What is the significance of Jesus' genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew? Why do we put and ox and ass at our créches? Why did angels appear to the shepherds? In No Trace of Christmas? Christoph Dohmen explains why the answers to these and other questions regarding our understanding of Christmas are to be found not in the New but in the Old Testament.
For the most part Christians regard the Old (or First) Testament as pre-history, a preparation for, or a promise of the New Testament and its proclamation of Christ. This is especially true during Advent, when the Christian liturgy directs our attention to the promise and its fulfillment. Yet Advent's status as the beginning of the Church yearas a turning pointcalls us to look back in order to move forward. We read intensively from Old Testament prophecy texts with a special view toward their future meaning. Hence, Advent is the time of the year when Christians are reminded that they have one sacred Scripture in two parts, one Bible composed of the Old and New Testaments.
Since it was with the aid of the Old Testament that the early Church interpreted the event at Bethlehem, many of the images and biblical texts associated with Christmas can only be understood by following their Old Testament roots. Like the Magi who followed the star, we can, with Dohmen's help, follow in the liturgy of Advent and Christmas the traces that lead us into the Old Testament. Following those traces, we can arrive at a Christmas that appears to us in a new light, that of the Old Testament.
Chapters are "In Search of Traces," "It All Began Before Christmas," "Addressed and Claimed," "A Gift from Heaven," "When Shepherds Become Prophets," "You Shall Make No Crib for Yourself!" "Joseph, What Are You Dreaming?" "A New Age Is Beginning," "In Order That Might Be Fulfilled . . . ," "In Our Midst," "Yad Vashem," "You, Bethlehem . . . ," and "Following the Trace."
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This work shines Advent light on the traditions and images of ancient Israel. We realize that we cannot understand the Christ of Christmas unless we know the God of Israel. For indeed, in Jesus, God became a Jew. The author follows the trail of the Christmas spirit back to what may seem its unlikely sourcethe Hebrew Scriptures. We can appreciate the blessings of Christmas when we understand the Advent promises contained in the world of the Old Testament.
This is a gem, with fresh insights on every page for all believers. Especially if you are a pastor or are involved in adult ministry, please take a look at Dohmen's book and consider making use of it for Advent in the coming year.
. . . not only gives a way to reclaim Advent, it draws us into the riches of biblical typology. . . . An excellent resource for preachers, liturgists, and those of us who simply pray in our pews!
The slimness of this book belies the wealth of material for careful reflection that one finds within its covers. . . . It is a book that one can recommend to liturgists, homilists, and teachers in their preparation for and celebration of Advent and Christmas. It is a work that will also speak in a special way to all who share an abiding concern for Jewish-Christian relations. In helping us to see the richness of both testamentsthe New hidden in the Old and the Old manifest in the NewChristoph Dohmen has done no small service indeed.
Christoph Dohmen is professor of Old Testament Exegesis at the University of Osnabrück.