Reviewed by Gavin MatthewS
David J. Randall has produced a helpful little book for anyone who wants to scratch below the surface of the Christmas story. The nativity story, (baby Jesus, Mary, shepherds, wise-men, and assorted donkeys and cattle) is well-known – and will be performed in countless churches, schools, and nurseries again this year. Yet, many people who watch these charming performances will be left with little to help them understand what these events actually mean – or why this story is faithfully retold every year.
David Randall’s way into unearthing the heart of this great story is by looking at it through a series of different lenses. The Bible was written across many centuries, from a range of cultures, and presents a vast range of people – yet each of these presents us with a special perspective on the whole book’s central character, Jesus Christ. Randall takes fourteen of these and in fourteen short, easy-to-read chapters unveils different aspects of the heart of the Christmas story, which is Jesus himself.
Some of these chapters deal with Old Testament characters who look forward to the promise of the messiah. The chapter on Job, wrestling with the question of suffering – yet longing for the appearance of his redeemer, was a highlight there. Then there are a whole load of characters familiar to us from the nativity plays, Mary, Joseph and then of course Herod. The Herod chapter was especially compelling, comparing the temporary grandeur in his great palace, with the eternal glory of Christ found lying in a manger. Then the last set of chapters are based on the insights of writers such as John and Paul who looked back on the birth Jesus and reflected on its meaning and significance.
The compelling picture of Jesus which emerges from this very short book is one which will provoke the reader to look beyond the trappings of Christmas and to embrace the heart of the matter; that Jesus the Son of God, came to save us from sin, and to bring us life, light, salvation and reconciliation with God. Randall nicely illustrates this with a quote from CS Lewis, who famously noted in Surprised by Joy, that if Hamlet and Shakespeare were to meet, it could only be at the instigation of the author who could write himself into the play. In Jesus, God the creator writes himself into our story – and calls us to respond to him.
Randall’s little book would make a nice starting point for anyone wanting to work out what the Christmas story is about. It could also be used by Sunday School teachers or pastors, to raid for a few neat ideas to use in their upcoming teaching series this advent. The little study guide at the end is worth looking at too, as it contains some useful discussion points.
Come and Behold Him is published by Christian Focus Publications (£7.99) and is available here.
David J. Randall is a retired church pastor, who ministered in Scotland for over forty years. He has written several other books some of which are available from Solas.