Monday, December 05, 2005

Jotham's Journey

Recently, I finished reading Jotham's Journey. Even as an adult, I found this children's Advent story believable, engaging, and hard to put down. I wished it had been around when my own children were of the age to enjoy it. It's one of those stories that walks around with you for a while.

The places that author Arnold Ytreeide uses in the book are real places. He fleshes out a story that could have happened. We all have probably heard the scriptural account of the Christmas story so many times that we know the next words before our eyes reach them. Ytreeide's writing allows the reader to walk beside Jotham and be part of the action, sharpening our dullness to such a wondrous event.

In the Scriptures, not much mention is made of the family of Joseph, at least as they lived at the time. For me, I have tended to forget that both Joseph and Mary had extended family all around--parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and probably loads of cousins. Do you ever wonder how much of the events surrounding Jesus's birth was talked about among the relatives and the village people?

It is unlikely that Ytreeide hit upon accurate familial connections in much of Jotham's Journey. But one thing he did make me aware of was that Jesus's birth did not occur in isolation from common events of the day.

C. S. Lewis thought that we are often taught to approach the stories of the Bible with so much reverence that they are distanced from real life. Ytreeide's historical fiction helps to bring the story alive, to give it the real-ness, or special-ness, that has been lost in the familiarity.

I encourage you to read the story of Jotham and share it with your children. Each evenings reading ends on a cliffhanger which is resolved and only gets better and more interesting with the story.

Only one paragraph gave me a bit of distress.

"Jotham is lucky that Nathan is not selfish and unforgiving. We are lucky that God is not selfish and unforgiving."
I was surprised to find this statement, or rather, the word "lucky." I believe that the word "luck" has no place in a Christian's vocabulary. "Luck" refers a chance happening which is incongruent with the Christian belief in the sovereignty of God and His providence. Growing up, the word "luck" was a common part of my vocabulary. I changed my speech habit when it was pointed out that "luck" takes no regard for God's providence. There is nothing in this world that is the consequence of luck. Rather, it is all due to the providence of God. To me, that gives confidence and stability.

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