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Journey to the Manger: exploring the birth of Jesus – Paula Gooder

Paula Gooder

Journey to the manger: exploring the birth of Jesus

ISBN: 978 84825 794 8

Canterbury Press, 2015, £12.99

Paula Gooder, theologian and Church of England Reader, is a lively, engaging and inspiring speaker who writes as well as she speaks and justly deserves her status as a bestselling author. This book is part of a series, Biblical Explorations in which she shares her expertise as a biblical scholar for the benefit of preachers and teachers and any who ‘simply wish to get to know the Bible better’. The current volume explores the main New Testament texts around the birth of Jesus, from enlivening insights into the genealogies of Matthew and Luke – and the ‘genealogy’ of John as she calls the latter’s famous Prologue – through to Luke’s account of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

I particularly enjoyed her discussion of the ‘Gospel Canticles’ in Luke, the Benedictus, Magnificat and Nunc Dumittis, and her reflections on the characters who gave us these or who, like Anna and the Magi, witnessed in their own ways to the significance of the events of which they were part.  Paula Gooder does not shrink from the challenging questions that surround, for instance, the historicity of the birth narratives, but her concern is with faith and discipleship; as she rightly points out, we completely miss the point when we obsess over such questions without giving weight to the ‘mind-blowing, brain-boggling truth that the God who shaped the universe into existence was prepared to be born as a tiny, vulnerable baby’.

I used the eight chapters profitably to accompany my own personal journey through Advent and Christmas and towards Candlemas. Discussion quest-ions are provided so that it can also easily be used for a four-week Bible Study or Advent Group.

Desmond Alban SSF