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The Surprising Truth behind the Birth of Christ 

Best-selling author and pastor Tim Keller's examination of the nativity story

Keller ChristmasHidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth behind the Birth of Christ
By Timothy Keller
Hodder & Stoughton 
ISBN 978-1-473-64258-4
Reviewer: David Stuckey

Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about the Christmas story, along comes American pastor and church planter Tim Keller to cut a swathe through what some regard as the traditional yuletide ‘fairy story’ to enhance and explain the meaning behind so many aspects of the season, especially those that tend to confuse Christians and non-Christians alike.

He focuses on the genealogy of Jesus, included in Matthew’s gospel, and reminds us that all was not straight-forward. The holy pedigree was one of mixed personalities and fortunes, which perversely makes it so appealing to believers and non-believers alike. And that is fitting because Christmas (as Keller reminds us) is both a Christian holy day and a major secular holiday, and if the latter prompts non-believers to ask pertinent questions concerning the former then that is as it should be.

Throughout his life on earth Jesus continued to confound those who sought answers about his true identity, suggests Keller. Born in a stable, friend of sinners, died a criminal’s death … it’s not the sort of biography to instil complete confidence in everyone’s eyes. Yet it was that aspect of his life, that common touch which so endeared him to those around him. The very ‘ordinary-ness’ of his life contributed to his extra-ordinary appeal. To understand his popularity is to grasp the true meaning of “God and sinners reconciled”.

Of all the individuals featured in this narrative – the shepherds, the kings, etc. – it is Mary who stands out. Keller points out that her submission “Be it unto me according to thy word” is close to the words her son would come to say in Gethsemane: “Not as I will, but as You will”. Mary’s obedience, her acceptance, her willingness to tread an unknown path, was to risk her reputation – even her life. Yet she said “your will be done.”

And for us? The joy that Christmas brings, the love shown to us by God shines through the earthly traditions that mark the season. And when we grasp the full picture it is then that we fully appreciate the dichotomy of Jesus – the earthly being who was also divine. 

David Stuckey is a journalist and member of Maghull Baptist Church

Baptist Times, 07/12/2016
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