Cover Image: The First Christmas

The First Christmas

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This was the first time I have read this author. This book was a pretty interesting story about that First Christmas. I had to read it several chapters at a time, to take in all in. A GOOD READ.
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This is the story of the Nativity, and how exactly things played, or might have played out. Using the Gospels of Mathew and Luke, the author brings this story alive.
Beginning with the animals at the stable and continuing with how Mary’s life as a young girl was changed forever. Then Joseph and his thoughts and how God had them become parents of his beloved Son.
While I don’t necessarily agree with some of the way some of the character’s were portrayed, it was a work of fiction and from the author’s perspective.
I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher St. Martin’s Press, and was not required to give a positive review.
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This is a reimagining of the birth of Christ.  Told from multiple points of view, including the Innkeeper, the ox, and the shepherds, this is a very interesting version of the birth of Christ and the people that it immediately affected.  If you are looking fo a new take on the birth of Christ and a good story for the season, then pick this one up.
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This book is much different than something I would normally pick up, but I was intrigued my the summary and thought I would give it a shot. I thought it would be more of a fiction story (which it was) but the author’s interludes seemed longer than the story and at times tedious. They made it hard for me to focus on the main story being told. I just didn’t like the essays on why he wrote the chapter the way he did in between the chapters. There were parts of this book I did enjoy, specifically from the ox’s point of view, but overall, this book was not for me.
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I was invited by the publisher to read this interesting take on the First Christmas, by Stephen Mitchell.
An intriguing premise, the book looks at the birth of Christ through the eyes of those near the birth of Christ. Each chapter is told in a narrative by different characters – The innkeeper, an ox, and a donkey, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men.
By far, the Inn Keeper’s point of view was the most interesting of the narratives written. One could sense the overwhelming feeling he may have experienced as Bethlehem welcomed guests for the census. Sights, sounds and smells are easy to experience through his eyes.
And then, there’s the rest of the book. 
Between each chapter is the author’s interlude. It’s jarring; as it pulls the reader out of the story, and I’m not sure it is necessary. The author explains why things were written in the previous chapter, or it’s a pause to teach a point, or to present a theological viewpoint. These points would have been better written as an author’s note at the very end of the work of fiction. The author has a sense of humour which is seen through some of the character sketches, as well as in these interludes.
The shepherds aren’t painted in a very good light. They are characterized as simpletons, uneducated and buffoons. When I think of other shepherds recorded in the Bible, they are far from this picture painted. 
The depiction of angels is bizarre, and borders on mysticism, straying from the Judeo-Christian (and biblical) narrative. 
As purely a fictional read, the author creates an interesting world of the first Christmas from several points of view. However, if readers of biblical fiction expect a close representation from the biblical account, they will be disappointed.
I received an ecopy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
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This was an unusual but interesting retelling of Christ’s birth.  I liked  the Ox and the donkey‘s point of view. I thought the interlude between each chapter interesting too. 
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy
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What a wonderful book! It tells the story of the birth of Jesus as seen through the eyes of the animals and people. This book will hold you captive from the first page until the last. It's sure to be a Christmas classic.
 I received a complimentary copy from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley and was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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I wasn't sure what I expected in this book.  But the book wasn't anything like I expected.  The reader must remember it is a work of fiction.  The author starts out each section with a vague rendering of the first Christmas.  Many of his "facts" are not true.  But then again, it is fiction.  I usually don't give up on a book if I don't care for it.  So I found myself trying to read it more quickly so I could get through it.  I think the thing that bothers me is that the book is such a mix of close facts and speculation.  I wish it had gone one way or the other.  If you're looking for a good "Christmas" read, pass this one by.  There really isn't that much "Christmas" about it.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC for an honest review.
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A Story of New Beginnings
In The First Christmas, Stephen Mitchell brings the Nativity story to vivid life as never before. A narrative that is only sketched out in two Gospels becomes fully realized here with nuanced characters and a setting that reflects the culture of the time. Mitchell has suffused the birth of Jesus with a sense of beauty that will delight and astonish readers.

This is a very interesting look at the Nativity. Each chapter is told from the point of view of the individual. Even an ox and a donkey contribute. We watch as a young Mary struggles to understand what is being asked of her and what it means. Joseph struggles as well.

We hear from the shepherds, the Wise Men, and even the Inn Keeper. Not in any Biblical way either. Just imagine what actual human beings would think and talk about.

I enjoyed the research and all of the interpretations. The story moved me more than the differing biblical ones.

NetGalley/  November 9th, 2021 by St. Martin’s Essentials
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A work of fiction based on the birth of Jesus.  This author was very creative in expressing  the point of view of all the participants of the Nativity--including the animals!  At times it was hard to wrap my head around what was happening, but yet it produced an entertaining (for lack of a better word) story for the First Christmas.
Just as the Bible states that Mary pondered these events in her heart, so, too, I will be pondering this book during the Christmas season.  Quite interesting!
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As a Christian, you have a certain perspective of the Nativity that has been taught and accepted. As someone who prides themselves on being open to different perspectives including within spirituality and religion, The First Christmas truly had me inspired and enlightened. Allowing myself to suspend all that I've known to embrace a narrative that took another religion and perspective to place you in the minds of not only the characters but feeling and embracing the moment as if we were there.  

What I loved most about the book was the breakdown of each perspective pertinent to this narrative including interludes after each chapter to breakdown down the comparative references. I can see how this might be perceived as breaking the flow of the book but it served a purpose. Each perspective not only told by the people but how amazing to get to experience the point of view of the animals. Those were someone of the most poignant moments in the book, most especially my favorite, the donkey. It's amazing how little people think of how they feel but underestimate the important role they played.  They all collectively brought something to the story that will make you feel a bunch of emotions but hopefully takeaway an inspired inner peace and faith in humanity.  

