Cover Image: The First Christmas

The First Christmas

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This is such a different take on the first Christmas.  It is told from the perspective of the characters in the story with a lot of interesting history mixed in.
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Interesting perspective on the very first Christmas. The author reiterates the known story, and then interjects another version of the story.
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As fascinating as this was, I felt that this was a an outline for the professor teaching a college course in religion. Especially the 'Interludes" where he was rationalizing his chosen characters and his version of the Nativity.
Had he left those out, I would have given this story a 5 star rating.
No matter what you believe, this story gives a different and, wonderful interpretation of the first Christmas.
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The First Christmas A Story of New Beginnings by Stephen Mitchell
Book starts out with other works by the author and a dedication page. Quotes  about the event are noted.
Forward with footnotes are included.
Each chapter has a small quote and then the story. Like how the author takes the nativity and picks it apart.
We were brought up Catholic and we know the story but he opens new windows with this version.
From the very beginning, the innkeeper. we know there was no room at the inns but yet one innkeeper found them a place to spend the night.
You never hear of the keeper himself so this author wants to tell his story. Interlude for each chapter is fresh eyes on the subject.
Love the chapter with the donkey, ox and other animals. so cool to hear it from their perspective. 
Mary and Joseph also have their own chapters. 
Just when you thought you really understood the carol: away in a manger, it's really opened my eyes to how it could have been.
Appendixes, notes and references and acknowledgements are also included at the end.
Really enjoyed reading this one.
Received this review copy from St. Martin's Press, St. Martin's Essentials via Netgalley  and this is my honest opinion.
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The First  Christmas is a story we never tire of, and this one proves to be quite unique. 

The author begins as an exhausted Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem seeking shelter. 

Chapter 1 is from the innkeepers point of view. He views the couple as just another hard luck story yet for some reason the pair strike something in his heart. But there is simply and absolutely no room, after all he’s not God who can create something,out of nothing…he thinks. 

Chapter 2 is the viewpoint of the Ox. The Ox, a sociable fellow, and is excited to see them come into his stable. At least he’s excited to have the company of a lovely female donkey. Then he goes into a litany of how different donkeys and oxen are but just how tolerable he can be. The Ox gets to witness the actual birth of the child and is then perplexed that neither the mother or father licked  the child clean. He racks this up to the fact that human ways are different from animal ways and that’s okay. 

Chapter 3 is the shepherd's point of view.The shepherds discuss at length  the phenomenon they just witnessed in the sky. They set out the next morning to find The Messiah. In Bethlehem folks think they are nuts asking where to find a baby lying in a trough. They finally find Jesus and bow down and worship him and present him their humble gifts. 

Chapter 4 is Mary’s story which actually focuses on the Annuncuation. After all to us mortals that is where the drama begins, 

Chapter 5 is Joseph’s thoughts, where he actually at one point compares his situation akin  to Hosea’s. There is no comparison here at all, but remember Joseph has the mind of a mortal.

Chapter 6, you see the pattern now,  is the Wise Men. The author discusses conflicts here such as we’re there 2 or three Kings or did the arrive from Persia or India? I found this chapter long and wordy and maybe a little speculative for this reader. The wise men story comes from the gospel of Matthew. 

Chapter 7 is the donkey’s tale.

Lastly is the epilogue.

Between each chapter the author includes Interludes as an opportunity to pause and make a connection with the author to gain an understanding as to why he wrote that account in such varying points of view. 

Readers of any background will be intrigued by this beautiful reimagining of the Christmas tale.

Some of his interpretations were a bit out there, but overall it was an interesting mix of story, analyzing, and asking the reader to reflect and think for themselves.

