Tuesday, December 2, 2014

If He Had Not Come

A young boy named Bobby goes to bed on Christmas Eve thinking about the Bible passage (John 15) his father just read to him. Five words, spoken by Jesus, stick in the boy's mind: "If I had not come..." The boy drifts off to sleep, excited for Christmas morning. But when he wakes up, he's in a world where Jesus never came to earth. This is the premise for If He Had Not Come, originally written by Nan F. Weeks in the 1930s and updated by David Nicholson for this new book.

When Bobby hears his father call him in the morning, he dresses eagerly, expecting an exciting morning of opening Christmas gifts. But when he gets downstairs, there is no Christmas tree. There are no gifts. In fact, there's nothing at all that looks like Christmas. Shocked, Bobby runs outside and to the nearest business - a factory. Bobby asks a man he sees there why they are working on Christmas. The man gruffly says he doesn't know what the boy is talking about. As Bobby hurries about town, he sees all the other businesses are open, too. No one knows what Christmas is, even when Bobby explains it's a celebration of Jesus birth.

Confused, Bobby decides to go to church...but when he gets to his church's location, there's nothing but an empty lot - and a sign reading "If I had not come." Bobby wants to celebrate Christmas, even if no one else is going to, so he decides to head for the Children's Home. His class has gathered gifts for the children there; he will go watch them open their presents. But when he arrives at the location, there is nothing there but a gate with the words "If I had no come" on it.

Bobby now sees an elderly man who is clearly ill. Bobby takes his hand and tries to lead him to the hospital. But where the hospital should be, there is nothing but a busy intersection with a sign that reads "If I had not come." So Bobby runs to the homeless shelter, sure the people there can help the elderly man. But instead of the shelter, he finds a sign that reads "If I had not come," along with several gruff men gambling, with no interest in helping the elderly or sick. "I'll run home! Dad and Mother will know what to do for my sick friend!" Bobby says.

When he runs into his house, Bobby sees the Bible his Dad read from the night before. He picks it up, but once he gets past the Old Testament, the remaining pages of the Bible are blank, save for the words "If I had not come."

Bobby sits down, "stunned at the thought of a world without Jesus. 'No Christmas, no churches...no places to help people who are sick, homeless, or in need...'"

He suddenly hears the sound of bells - and Bobby jumps up out of bed. He's been dreaming! Or was it more than just a dream? he wonders. He kneels beside his bed and prays: "Lord Jesus, I'm so glad You did come. You are the very best Christmas present anyone can have. I'll show you my thanks by doing everything I can to please You today and every day. Help me to be the kind of boy You want me to be."

The book ends with lots of questions and ideas to explore the premise behind the book in Sunday school classes or at home.

What I Like: Just about everything! This book is an excellent way to explore the importance of Jesus' time on earth, and is sure to lead to many important discussions with your children. Nicholson's writing is clear and kid-friendly, and Charles Jaskiewicz' illustrations are brilliant; when Bobby is awake, the illustrations are full of rich color and light, but when Bobby dreams about a world without Jesus' birth, the illustrations are dim and gray.

What I Dislike: My only criticism of the book is really more a criticism of the Church. When this story was originally written in the 1930s, it made more sense. Hospitals were mostly run by religious organizations. Orphanages, too. But today, most hospitals are secular and for profit and organizations for orphaned children are run by the state, not Christians. Nonetheless, this fact can lead to a little research about how these important organizations were once run by Christians and why they no longer are - and may lead to thought, prayer, and action that compels your family to be more active in helping the needy.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: I'd say about 4 - 12.

Publishing Info: Westbow Press, 2014; ISBN B00JJOKDPU; hardback, 36 pgs., $18.95

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