The Characters of Christmas

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 1 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

It’s only mid-October as I write this, but I am already starting to get in the Christmas spirit after reading this wonderful book! The Characters of Christmas introduces readers to the various people surrounding the birth of Christ, including a few I hadn’t given much thought to in the past. The author, Daniel Darling, does this in an engaging way that makes the characters very relatable to readers today. 

Darling includes questions to consider in each section, making it perfect for a study group discussion.  He even suggests Christmas songs for each character – something I particularly loved and that I believe will make this book and the characters it considers even more memorable to me in the future.

This is a very enjoyable book that I can envision myself rereading each holiday season. Copies would also make terrific gifts.
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In the book The Characters of Christmas, author Daniel Darling gives us insights into the lives of the characters in the Christmas story. Darling gives some good insights that will make the story of Christmas come alive. This would make a good addition to anyone’s advent reading this Christmas season. I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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"The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus", Daniel Darling, Moody Publishers, 2019, pp 184

There are a number of things that led me to request a review copy of Daniel Darling's new book.  Firstly, I love the Nativity narrative.  Second, the subtitle captured my attention. Third, Moody Publishers do publish some good things and publish well.  Fourth, and well my fourth reason - well this doesn't really count, except I'm a fickle individual who loves well designed graphics - and sadly, yes the front cover captured my attention too!

If like me you have grown up in a Christian home and have been well initiated into Church life, you too will be well versed in the Nativity Story.  Even those outside the Church will be familiar enough with the Nativity to some extent - even if it is a slightly diluted version delivered through the heavily and gaudily indulged version of Nativity Plays borrowing more than a little artistic licence.

Yet often we have become so familiar with the Nativity narrative - even if we're setting up our Nativity scenes at Christmas-time - that we often overlook the many 'characters' in the background who are actually so vital to the narrative of the actual text and we have lost some of the awe from the truth of the incarnation.

This familiarity is one of the reasons that Darling wrote this book - to help readers take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters who are so often overlooked.  Therefore readers will read about:
•Joseph
•Zechariah and Elizabeth
•Mary
•The Angels
•The Innkeeper
•The Shepherds
•The Wise Men
•Herod
•Simeon and Anna
•Jesus’s Surprising Ancestors

Personally, this is a welcome addition to the many books available and published at this time of the year.  Far too often are characters such as Simeon and Anna, and Zechariah and Elizabeth overlooked to the detriment of readers.  Whilst one welcome chapter was the chapter on Herod, I personally feel the chapter on the Inn-Keeper was a bit of a stretch.  However, other readers may disagree.

In terms of how the book is laid out, each chapter does come with discussion questions and a recommended Christmas song, added with the intention of aiding devotions during the Christmas period.   Not only are these inclusions added within the book, the author has also prepared a free discussion guide available at the authors webpage to use either with your church family, small group, or indeed at home with your family.  Personally, I always think it's great when publishers and authors make additional resources available as these can really help get the best out of the book and make it additionally worthwhile picking up.  A book should always be something to share and something to stimulate conversation and discussion!

You can download a free excerpt of the book and avail of the free discussion guide over at the authors webpage here.

One of the quotes which I think sums up the intentions of the book and the reason for including a study on many of the 'background characters' is where Darling rightly notes that:

"The church mostly advances along through the winding paths of the ordinary and the outcasts, the misfits and the forgotten.  You'll notice that the nativity does contain some nobles like the Magi, but most of those around Jesus were simple and otherwise ordinary."

This is the beauty and magnificence of the Nativity, that our extraordinary God entered into an ordinary scene in time surrounded by mostly ordinary people in the rhythm and pattern of ordinary life.

Readers will be helpfully reminded and encouraged by reading this new book.  They won't be dazzled with new fangled ideas or fanciful insights.  What they do get is the boring old ordinary story, injected with the authors passion that we the readers may wonder anew at the amazing news of the Nativity.
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A couple of things. I was born in raised in a Christian home and I've been a believer my whole life (I'm 30). I loved everything about this book. As far back as I can remember my family reads Luke 2 on Christmas morning but wow, this book completely flipped things for me. 

You don't often think about the people surrounding the birth of Christ... the outlaying and prominent people. 

The author is personable - this is not a "here are the facts and some details" - he is a storyteller and is so engaging. There are study questions at the end of each chapter AND the author recommends a Christmas song for each character (like come on! How cool is that?!)

I plan on buying copies for several family members.
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I must admit that I have so far only fully read the first few chapters and dipped into others in order to write this review as I really want to use this as a meditation over advent. What a great idea and so well researched. I will be recommending this to others and so look forward to delving deeper during the festive season.
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I loved this book and learned a lot about the characters of the Nativity. The book's well written and interesting.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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What a perfect little book to read before I start composing the nativity for this Christmas! My students always have questions I feel I can't answer about the "smaller" roles in the Christmas story, now I can find an answer to their questions!
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I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about the people who were important, but less well known for their part in the Christmas story.  The writing was smooth and clear, while still moving at a good pace.  I also appreciated how intentional the author was in giving other speakers/authors/the Bible credit for the things that he chose to include in the book.  Overall, well done.  I look forward to having this in my holiday book rotation!
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I LOVED this book!!!!! I am feeling in the Christmas spirit, and it's in the beginning of August. All kidding aside, last Christmas I was talking to a student about The wise men and we both had some questions about them and that sent me off wondering about the other "minor" characters if you will, that often get overlooked when we think of the Nativity. I will be pulling out this book to re read when we are closer to the advent season, and I know it will help me have a deeper understanding and appreciation this christmas!
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This book is a great study for advent.  I recommended it to my Pastor. If my family were not grown up and on their own I would do it with them.
I really appreciated how the scripture and psalms and songs were linked to the "characters" and brought the story to print times.
A great study book!
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I love Christmas. This book examines each character in the story of Jesus’ birth. The layout allows the reader to take one character per day or every few days and ponder their role. Included at the end of each chapter are questions and suggested Christmas song to allow for further reflection. Will become a new Christmas tradition.
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You can read this book with your kids, your friends, or on your own. "Christmas is just around the corner," as they say.

Whether you're a volunteer or staff member trying to present a holistic picture of the Christmas story, or a parent trying to make sense of what Joseph and Mary went through, you'll enjoy this creative exploration of who the characters may have been - around the time of Jesus' birth.

For a fresh look at the old old story, pick up a copy to read by yourself or with friends.
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