I know this is not a book for everyone, but I hope you can enjoy this sweet story with thoughts of finding God, light, hope, joy and self reflection inside yourself and then look for  Him in the outside world, we encounter each day, 

Thank you St. Martin’s Press, ,the publisher, and Netgally  for my free review copy, all opinions are my own!
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This book gets three stars for originality and creativity but loses two because of the way it veers away from Scripture and has almost an eastern religion, meditative addition to the real Christmas story. The main characters are Mary and Joseph, of course, and their story is told with emphasis on the fact that they were Jewish. The other characters include shepherds, an ox and a donkey. The story of the shepherds threw me some because of the way the Christ child was announced, almost like a visit from aliens rather than the Heavenly Host. The ox and donkey point of view was very creative but also off-putting since it seemed almost sacrilegious to allow them to be the ones in the story who had the most insight. All in all, this is not a book that I would pick up for pleasure because it is too far “out there.” I have no idea how to describe where the “out there” is because I never really figured out the author’s beliefs even when he intruded into the Christmas story in a section he entitled the “Interlude.” The fact that the Scriptures are loosely interpreted instead of left to stand on their own was not a plus for me. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
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I love the story of the First Christmas and could read it many times. I love picturing the birth of Jesus, the smell of the barn, and the lowing of the cattle--just to name a few aspects. I liked what the author did with the book. He started at the beginning, there was no room at the Inn for Mary and Joseph, and then broke it down into chapters. In between each chapter, he described what various people and animals were thinking in that scene and broke it down theologically, in his view. The book was overdone on theology from my view but I loved the rest of it. Thank you to NetGalley for the free e-book ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I read almost 1/4 of the story. It just wasn't for me. It's a unique idea and I was looking forward to reading the different perspectives, just didn't hold my interest. I'm sure others will enjoy it.
Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for the opportunity.
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The book presents interesting points of view of the First Christmas.  I found this to be well written and intriguing.  The remarks between the different points of view were a bit jarring taking me out of the story.  I found some of the remarks very helpful, but it made it hard to get back to the rest of the story.  Overall, I thought it was a good book and am happy that I read it.  I received an advance copy from NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving a review.
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Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Essentials for this free copy in exchange for my honest review.

This was a 5-star read in my opinion, taking a story told time and time again and making it new.

This story is nothing new; we’ve all heard it before. What the author does here though is what is new and different. The imagery that his writing projects into the readers mind is artistic. The first quote that caught me was, “…she uttered a bray that was like a pump gone dry.” Then in the Notes and References the reader learns that it was ‘pilfered’ from Elizabeth Bishop. Fine. But it paints the sound in the readers mind. Another, the flies reconnoitering on the wall of the ox’s stall. That is an image that is not common to the Christmas story.

Several times I’ve heard preachers ponder what Mary and Joseph may have thought upon their visits from the angel. We all know how our mind can race when someone is bringing uncertain news. We can imagine different outcomes than what is being told to us. Likewise, we can relate to the racing of Maryam’s and Yosef’s mind but the author’s view is so thorough that the reader may think, ‘Yeah, and what about that?’ 

I enjoyed the Interludes as an opportunity to pause and make a connection with the author. It was like having an interview with the author and seeing why he wrote that section. “But when we pay closer attention, we become aware of the precise nature of Joseph’s dilemma and of his triumph.” This was the theme of the book for me, becoming more aware of Mary and Joseph’s dilemma and victory.

Thank you!
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I found this book to seem very disjointed in the telling of the Christnas story. The chapters from the viewpoint of the different characters was interesting and pointed out how each might have felt, especially Mary and Jiseph.  I found the interludes to be distracting and at times beyond my beliefs as a Christian. Overall I found the book boring and read probably 75 percent before giving up and not finishing it. Not what I expected from the description. 
I do thank St. Martin's Press and Netgaliey for the opportunity to review this book.
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"First Christmas" by Stephen Mitchell is a portrayal of the birth of Christ as told by the players present. We open with the Innkeeper and see how he finds it in his heart to help Mary and Joseph. This is followed by the thoughts of a very Zen-like ox bearing witness to the event. The shepherds arrive next and do not really add much, other than reflecting a public perception of what a messiah would be good for. Most interesting were the accounts of Mary and Joseph and how they each struggled with the mystery and consequences of the immaculate conception. This would be the most dramatic issue to deal with in this part of the baby Jesus era. Then the book veered off into a philosophical search for wisdom by the wise men. Finally, we are treated to the musings of a hipster donkey who is the only one able to see the crowds of visiting angels.

