"Big Four" Highlights


Cause of Our Joy

Scott Hahn’s Christmas primer is a gift to all

Reviewed by Mitch Finley, Catholic News Service 

In his slim volume published by Image Books, Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does), Scott Hahn reflects on the meaning of Christmas.

Masterfully leaving behind the academic theologian’s technical language and tendency to ask questions the average person is likely to find boring, Hahn speaks from his own experience and to the experience of the average person. At the same time, in everyday English he shares with readers insights from his many years of study – biblical and theological. A former Presbyterian minister, Hahn is professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and visiting professor in biblical theology at the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary.

Joy to the World explores the figures that populate the Gospels’ narratives about the birth and meaning of Jesus. These include, of course, Joseph, Mary, Herod, angels and the magi. But Hahn also draws on insights from the letters of St. Paul and the writings of St. John. He helps the reader see that the entire New Testament, not just the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, is about the meaning of Christmas. Hahn also draws upon and quotes the works of other Scripture scholars, theologians, preachers and popes including Popes Leo XIII, Benedict XVI, Francis, and even the Rev. Billy Graham.

Hahn reminds us of the original meanings of such common Christmas traditions as baking Christmas cookies (“because the Messiah has come to lead us into a land flowing with milk and honey”); decorating a Christmas tree (“to recover the tree of paradise, which was restored by the tree of Calvary”); and giving gifts (“because God has given himself to us as a gift, wrapping his divinity in true humanity.”)

Joy to the World is a fine and insightful book, one of the best to read if you want to deepen and enrich your understanding of Christmas, whose religious meaning can easily get lost in the dominant commercial culture.

Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops