I was given the opportunity to review Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott. Matthew is the founder of Love the Saints Ministries, a website committed to “Encouraging Believers Every Step of the Way.”
Christmas is the most well-known, and popular holiday in the world. While cultures are separated by vast differences, no matter where you go, you’ll find people who celebrate this holiday. In Reflecting Christmas, Matthew looks to the Christ behind all the traditions and practices.
The Content of Reflecting Christmas
Matthew looks at the different symbols related to Christmas. He sees Christ in each of them and also discusses the way some of them illustrate our relationships to God. For example:
- In the evergreen Christmas tree he sees a picture of Jesus’ lordship.
- The bells of Christmas signify joy, like those rung at toasts or weddings. They remind us that the holiday is a celebration.
- He sees in the wreath a picture of the crown of thorns on Christ’s head.
- The Poinsettia looks back to the Star of Bethlehem.
- The lights of Christmas remind us that Jesus is the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). Matthew moves beyond that to remind followers of Christ that we too are called to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16).
- The colors of Christmas are primarily green and red. Green, reminds us of freshness and new life. This reminds us of the spiritually new life we have in Christ.
Although I am only discussing these symbols, obviously if you’d like to know about them in more detail, you need to purchase the book.
Matthew’s style in Reflecting Christmas
Matthew uses his own life, including such personal stories as the birth of his daughter. He speaks very personably. The book doesn’t feel like a lecture or take on a boring, academic nature, which easily could’ve been the case. Instead, it reads much more like a conversation. You pick up on Matthew’s enthusiasm, which makes the book more enjoyable. He says things such as, “My favorite…” or “I hope you will continue to read…” You feel as though Matthew is speaking to you.
Scripture is quoted throughout, which I appreciated. Matthew clearly wanted a book that connects to the Jesus of the Bible, and not one of our own imaginations. You might not be able to imagine the 2 Chronicles 7:14 or Ezekiel 11:19 relating to the snow of Christmas, but that’s what Matthew discusses in one of the middle chapters.
Since the book discusses symbolism and traditions, there’s obviously an amount of speculation. As a pastor, I appreciated the looseness Matthew used. I feel sensitive toward people being too dogmatic when the facts can’t be established absolutely. Matthew often writes, “Some say…” or “Some believe…” allowing room for the reader to recognize we can’t know for sure.
Reflecting Christmas often looks to the culture to help people better identify with the symbolism. He discusses The Lion King, The Polar Express, and The Christmas Candle,
I used to be a school teacher, and so grammar mistakes tend to jump out at me. From an academic perspective, I thought the book was well-written. After publishing my book, Marriage God’s Way, I know how difficult it is to write something free from error. I can say I didn’t see any mistakes in Matthew’s book.
My Conclusion for Reflecting Christmas
Toward the end, Matthew reminds his readers that we can get lost in all the other aspects of Christmas. I appreciate that he continually brought it back to Christ, the true “reason for the season.” After discussing how Christmas should reflect Christ, he discusses how we should reflect Christ.
He strove for accuracy. Christmas had its origins in Rome, through the festival of Saturnalia. Matthew doesn’t attempt to make Christmas – or its origins – something untrue. He’s honest enough to admit we don’t know when Jesus was born. The fact is, it’s not about when Jesus was born. It’s about why Jesus was born.
The book is a nice, short read. You can finish it in one or two sittings. If I had to give my recommendation, I would encourage parents to purchase a copy, and read it together as a family. Look at one chapter per day leading up to Christmas. I think it could make a very good Christmas devotional for families. I suspect, because of children’s love for, and familiarity with Christmas, that there will be plenty of discussion.
If you love Christmas and want to learn more about it, specifically finding the relationship to Christ, I would encourage you to read Reflecting Christmas. If, for whatever reason, you do not love Christmas, I would encourage you to read Matthew’s book. Maybe this has been the time of year you find yourself most discouraged and lonely. Allow Reflecting Christmas to bring you some joy.