The First Christmas was a beautiful narrative that will inspire and expand your imagination. Now, I can understand where others may not be open but keep in mind this is religious fiction. I did my best to judge this objectively purely based on that fact and not allowing my personal beliefs to overshadow my thoughts. It was better than I expected and I believe no matter what your faith or not, you will enjoy this book.
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Stephen Mitchell brings The First Christmas to life in a whole new way by telling the story of the nativity from the points of view of all of those involved in the story (including each of the animals). He also helps readers understand the events as they would have been viewed by the laws and culture of the time. The combination of the two makes this book a stand-out and one I highly recommend.

My thanks to St. Martin's Essentials who permitted me to read an ARC of this novel via Netgalley. The book is scheduled to be published on 11/9/21. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and are freely offered.
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I'll start by saying this is not the type of book I read, but was offered it by the publisher and NetGalley. I know this story very well, but was surprised and pleased to see that it was broken up into chapters by character (including animals) along with comparisons to the story with different bible viewpoints and even a smattering of other religions. This made me appreciate this book even more by breaking it down and viewing these extra chapters as a study. The animal chapters were very cute and actually showed prejudices and human characteristics showing none of us are immune.
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I was offered an advance copy of The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings because I had previously read and reviewed some holiday/religious fiction titles on NetGalley.  The description of the book didn’t quite fit those categories, but I did agree to read it because I thought it might be rather whimsical with points of view including the ox and the donkey and a day-in-the-life peek at the main characters like Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, innkeeper, etc.

The ox and donkey did share their views, but a Whitmanesque ox, visionary donkey, and Zen-like wise men were definitely not whimsical, and even though it did look closely at the thoughts and concerns of the characters and some of the possible reasons for their actions, it did not quite live up to the promise of being vivid, unique and enchanting.  Instead, this felt like a cross between a serious, symbolism-loaded Bible study for adults using The Good News contemporary language Bible and an exercise in social commentary using poetic symmetry in the way the chapters were structured and balanced.  The “Interludes” between the - for lack of a better word - “action” chapters were jarring and seemed more like the author taking the opportunity to insert some vague, unclear views or describe some of his achievements.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Essentials for providing an advance copy of The First Christmas in exchange for my honest review.  It was interesting to look at the events through the eyes of those involved who of course did not know they were part of a miraculous event and were just living their lives and going about their business, but it was not a particularly joyous read and at times was obscure and difficult to understand what point the author was trying to make.  All opinions are my own.
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A wonderful way of explaining the nativity story in a simple manner that is accessible to many people. Using a narrative format makes the telling less formidable and opens the opportunity for more people to want to enjoy this beautiful tale.
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This was such an interesting, original and thoughtful take on the story of the First Christmas, covering various perspectives within the story as well as a broad perspective in terms of beliefs. Very interesting.
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Definitely a unique approach to sharing the Nativity story. The author shares in the forward that his intent is to inhabit the characters. Each chapter is shared from the perspective of a person, group or animal that is a part of Jesus' birth. In between each chapter is an Interlude in which the author shares additional insights into his thought process.

I loved the humor that was included especially in the chapters written from an animal's perspective, such as the perspective of the donkey that carried Mary. There is also quite a bit of depth as the author analyzes the reaction and thoughts characters may have had. Our perspective today is quite different than it would have been for those involved. Can you imagine your fiance sharing that she is with child by the Holy Spirit?

Some may find parts to be crude or irreverent, however, I found it overall to be thought provoking and provided a new way to consider everyone involved in the first Christmas.
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I wanted to like this book so much.  I though the concept was very interesting.  Unfortunately, the book did not meet my expectations.  The first part of the book held my interest, but soon all the author "interludes" (interruptions, in my opinion) soon made my interest level fall.  By mid book, I began to skip the interludes and soon I was skimming the book to reach the end.

The book did not seem to be “a novel” to me. It resembles a theme paper supported by very lengthy footnotes trying to validate and support what the author wrote. I realize the author put quite a bit of research into this book and also invested his personal views of the events happening, but it just did not connect with me.

I tried to view this as a fiction book and not associate it with my personal religious views.  I do think I was able to do this.  Based totally as a fiction book, it is lacking a good flow (once again - all the interruptions) and the many wordy sub plots that seem to veer off from the main point of the book.

I rarely rate a book below 3 stars, and I honestly do not want to do that in this case either, however I want to give a fair review and to do so, I cannot rate higher than 2 stars. Those two stars were earned by the first fourth of the book.

I want to thank St. Martin's Press, St. Martin's Essentials and NetGalley for allowing me to read the advanced reader copy with no obligation to write a review. My review is written freely as a hobby, and is totally my own opinion, not influenced by receiving the ARC.
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This is a retelling of the Nativity from viewpoints of many of the people and animals involved (not including the baby).  The Innkeeper, shepherds, ox, donkey, Mary, Joseph, and more all have chapters, and their stories are interspersed with some pretty thought-provoking interludes from the author.

What I liked most about this is a couple of the chapters really made me think specifically about the feelings and worries of the people involved, instead of just viewing them as archtypes.  I also really liked the Interludes  - the author had some great insights.

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for letting me read an ARC of this book.    I can think of a couple of people I'd like to purchase it for this holiday season.
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This was an imaginative but self-indulgent offering about the most sacred of events to ever occur. I hesitate to be critical because of my reverence for the subject, but suffice it to say it was not my favorite approach to the story of the birth of our Savior.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.  The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
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