feel sin like a plague at your heart. If evil wearies and worries you. If you have known the burden and the shame of iniquity, then will it be bliss to you even to hear of that Savior whom the Lord has provided!

God’s Omnipotence comes down to man’s feebleness and infinite Majesty stoops to man’s infirmity!

III. A Visit to Bethlehem: Luke 2:15b: “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“Here,” says this faithful son of Abraham, “is the fulfillment of a thousand prophecies and promises! The hope, the expectation and the joy of my noble ancestry!”

Do you know, my children, that our comforts were purchased at the expense of His sufferings?

IV. Holy Work for Christmas, Luke 2:17-20

Holy wonder will lead you to grateful worship.

That we may go again to the Bethlehem of our spiritual nativity and do our first works, enjoy our first loves and feast with Jesus as we did in the holy, happy, heavenly days of our espousals.

Let us go to Jesus with something of that youthful freshness and excessive delight which was so manifest in us when we looked to Him at first. Let Him be crowned anew by us.

We may well excuse ourselves from the ordinary ways of celebrating this season. And considering ourselves to be “holy work-folk,” we may keep it, after a different sort from other men, in holy contemplation and in blessed service of that gracious God whose unspeakable gift the new-born King is to us.

The mystery of God Incarnate, for our sake bleeding and dying—that we might neither bleed nor die! God Incarnate descending that we might ascend! Wrapped in swaddling cloths that we might be unwrapped of the grave clothes of corruption!

Learning need not be an impediment to grace and may be a fitting weapon in a gracious hand.

Let every man who truly hears the Gospel bid others come to drink of the water of life. This is all the warrant you require for preaching the Gospel according to your ability. It is not every man who has ability to preach the Word. And it is not every man that we should like to hear preach it in the great congregation, for if all were mouth, what a great vacuum the Church would be! Yet every Christian in some method should deliver the glad tidings. Our wise God takes care that liberty of prophesying shall not run to riot, for He does not give efficient pastoral and ministerial gifts to every man. Yet every man, according to his gifts, let him minister!

We set before you, now, another mode of keeping Christmas by holy wonder, admiration, and adoration.

Think not much of yourselves, but do not think too little of your callings. There is no trade which is not sanctified by the Gospel.

You have heard the faults of the preacher—let him mourn them. You have heard his Master’s message. Do you bless God for that? Scarcely will you ever hear a sermon which may not make you sing if you are in a right frame of mind.

V. The First Christmas Carol, Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

I wish everybody that keeps Christmas this year, would keep it as the angels kept it. There are many persons who, when they talk about keeping Christmas, mean by that the cutting of the bands of their religion for one day in the year, as if Christ were the Lord of misrule, as if the birth of Christ should be celebrated like the orgies of Bacchus. There are some very religious people, that on Christmas would never forget to go to church in the morning; they believe Christmas to be nearly as holy as Sunday, for they reverence the tradition of the elders. Yet their way of spending the rest of the day is very remarkable; for if they see their way straight up stairs to their bed at night, it must be by accident. They would not consider they had kept Christmas in a proper manner, if they did not verge on gluttony and drunkenness. They are many who think Christmas cannot possibly be kept, except there be a great shout of merriment and mirth in the house, and added to that the boisterousness of sin. Now, my brethren, although we, as successors of the Puritans, will not keep the day in any religious sense whatever, attaching nothing more to it than to any other day: believing that every day may be a Christmas for ought we know, and wishing to make every day Christmas, if we can, yet we must try to set an example to others how to behave on that day; and especially since the angels gave glory to God: let us do the same.

VI. The Incarnation and Birth of Christ, Micah 5:2: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

VII. God Incarnate, the End of Fear, Luke 2:10a: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not

Adam was afraid and hid himself from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Sin makes miserable cowards of us all!

Now may I come to God since God has come to me.

That holy, filial fear of God, which makes us dread sin and constrains us to be obedient to His command is to be cultivated.

VIII. A Christmas Question, Isaiah 9:6a: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”

Now, my hearer, have you a fear of God before your eyes—a filial fear, a fear which a child has lest it should grieve its parent? Say have you a child’s love to God? Do you trust to him as your father, your provider, and your friend? Have you in your breast “The spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father?”

My favorite of these was the fourth, which looks at how different people responded to the birth of Christ.

I wish whoever had compiled these messages had included the dates they were originally preached.

Spurgeon is always good for a thoughtful read and for bringing things out of passages I hadn’t seen or considered in quite as much depth. I disagreed with him in just a couple of places due to our differences on the implications of election and free will. But overall I enjoyed this and benefited from it very much.

Book Review: Yuletide Treasure

Yuletide Treasure is a collection of two novellas by Lauraine Snelling and Jillian Hart.

In The Finest Gift by Lauraine Snelling, Arley Hoople had been orphaned and then raised by her rich, imperious grandmother. Her grandmother had been rather cheerless since her own widowhood.

One of Arley’s ministries is reading to the children at an orphanage. After reading a book to the children about a dollhouse and seeing the longing in their eyes, Arley comes up with a plan to ask the local woodcarver to help her build a dollhouse, which she she will present to the orphanage at Christmas in her grandmother’s name as a present to her.

The woodcarver has a gruff grandson living with him. Nathan had been expected to take over the family business until an explosion scarred him inside and out. He was sent to recuperate with his grandfather. As he learns his grandfather’s trade, he begins to think he’d rather be a woodcarver than go into business. But he doesn’t think he can get out of his father’s expectations. He admires the young woman who comes to his grandfather for help with a dollhouse, but he comes across as so silent and unfriendly, he doesn’t think he’ll ever have a chance with her.

As the three work on the dollhouse and its furnishings together, something happens in each of their hearts. And surprises are in store when the house is presented.

In A Blessed Season by Jillian Hart, Rafe Jones is an intimidating bounty hunter. But an orphan girl who has been hired out to work melts his carefully guarded heart when she asks him to help her find her mother. All she has is a sewing box of her mother’s with the name Cora Sims engraved on it.

Rafe tracks down Cora and observes her for a while to assess the situation and see if the child would be safe with her. Cora owns a dress shop and considers herself a “plain bird,” an “old maid” at thirty. But Rafe thinks she is beautiful and admires her kindness. People usually steer clear of Rafe due to his size, demeanor, and the guns he carried. But Cora shows him the same grace she does everyone else. She doesn’t seem the type to abandon a child. Perhaps she had no choice, or was attacked?

As Rafe and Cora get to know one another, the two wounded hearts are drawn to one another and the mystery of the child’s parentage and the sewing box is revealed.

I enjoyed both of these sweet, heartwarming stories.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

Book Review and Giveaway: Catching Christmas

 In Terri Blackstock’s novel, Catching Christmas, Finn Parrish is a grumpy cab driver called to the house of an old woman named Callie. First he’s put out to make a residential call, as he needs money and can make more in the city or at airports. Then he finds the old woman alone and asleep in her wheelchair. She wakes up and introduces herself—and continues to fall asleep, wake up, and introduce herself for the rest of their time together. When she is awake, she makes unfiltered comments on the people she sees.

Finn takes her to her doctor’s office and tries to explain to the distracted receptionist. He leaves for a few hours, but can’t get his mind off Callie. He drives back by the doctor’s office to check on her, and finds her asleep right where he left her. He makes a fuss insisting that they see her now and waits for her, then takes her home. He leaves his card in case she needs help and wonders what kind of loved ones she has, that they would leave her in such a state.

Callie’s granddaughter, Sydney, is a lawyer in a firm that is downsizing. Her job is hanging by a thread, dependent on her current ridiculous case, one she doesn’t believe in. On top of the extra work created by layoffs, her grandmother suddenly seems to be not quite in her right mind. She wished she could have accompanied her to the doctor, but they both need her job.

The next day Finn gets an early call from his dispatcher. A customer has requested him by name. He’s thrilled until he finds out it’s Callie. She wants him to take her several places in town. He doesn’t want to be stuck with her all day, doesn’t want to be responsible for her, and can’t afford to spend his day on one fare. But he goes. Callie has a way of talking people into what she wants, and she has a secret mission.

This book is outside Terri’s usual suspense dramas (though there’s a touch of suspense when a black limousine shows up). But I’m so glad she wrote it. It’s a sweet and touching story, just right for the holidays. Finn and Sydney don’t have much of a spiritual foundation, but they’re impacted by Callie and some of the people in her life. The faith element is not spelled out quite as much as I’d like: Finn and Sydney are just beginning to understand what it means. But it’s a strong undercurrent.

I also enjoyed reading Terri’s afterword about the influences that went into the story.

I’d like to give away my gently-used copy of this book. If you’d like to enter a drawing to win it, leave a comment on this post. I’ll draw a name on Wednesday morning, Dec. 18, the same day as my giveaway for The Carousel Painter. You can enter both giveaways but only win one: if you’d like to enter both but have a preference of one over the other, let me know. Due to mailing costs, I can only ship to continental US addresses. I’ll count all comments on this posts as entries for Catching Christmas unless you ask me not to.

Even if you don’t win, I hope you’ll check out this great book.

(Sharing with Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

 

(Update: The giveaway is closed and the winner is Becka. Congratulations, Becka!)

Literary Christmas Reading Challenge 2019

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge // inthebookcase.blogspot.comTarissa of In the Bookcase hosts the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge each year in November and December. The basic idea is to read Christmas books! Since I like to read Christmas books in December anyway, this challenge was a nice fit. The details of the challenge are here.

One of the requirements of the challenge is to write a post expressing our intent to participate and sharing what we’ll be reading.

I have these books on hand and hope to read as many of them as possible:

Book Review: The Christmas Heirloom

Christmas Heirloom The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Becky Wade follows a family brooch handed down through generations.

“A Legacy of Love” by Kristi Ann Hunter takes place in 1827 England. Sarah Gooding came about her job as a lady’s companion in an unusual way, and she and her employer have a close relationship. Sarah is attracted to her employer’s grandson, but their different stations in life would prohibit anything more than friendship between them. Yet they do come to each other’s attention in protecting Lady Densbury’s interests, and she’s unconventional enough to help their relationship along. She bequeaths Sarah a brooch that had been given to her by her husband when they first married.

“Gift of the Heart” by Karen Witemeyer takes place several generations later in 1890. Ruth Fulbright is a young widow starting a new chapter in life with her daughter. They travel several miles via stage coach to a new job as a cook in Hope Springs, TX. She carries her heirloom brooch in an bag embroidered with her initials plus those of its three owners before her. Not having quite enough money for accommodations, she proposes giving the brooch as collateral to her landlord until she can earn enough to buy it back. Normally he would not accept such an arrangement, but she does not take no as an answer, and he sees how much it means to her. He has been almost a recluse since an injury and disfigurement of his arm in his youth changed his mother’s perception of him. He thinks everyone must feel about his handicap the same as she did. But Ruth’s bright spirit draws him out.

In “A Shot at Love” by Sarah Loudin Thomas, Fleeta’s parents have passed away, and she lives with an aunt and uncle in Bethel, West Virginia in 1958. Her main interest in life is guns: known as a crack shot, she also loves building them and carving designs into them. Her hope is to have her own gun store. Fleeta’s aunt brings out the brooch and tells Fleeta about it, saying her mother had wanted her to have it “when the time was right for [her] to find true love.” Fleeta doesn’t have much interest in love. Grief for her father hastened her mother’s demise, and other women seem to be held back by the romantic relationships in their lives. But then a stranger comes to town, a friend of a friend, who is just as good a shot and has just as much an interest in guns as she does. And he’s not put off by her unconventional femininity.

“Because of You” by Becky Wade tales place in modern-day Merryweather, Washington. Maddie Winslow had a crush on Leo Donnelly, but Leo married her friend, Olivia. But Olivia has passed away, leaving behind a young son as well as a grieving husband. Maddie still loves Leo but feels loyalty to Olivia places him “off limits.” Maddie and Leo are paired together for their church’s “Mission Christmas,” in which the different participants work together to help a family without means during the holidays. Maddie comes across the brooch while looking in the attic for items for a fund-raising rummage sale. She asks her mother about it and learns the story. Thankfully someone’s family history research reveals the brooch’s past. Leo had had no thoughts of loving again, but as he gets to know Maddie, he begins to think his heart can love again. The only thing I didn’t like about this one was multiple mentions of going to bars and drinking alcohol. I know Christians have a variety of opinions these days as to what exactly is acceptable in the realm of drinking, but I’d rather it was not “pushed” as normal. Having had an alcoholic father and visited a few bars before my salvation, to me, alcohol is part of the old life. There are any number of other places the folks in the story could have met.

There’s some mention of the brooch bringing its owners love, but the authors dispel the notion of it as something of a good luck charm, saying rather than love comes from God’s leading and provision.

This was a sweet, clean, enjoyable holiday read.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Finding Christ in Christmas

Tozer ChristmasTozer wrote the words contained in Finding Christ in Christmas, but he didn’t actually write the book. Someone pulled together quotes relating to Christmas and the Advent season from Tozer’s other writings. Thus there’s no flow of logical thought from one entry to the next, (at least, I didn’t pick up on it if it was there). Each is taken out of context, and some leave the reader hanging a bit. Whoever compiled these did not note what writings each of the entries comes from, so there is not a way to look up the context of the entry unless you google a phrase and find a reference online.

Despite those failings, the book contains some nuggets worthy of consideration. I’ve never found Tozer to be a warm, cozy devotional speaker. Rather, he makes us think with his incisive rhetoric. And that, to me, is what gives this book value.

Here are just a few samples:

Thousands each year find their desire for salvation and holiness becoming too acute to bear, and turn to the One who was born in a manger to die on a cross. Then the fleeting beauty that is Christmas enters their hearts to dwell there forever. For who is it that imparts such beauty to the Christmas story? It is none other than Jesus, the Altogether Lovely.

He sacrificed many pure enjoyments to give Himself to the holy work of moral rescue…He pleased not Himself but lived for the emergency; and as He was so are we in this world.

The Law was given by Moses, but that was all that Moses could do. He could only “command” righteousness. In contrast, only Jesus Christ produces righteousness. All that Moses could do was to forbid us to sin. In contrast, Jesus Christ came to save us from sin. Moses could not save anyone, but Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord.

[On Isaiah 53:2 portraying the Messiah being “a root out of dry ground] Had Israel been like a young woman at the peak of her reproductive powers, the rising of such a prodigy as Jesus from within her might have had some logic in it; but He was born of Israel when her powers had waned and her strength had withered. By no stretch of fancy could anyone who knew Israel in that day have visioned Jesus as her offspring. Israel was dry ground —politically, morally and spiritually effete.

The theology of Christmas too easily gets lost under the gay wrappings, yet apart from its theological meaning it really has none at all.

Though we are keenly aware of the abuses that have grown up around the holiday season, we are still not willing to surrender this ancient and loved Christmas Day to the enemy.

Man is lost but not abandoned. Had men not been lost, no Savior would have been required. Had they been abandoned no Savior would have come.

In our mad materialism we have turned beauty into ashes, prostituted every normal emotion and made merchandise of the holiest gift the world ever knew. Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate His coming by making peace impossible for six weeks of each year. Not peace but tension, fatigue and irritation rule the Christmas season. He came to free us of debt and many respond by going deep into debt each year to buy enervating luxuries for people who do not appreciate them. He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them. The simple token given out of love has been displaced by expensive presents given because we have been caught in a squeeze and don’t know how to back out of it. Not the beauty of the Lord our God is found in such a situation, but the ugliness and deformity of human sin.

The editors ended the compilation with the last quote, which, though convicting, ends the book on a note of condemnation. I wish they had ended with a quote of hope.

There are readings for December 1 – 25, and each day’s reading ranges from just a paragraph to little more than a page. So the selections are easily readable.

Despite the frustrations I mentioned, I found the book highly beneficial.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, and Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: The Christmas Hirelings

Christmas Hirelings I had never heard of The Christmas Hirelings, written in 1894 by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, but an audiobook of it was Audible‘s free Christmas gift to members, so I tried it out. I loved it! Braddon is known for more “sensational” writings: from what I understand, this is the only story of its kind that she wrote. But it hits all the right notes for a classic Victorian Christmas tale.

