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The Liberating Birth of Jesus: A Birth Story Able to Reverse Our Planet’s Perils

 
What? The birth of Jesus as told in the gospels is not the same story as the “Christmas story” in holiday celebrations? No, and this book explains why. They exist in two different worldviews. The gospels thrive in the creation worldview, but the Christmas story was born in empire’s worldview.

Understanding the distinction is more important than ever given that we have only until 2030 to make major changes in how we live on our planet. That’s the year which scientists tell us is our deadline to keep earth’s temperature from heating up more than 1.5° Centigrade. Anything greater will bring havoc far beyond what we’re already experiencing and end life for many people and species.

But just how does the birth of Jesus relate to this daunting challenge? The conventional “Christmas story,” though many of its traditions are dear to us, is too anemic to effect changes we must make in the ecological and political realms. In fact, traditional Christmas will only add to overloading our planet’s capacities. But the birth story in the gospels explodes with powers of deep change. There we read about radical genealogy, dreams that carry divine messages for major life decisions, cosmology that dwarfs the forces of history and superpowers, an economics of redistribution, and a somewhat wild Spirit that breaks out of the ways of temples, of religion that justifies injustice and imperialism, and of social habits accepted as normal. The birth story powers generate the nonviolent revolution of a new creation.

Because Matthew and Luke were writing 90 years after the birth in Bethlehem, they’d seen how the followers of the Way of Jesus shaped communities that put the new creation into action. Not only had they seen these communities, they were part of them. People there understood themselves to be “called out” (ekklesia in Greek, from which the word “church” derives) of superpowers, of temple religion, and of any social norms in which it was okay for men to repress women, mistreat slaves, or accumulate wealth.

Out of these experiences of the “called out” followers of the Way of Jesus, Matthew and Luke wrote gospels which beg us to use words like “transforming,” “radical,” and “revolutionary.” That’s why we cannot settle for the “Christmas story.” Our planet is in peril! We need the birth story that connects us to the new creation Matthew and Luke tell us about.

Read this book! Discuss it! Live it! Doing so is more urgent than getting something for everyone under the tree.
 
Review by Dr. Rick Herrick

This encounter with the divine presence is critically important for Van Ham because he has an agenda with this book. He has a passionate concern for the threat of climate change and the damage to the world that results from an egocentric perspective focused on greed, power, economic gain, and consumption. He believes the only hope for mankind to survive the global crisis posed by climate change is to acquire a new way of thinking, a way of thinking defined by the presence of God living within us, a way of thinking made possible by the incarnation of Christ in all humans. One way to acquire this higher level of consciousness is to learn to read the New Testament with new eyes. This book shows you how to do that. It is an important book. ~ Dr. Rick Herrick (Click here to read full review).
 
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Born to a Dutch-English, tenant-farming family in Iowa, Lee Van Ham went on to pastor congregations in Chicago and Lincoln, NE, for 32 years before switching to work explicitly on the interplay between justice, ecology, economics, and spirituality. In 1999, Van Ham joined others in forming Jubilee Economics, a nonprofit focused in OneEarth living. He and his spouse, Juanita, were part of the intentional community, Peaceweavings, in Chicago, before relocating to San Diego in 2002. They have grown children and five grandchildren. He has written workbook collections of group processes for small groups, magazine articles, and newspaper columns. He blogs regularly at theoneearthproject.com. His writing is motivated by his deep desire to be part of the conversations and actions that are moving civilization from empire to a living community with all of Creation.

Review & Commentary