Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Christmas, 2007.
Borg and Crossan’s book is a careful look at the birth and infancy narratives in Matthew’s gospel and in Luke’s gospel. They do an exemplary job of looking at the particular concerns of the two communities—comparing and contrasting the differences between the two stories. The close reading is not particularly remarkable—it is eminently “doable” by people who have experience, but it’s done remarkably well. What is innovative is the argument the authors advance that the birth and infancy narratives offer the “gospel in miniature”: that these sections present the overall themes and concerns of Matthew and Luke, and that the content of the remainder of the gospels is contained in the almost-prologue-esque nature of the Christmas stories.
In some ways, it’s the last chapter which is most effective. Borg and Crossan tie together three themes that they look at throughout the book—joy, Advent, and “the meaning of Christmas past for Christmas present and Christmas future” (227). It’s an effective piece, and one I may well find myself rereading at the beginning of November next year as I get ready to preach in Advent and Christmas.