The story opens with Sir John Penlyon, his niece Adela, and his good friend Danby. As Sir John grouses about how boring Christmas is, Danby says “Nobody knows how to enjoy Christmas if he has no children to make happy. If one has no children of one’s own, one ought to hire some for the Christmas – week.” He then proposes to do just that, with Sir John’s permission. There’s much discussion about what kind of children should be brought, and Sir John finally tells Danby he can do anything he likes as long as he doesn’t bother Sir John about it.

Then the author switches to Sir John’s backstory and how he came to be a gruff old man alone in his mansion, and his story unexpectedly touched my heart. He was no Scrooge: he was generous and kind, unless crossed. But life’s circumstances had sapped all the joy from his life. At one point he said, “My life was barren, but peaceful. What more did I want?” Much later in the book, Danby said one reason he proposed this experiment was to prove to Sir John that he did indeed have a heart.

The children and Sir John get off on the wrong foot at first until the youngest, four-year-old Moppet, bravely attaches herself to him. One of my favorites of their exchanges:

Moppet: “Little girls sit on their fathers’ knees, don’t they ?”

Sir John: “Sometimes.”

“I mean good little girls. And that isn’t being forward, is it ?”

“No, Moppet, no. Fathers are made to be sat upon.”

The joy of having children around and doing for them enlivens the whole house and all its occupants, until tragedy strikes.

I had an idea where the story was going and who the children actually were by chapter three, but I still enjoyed seeing if I was right (I was) and how everything would play out (not like I expected!)

Oddly, there’s not a Kindle version, but the text is online here. The audiobook was superbly read by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies). I nearly forgot at one point that one man was voicing all the characters. Here’s a bit of background for Audible’s recording with Armitage:

Another free audiobook is available from Librivox. Although the narration can’t compare to Armitage’s, it does have the advantage of a preface from Braddon telling how the book came to be and who Danby and Moppet are based on. The Librivox narration is also on YouTube here.

Thanks so much to Audible for introducing me to this lovely story.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Homeless for the Holidays

HomelessIn the novel Homeless for the Holidays by P. S. Wells and Marsha Wright, Jack Baker’s future looks bright. He has a lovely family, a great job, and expectations of a good Christmas bonus and possibly a promotional. His boss is a bit demanding, calling him nights, weekends, even Thanksgiving. But if Jack can hang on til he gets the promotion, everything will be better – so he tells his wife.

As the Bakers prepare for Christmas, they stuff shopping carts, max out credit cards, competitively search for the last of the “hot” toys. And when encountered by a child seeking donations for a charity or a Salvation Army bell ringer, Jack begrudgingly hands over the spare change in his pocket and gripes about people who don’t work for a living.

Then the unthinkable happens. A mistaken label on one of Jack’s company’s products creates a hazard. To save face, Jack’s boss makes Jack the fall guy, placing the responsibility for the fiasco on his shoulders and firing him. Jack’s boss promises Jack that once the hoopla has died down, Jack can have his job back.

In the meantime, Jack’s search for a job proves fruitless and bills start piling up. One by one his family loses services, then their car, then their home.

The book’s tag line says, “One family learns what is truly important when they lose it all and find they have everything.”

Overall it is an enjoyable book. You feel the characters’ fear and angst as the walls close in and the losses pile up and then as they discover that having all the “stuff” doesn’t matter as much as time for each other, humility, faith, and compassion. There’s a telling exchange when Jack’s wife tries to apply for food stamps and runs into all kinds of weird rules.

The one factor that keeps this story from being just another “learning the true meaning of Christmas” tale is that it is based on true events from the life of scriptwriter George Johnson. George eventually produced a movie based on his experience called Homeless for the Holidays, which released in 2009. In the back of the book George tells about his own situation and how the movie came to be.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)

 

 

Literary Christmas Reading Challenge

e7f96-a-literary-christmas-banner-2017

Tarissa hosts the Literary Christmas Challenge in December: actually, it started in November, but I like to hold off on Christmas reading til after Thanksgiving. The main rule: read Christmas books! And link up your posts about them (via a blog, Goodreads review, etc.).

