My Christmas vacation has been filled with screaming children, holiday lattes, and wrapping paper and presents. There have been discussions about Jesus, carols sung about Jesus, and books written about Jesus-the last one being the subject of this blog post. Thousands of authors have been featured on the New York Times best seller list, and rock stars, hippies, and Biblical scholars have written novels, poems, and essays about Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, but, as it's been said, it's easy to write or say a lot without actually saying anything. I've done all the work here: take a look at the following three books I received as gifts this holiday season and can't wait to dive into--all are written by NYT best-selling authors. According to the book jackets, reviews, and first several pages, all of them have something to say, and are definitely worth reading (for those who take faith seriously, and, even perhaps for those who don't):
1. What the Gospels Meant by Gary Wills
This book, published in 2009, is an interpretation of the four gospels by New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills. I'm only 25 pages in, but am already captivated by Wills' academic interpretations and descriptions of the differences between the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The most interesting fact I've read so far? That the writers of the Epistles (Paul) had not read the Gospel stories before penning his letters to the churches being established around the world in the years following Jesus' death and resurrection. The New York Times Book Review hailed it as “one of the most intellectually interesting and doctrinally heterodox Christians writing today,” and the historical facts contained in the writing, in my opinion, would be interesting to both believers and nonbelievers alike.
2. Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan and Mark Beuving
Francis Chan is one of my favorite pastors and authors. Often referred to as the author of best-seller Crazy Love, He has a successful Podcast sermon series, successfully launched Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, with his wife, Lisa, then left it to start a discipleship movement in San Francisco because he was tired of members of his 4,000-person congregation say "Francis Chan" more than "Jesus Christ" around the sanctuary of his church (read more in this Christianity Today feature article, "The Relentless Passion of Francis Chan"). Multiply, with a forward by pastor and author David Platt, is a powerful guide on the importance of building authentic Christian community in today's chaotic world.
3. Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott has earned her title as New York Times bestselling author for her candid writing style and "self-deprecating humor." Alcoholism, Motherhood, and Jesus are three themes that define her professional writing style, and after reading 100 pages of her book Grace (Eventually), I would call her a Christian version of Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love). Her conversational depictions of messy breakups and experiences with alcoholism are captivating and compelling, and her candid depictions of experiencing God tangibly in the physical world (in the form of quirky characters and emotional security) have already made me laugh out loud on several occasions. I plan to finish this book within the week-it's easy to feel like imperfections draw you away from God, but Anne does a great job of explaining why embracing weakness is necessary to experience him.
What are your holiday reading suggestions? I've got a 10-hour car ride with the family coming up and would love to know what literature you have received and/or recommend to read this holiday season!