I am not sure who this book is for...a collection of whimsical improvisations. The chapters seemed uneven, shifting from the very real problems of dealing with virgin birth to the fairy tale tunes of the animals.

I do give it 3 stars for its originality and holy family sections. If you see any more stars it may be due to divine intervention.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I read The First Christmas, by Stephen Mitchell, at the request of St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review. I am happy to assign it 4 stars.  Written primarily for Jews and Muslims, it is respectful to Christians. It follows Mary and Joseph through learning Mary is pregnant to the Nativity scene, and visitors.

Complete with talking animals and a quite lengthy narrative on the wise men, the author takes the reader from paint A to point B. He asks readers to expand their imaginations and temporarily suspend their disbelief. He includes what he calls "interludes" after each character is introduced, to explain his thinking on the topic.

I found nothing that would offend or upset Christians, unless there are a few of us who simply cannot stand it that he says there were only two wise men instead of three. To this Christian, that doesn’t matter at all.

My review is on HubPages. They will not allow anything published on that platform to be shared anywhere else, so here is the link to my review:

#TheFirstChristmas #StephenMitchell #StMartinsPress #NetGalley #TheNativityStory #ChristIsBorn #JesusBirth #MaryAndJoseph #MaryamAndYosef #EleazarBarShimon
#YehudaBarGamalielHaLevi #Shepherds #Angels #Gabriel #TendingTheirFlocksByNight #LaidInAManger #BornInAStable #Christmas #TheHolyBirth #TheVirginMary #TheThreeWiseMen
#Aramaic #Hebrew
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This was a different take on the Nativity story and I am so glad that I had the chance to read this book. I never thought about what all these other supporting characters would have felt/thought about the whole situation of the virgin Mary's birth. 

I love how there were the Interludes that were Stephen Mitchell talking to us as well in this book. Scripture references to back up what he was saying and his personal take on things. These accounts from the supporting characters made you sit back and think about what others maybe thought about everything that was going on in their time frame as well. 

This was a great read and I hope that others give this book a chance because you just might realize that things were not as easy as we might think for Mary and Joseph back then. Being the virgin birth was unheard of then, and still is today, but you know that others talked about them and judged them. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed this book for my unbiased opinion. Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for an advanced copy of this book. So glad I got to read it!
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A totally different way to look at the night before Christmas. It is seen through different sets of eyes.  How different animals and people might have reacted to the night Jesus was born.
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An interesting take on the Nativity story. Not sure that I'd agree with what was written but it was well written.
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An enchanting interpretation of the nativity story.  Unusual, beautiful and artistic.  The heart of it is still the birth of Christ but the telling of it is magical.
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The description of this book sounded like it would be an interesting read of a twist to the traditional Christmas story told from the personal viewpoint of people and animals in the traditional Christmas story.

I had a very hard time reading this book, and actually did not finish it as I found it too offensive to my thoughts and beliefs as a Christian and my thoughts toward the Christmas story.  Everything today seems to be directed to not offend the beliefs of anyone, so the author tried to appeal to all religions and beliefs in his writing which to me, made many of the ideas expressed just too outlandish.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Essentials and NetGalley.  The opinions expressed are my own.
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Book was sent to me, I enjoy religious fiction - especially on Christmas, so eager to read ARC.

A Story of New Beginnings
With a focus on Mary and Joseph
Birth of Jesus uplifts all from the lowly to high officers.  
"If Christ's birth doesn't happen in me,
how can it help me?"
All is built on this.
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"The First Christmas" by Stephen Mitchell
A Good Read ! !
An interesting and enjoyable interlude in an alternate and expanded vision (yes, I meant vision not version) of the Nativity story.  Are you brave enough to read this offering?  I do hope so. Happy Reading ! !
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