Monday, January 01, 2007

Review: Christmas from the Backside by J. Ellsworth Kalas

Ok, this review is coming a bit late, but I only just finished this book, Christmas from the Backside, by J. Ellsworth Kalas, since I was reading it chapter by chapter throughout the Advent/Christmas season. You might most recognize Kalas' name as a frequent presenter in the Disciple Bible studies.

I decided this year to use these in my congregation at our small, informal Saturday evening worship services. We used a chapter each week as the theme of worship throughout Advent, and we just finished last night.

Overall, I really liked this as a resource, and can see how it would make a nice Bible study (study guide is included). The chapters are very short, and very straightforward, making it easy for anyone at any level to get involved. Theologically, Kalas seems pretty down the center - nothing "too conservative" or "too liberal," making it friendly for all kinds of pastors and congregations.

Kalas' angle is to look at the Christmas story from different than usual approaches, and so he talks about Christmas and Adam and Eve, Christmas and women's roles, Christmas and 'hotels' in Jesus' day, Christmas and Government, etc. I think Kalas does his best work in getting readers to imagine themselves as being part of the story. He really helped me flesh out some of the birth narrative texts, and gave some great colorful details about what things might have been like. I ended up at least drawing on his ideas for my Sunday sermons and even my Christmas Eve sermon this year.

Anyway, put it on your list of possibilities for next Christmas!
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