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Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Fiction General Fiction Historical Fiction

The First Christmas (ARC Review) by Stephen Mitchell

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Essentials for the early reading copy of The First Christmas by Stephen Mitchell!

Have you read any books recently that made you think of something from a new angle?  Stripping away the lens of Catholicism through the decades, Mitchell takes em objective look at the Nativity and Annunciation as they may have actually looked. How would a traditional Jewish couple take the news? What about a simple shepherd or stressed innkeeper? He even lightens the mood by sharing the views of the Ox and Donkey in the stable.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The First Christmas
  • Author: Stephen Mitchell
  • Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Essentials, 11/02/21
  • Length: 224
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for interested readers, secular and non

Here is the description from Amazon:

In The First Christmas, Stephen Mitchell brings the Nativity story to vivid life as never before. A narrative that is only sketched out in two Gospels becomes fully realized here with nuanced characters and a setting that reflects the culture of the time. Mitchell has suffused the birth of Jesus with a sense of beauty that will delight and astonish readers.

In this version, we see the world through the eyes of a Whitmanesque ox and a visionary donkey, starry-eyed shepherds and Zen-like wise men, each of them providing a unique perspective on a scene that is, in Western culture, the central symbol for good tidings of great joy. Rather than superimposing later Christian concepts onto the Annunciation and Nativity scenes, he imagines Mary and Joseph experiencing the angelic message as a young Jewish woman and man living in the year 4 bce might have experienced it, with terror, dismay, and ultimate acceptance. In this context, their yes becomes an act of great moral courage.

Readers of every background will be enchanted by this startlingly beautiful reimagining of the Christmas tale.

It was fun to see which stories, psalms, passages Mitchell was pulling his ideas from as well as his own thoughts. Some of his interpretation was tangential and distracting but overall it was an interesting mix of story, analyzing, and asking the reader to reflect and think for themselves.

There is a running theme of finding God, light, hope, etc, inside yourself before finding Him in the outside world, which I can appreciate as a fact since it’s one’s own lens that shapes their world view.

The one fascinating point that I hope makes it to the final copy, is where a character separated his hurtful and angry thoughts into a separate entity and simply said “no” to them. This idea of separating certain lies that one’s brain tells them, like an outside evil, is a fairly new concept to me but I’m interested!

Some parts were pretty far out there, but I’m comfortable recommending this one to interested readers, whether secular or non, for a well described tale of the times and journey of personal reflection on your own beliefs as well.

Thank you again endlessly to the publisher for my free review copy, all opinions are my own!

6 replies on “The First Christmas (ARC Review) by Stephen Mitchell”

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