Here’s what I am planning to read this month:

Finding Christ in Christmas by A. W. Tozer (99 cents for the Kindle app as of this writing. Tozer always makes one think.)

Tozer Christmas

Homeless for the Holidays by P. S. Wells and Marsha Wright.

Homeless

Christmas Stitches by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, and Stephanie Grace Whitson. I’ve read many of Judith and Nancy’s books, so I am looking forward to this Christmas collection.

Stitches

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren

Cold Outside

I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Four Inspirational Holiday Novellas by Lenora Worth, Belle Calhoune, Jill Kemerer, and Allie Pleiter. This is not showing up on Amazon anymore, but you can read more about it on Goodreads here. I’ve not read any of these authors, but I used to follow a blog that Lenora contributed to, so that’s probably what prompted this purchase.

Home

If I should finish all these and I’m not tired of Christmas stories at that point, I’d love to get Terri Blackstock’s Catching Christmas and Michelle Griep’s Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series, Twelve Days at Bleakly Manor and A Tale of Two Hearts. I’m trying to read what I have already accumulated through sales before I add any more.

And that’s it for this year! Do you plan to do any Christmas-themed reading this month?

Book Review: Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas

father-christmasAfter reading Pam’s engaging post on the difference between the Hallmark and written versions of Robin Jones Gunn’s Finding Father Christmas, the novella sounded so charming I had to look it up. I found it bound with its sequel, Engaging Father Christmas. I’ve enjoyed some of Robin’s Sisterchicks novels and I think maybe one or two others, so I was glad to read her again.

In Finding Father Christmas, Miranda Carson is a single working woman who grew up as the only child of a single actress. She knew nothing of her father: in fact, in her youngest years her mother told her fairy tales of how she came to her, so she didn’t think she even had a father. Miranda had an unconventional childhood hanging out around theaters while her mom practiced and performed, and they lived in cheap hotels. One day Miranda discovered an old blue velvet purse of her mother’s and opened it to find her birth certificate, a photo of a boy sitting on the lap of Santa Claus, and a playbill for The Tempest. From that time on, realizing that she had been deceived by her mother, she lost any love for fairy tales and vowed never to go to the theater again.

Miranda’s mother died when Miranda was 11, and she was taken in by a friend. When that friend died, Miranda falsified her age and struck out on her own, choosing an accounting career because numbers were more reliable than words.

But the longing to know her father caused her to take vacation time in England, where the photo in her mother’s purse had been taken. She only had the name of the photo studio and a street to go on, but arriving in the village of Carlton Heath, she entered a shop called the Tea Cosy and met its proprietors, Andrew and Katherine MacGregor, and started from there. Once she found the information she was looking for, she then had to decide the best way to deal with it.

I can’t say much more without revealing too much of the plot, but I enjoyed it quite a lot. The setting, the characters, Miranda’s journey all were every bit as charming as Pam made them sound. I very much appreciated that Robin was not afraid to deal specifically with Miranda’s spiritual journey as well: Miranda had little to no spiritual context and didn’t even realize her need of or longing for God as her Father until she encountered Him. In a day when so many Christian authors handle spiritual matters lightly (if at all) lest they come across as “preachy,” Robin proves that you can deal with them realistically and naturally within the context of the story. I loved the many literary references as well.

In Engaging Father Christmas, Miranda comes back in England for a visit about a year later. A romance blossomed with a man she met right at the end of the first story, and she’s hoping this visit will result in an engagement ring and the making of Carlton Heath her longed-for home. But her idyllic Christmas plans are threatened by serious obstacles.

One of my favorite passages occurs between crises as she views a beautiful nighttime scene:

Was everything around us more or less a fixed snapshot that alluded to a greater beauty? A deeper mystery? A hint of what was to come? How many unknown layers were there to life–to the eternal life that was hidden in Christ? What glorious surprises awaited us in the real land of which this earth was only a snapshot? Let heaven and nature sing

These novellas were the perfect Christmas reads: clean, warm, lovely, and heart-stirring. There is a third in the series just out recently, Kissing Father Christmas. I’ll have to look out for that one next year.

Genre: Christian Christmas fiction
Objectionable elements: None.
My rating: 10 out of 10

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)

Books you loved 4

 

Save

Save