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The Christmas Quest author Q&A

Andy Whisenant | Sep 23rd

What sets this book apart from other Christmas books?

Though we celebrate any account that draws a child to the earthly launch of the salvation narrative, I felt there was room for an account that didn’t add or take away from what was in the biblical text. The Christmas Quest is a story that captures the inherent wonder of a sufficiently magnificent phenomenon, while at the same time staying true to the biblical text and historical realities in a way that doesn’t drain the account of its vigor in the pursuit of accuracy.

Using a first-person perspective, instead of simply hearing a restatement of events, readers are invited into the likely thoughts and emotions of the journeyers as they navigate the highs and lows of their epic quest.

I’m hopeful that The Christmas Quest will delight audiences through its intentional blend of accuracy and adventure!

What specific need does this book meet?

The Christmas Quest lays the groundwork for young, future expositors by honouring the details of the biblical text.  By doing so, this book shows that there is so much wonder and magnificence inherent in the details of the account that nothing needs to be added to God’s story for it to capture our imaginations and change our hearts!

As a result, this book also corrects a few misconceptions often perpetuated in children’s literature about the wise men’s participation in the account. Namely: 

The star was not a mobile object, moving ahead of the wise men. (At least, not until the final leg of their journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.) If it was, they likely would have gone straight to Bethlehem instead of Jerusalem, they wouldn’t have had to ask around and confer with the priests and scribes to discern the location of the new king, and they wouldn’t have rejoiced exuberantly at seeing the star again on their way to Bethlehem if it had been visible for the duration of the trip.

There were likely literary and cultural influences that directed the wise men to Jerusalem.  This direction likely came from the Hebrew literature, or the young scholars (or both!) that were carried off with the temple treasures to Babylon – most specifically by the influence of Daniel through his role as ruler over Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar and master of the wise men in the Babylonian, and later, Persian Courts where other culture’s deities and religious practices were the subject of discussion and, in some cases, reverence. (2 Chronicles 36:18, Daniel 1:1-7, 2:48, 6:2-3, 6:25-28).

Though the wise men in Matthew’s account didn’t appear to have the writings of the prophet Micah at the time, directing them specifically to Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), it’s likely they would have been aware of the reference in the book of Numbers from the Hebrew Torah, directing them to the capital city of Israel. This reference states, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel…” (Numbers 24:17)

Now, just to be sure, in stating these likely cultural and literary influences used by God, this of course, does not rule out any divine and supernatural guidance directly from God. However, it’s worth pointing out that God, in his sovereignty, often uses natural phenomena and ordinary characters to produce supernatural and extraordinary results!

Three treasure-laden, nonmilitary intellectuals would not have undertaken the long-distance journey alone. Supplied with the necessary wealth for a multi-month journey (one way!) as well as gifts of significant value, the wise men could not have safely or successfully made the trip from Persia to Jerusalem without a well-supplied and well-protected entourage. Instead of showing the wise men traveling alone through barren wilderness and deserts, like camel-riding cowboys, The Christmas Quest depicts a more historically likely arrangement including a larger, well-appointed caravan accompanying them.

The wise men did not visit the night Christ was born. Through key phrases in the narrative, it is clear that the wise men arrived some time after the birth of Christ. (“…after Jesus was born…”, “…ascertained from them what time the star had appeared…”, “going into the house, they saw the child (paidion vs. brephos)…”, “…killed all the male children… two years old and under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”) Though we can’t deduce any particular reason for God’s timing in this, taking too much creative licence in our biblical details can compromise a child’s future confidence in the inerrancy of scripture. If a young person discovers that their childhood beliefs are beset by inaccuracies, they could suffer embarrassment and subsequently question the core doctrines they have been taught.  Honouring the details of the text by respecting the interpretive process, even in children’s literature, can pay rich dividends in the future doctrinal confidence of our young people!

What is the main takeaway you want kids to get from this book?

Though Jesus Christ came first to the nation of Israel, he is the Saviour for all the nations, as promised in the beginning of the Old Testament! We see this promise fulfilled in living colour through the drawing of these foreign wise men using a special sign that they could understand and respond to, regardless of how far away they were in physical distance or spiritual degrees. (Genesis 12:3, Titus 2:11)

The main take-away for readers is that it doesn’t matter how far away someone is from Jesus – He can draw them in a unique and personal way so that they can understand, respond and worship!

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