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January 12, 2016

Book: Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and still does)
Author: Scott Hahn
Image. New York. 2014. Pp. 169

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

What could be more familiar than the Christmas story - and yet what could be more extraordinary? The cast of characters is strange and exotic; shepherds and magicians, an emperor and a despot, angels, and a baby who is Almighty God. Yet, the strangeness of it all calls for an explanation, one that makes the familiar fresh again.

In Joy to the Word, Scott Hahn brings the first Noel to new light through his thought-provoking combination pf exciting story-telling and penetrating biblical insight. He shows Christmas to be a family story.

"Who is the hero of the Christmas story?" Hahn asks. "We tend to read the Gospel narrative through two millennia of tradition, and so the answer seems obvious: The hero is Jesus! . . . [Yet] he doesn't fit the classical model. He's not acting alone. He's not intruding himself to change the course of events. In fact, he's hardly acting at all. He's passive: nursed and placed to sleep in a manger, found on his mother's lap by the magi, and carried away in flight to Egypt. Like any baby, he exercises a powerful attraction --- drawing love from those who draw near. Yet he is visible only because other arms are holding him.

"The Christmas story has an unconventional hero -not a warrior, not a worldly conqueror, not an individual at all, but rather a family. The details of the story always lead us back to that fact."

Christmas, as it appears in the New Testament, is the story of a father, a mother, and a child --- their relationships, their interactions, their principles, their individual lives, and their life in common. To see the lives of this "earthly trinity" is to catch a first glimpse of heaven.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Like everything we have seen so far in Matthew's Gospel, the details about Joseph's life hark back to Israel's heritage. Matthew shows that Joseph, like Jesus and Mary, was foreshadowed in the history of the patriarchs, prefigured more than a thousand years before.

The New Testament Joseph, the husband of Mary, seems a "reprise" of the Old Testament Joseph ---Joseph, the son of Jacob, the young man with the coat of many colors. Christians in every age have noted the parallels in their lives.

First, the obvious: both share the name Joseph. Both have fathers named Jacob. God spoke to bnoth of them through dreams. Both men were righteous and chaste. And both saved their families by bringing them to Egyp0t.

Pope Leo XIII noted this connection between the two great biblical Josephs, concluding that the more ancient Joseph "by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family."

Joseph was also a "son of David," as Matthew's genealogy makes clear; so Joseph was the bearer of the royal birthright, which he passed on to his son and heir, Jesus.

Joseph embodied his heritage best, however, in his righteousness. The Gospel tells us, up front and with the greatest brevity, that Joseph was "a just." From a first-century Jew, that was a supreme compliment. It meant that Joseph's life and his disposition were conformed to God's law. Joseph respected the commandments of God, and he carried them out faithfully.

Table of Contents:

1. A light goes on in Bethlehem
2. What happens in Bethlehem
3. A new genesis
4. The counterfeit kingdom
5. Mary: cause of our joy
6. Silent knight, holy knight
7. Angels: echoing their joyous strains
8. O little town of Bethlehem
9. Do you believe in Magi?
10. Shepherds, why this jubilee?
11. The glory of your people: the Presentation
12. Flight into joy
13. Blessed trinities: heaven and the Holy Family
14. Joy to the world!