The Story of Christmas

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The Story of Christmas
Jane Ray
Puffin, 1998

Lately my 3-year-old daughter and I have been reading everything our library has to offer by Jane Ray.  The Dollhouse Fairy and The Apple Pip Princess are more than delightful (they’re both on her current wish list) and several others that I haven’t seen yet look equally wonderful.  Her stories are incredibly captivating, and – lucky us! – she has also penned several theological books.  Sarah reviewed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden back in 2011, and today I want to share her version of the nativity story with you.

When you’re talking about Jane Ray, it’s hard to know whether to gush first about her storytelling or her artwork.  The Story of Christmas exclusively uses Scripture (KJV) as its text, though, so I’m afraid she doesn’t get the amazing storytelling credit for this one.  The artwork, however, is simply marvelous.  There’s a luminous quality about the images that somehow make this book (and all of her books, really) seem extra special.  There is so much to look at – and yet nothing detracts from the central storyline of the Messiah’s humble birth.  There is also a beautiful juxtaposition of holy and ordinary in many of the scenes.  Mary, for instance, is clearly someone special, but in nearly every scene after Jesus’ birth she is shown breastfeeding.  This depiction is particularly poignant for me as a nursing mama, and I often find myself wondering at the mystery of God incarnate: God was once a baby who needed his mother’s milk as often as my son needs mine.  Amazing.

One of the things I like best about this particular nativity book is that the story doesn’t stop at the birth of Jesus.  Jane Ray uses selected passages from the books of Matthew and Luke, starts at the Annunciation, and follows the biblical account all the way until Mary, Joseph, and Jesus return to Nazareth after their flight to Egypt.  Sometimes nativity stories have an almost fairy-tale like quality to them, but this book makes it clear that the story of Christ’s birth doesn’t start or stop with a baby in a manger.

The Story of Christmas may very well be my very favorite nativity picture book to date, and I hope you’ll be able to track down a copy to share with your family.  Sadly, it’s out of print and used copies aren’t cheap, so it might be a good one to hunt down at the library.  While you’re there, pick up some of Jane Ray’s other books and you’ll take home a treasure trove!

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