Friday, December 3, 2010

A Birthday Party for Jesus

Who knew that the story of the birth of Jesus could be told so simply yet so completely? In The Child in the Manger, Liesbet Slegers distills the events related in the Gospel of Luke to their barest elements. Mary and Joseph are on a journey: “They knocked on many doors. But nobody would take them in.” They are grateful to find a stable “because Mary wanted to lie down. She felt that her child would be born soon.” Slegers’s version is an example of superb storytelling because she never loses sight of her audience.

In a recent interview, Liesbet Slegers talked about her approach to The Child in the Manger, and she said that she took her story into the schools as she was working on it (from the link to the interview, you may also read the book throughout the month of December online free). She said she read it over and over again to “test my ‘book to be,’ ” to make sure it was connecting with her audience. Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon, did the same thing. She went into New York City classrooms and tried out her stories with the students.

Slegers captures the sense of wonder at the birth of Jesus, with the angel, the shepherds, and the three kings all playing their parts in the story. And then she brings that sense of wonder into a context that’s familiar to children. The idea of Christmas as a birthday party for Jesus, at which we all get presents, is one that nearly every child can comprehend—and celebrate!

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