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Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 21, 2014
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Q&A with with Scott Hahn
Q.In the 20+ years that you’ve been writing books, this is the first one that focuses entirely on the Christmas story. What inspired you to write about this topic? Why now?
A. Christmas arrives with a powerful effect on small children and on older folks. In between childhood and grandparenthood, we can temporarily lose our capacity for wonder. But maybe the second wave is hitting me now, as I'm experiencing Christmas with my grandchildren as they grow. Going back to the story in recent years, I've discovered complexities, convergences, and moments of stunning beauty that I had not appreciated before. I'm not the first one to notice these things. In fact, I'm learning from the early Fathers and the most recent scholars. But I can't help but want to share them with everyoneeveryone who's celebrating Christmas.
Q. In Joy to the World, you write, "The events of Christmas challenge us, just as they challenged the original charactersthe familywhose history they tell." What do you see as the biggest challenge of Christmas?
A. To welcome Jesus. That's always the challenge. We think our lives are full, and we don't really trust him to come in and mess with our plans. Even after all these thousands of years, we hang a "no vacancy" sign at the inn. We've built a culture on the illusion of control, and Christ is a threat to that illusion. Maybe that's why he came as a little baby. In my own experience, however, it's been my babiesmy childrenwho taught me what little control I really have. If we're open to life, if we're open to Christ, we come to trust God's providential plan. That's a lesson of the Christmas story. Just ask Zechariah. Just ask Joseph.
Stepping out in trust is scary, and the Christmas story confirms that at every turn. But what's the alternative? To cling to the illusion of control just because it's our familiar illusion? Herod is the Christmas character most like our modern-day control freaks; and his life is completely out of control. Joseph, on the other hand, entrusts himself to the angels and goes from one trial to another. Yet today we can see Joseph's life as heroic and true, and Herod's as just plain crazy.
Q. How did you come up with the title Joy to the World?
A. I've been thinking a lot about joyever since Pope Benedict declared the Year of Saint Paul. I remember I was in Jerusalem that summer and reading the Letter to the Philippians, and I was overwhelmed by his exhortation to joy. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4). Go read that letter and count the number of times you see the words "joy" and "rejoice." Well, Paul's words took hold of me and wouldn't let go. Now we have a pope, our beloved Pope Francis, who speaks to us of the "Joy of the Gospel." Joy is a quality that belongs to Christmas. We sing it in our Christmas carols because in Christmas we celebrate the reason for Paul's rejoicing: the advent of the Messiah, the salvation of the whole world. We have good reasons to celebrate. We have good reasons for our joy.
Q. What is your favorite part of the Christmas story?
A. It depends on the day you ask me. Today I'm caught up in thinking about the angels, and how different they appear after the advent of our savior. In the Old Testament, they are frightening and intimidating to human beings. Think of the Prophet Daniel, who falls on his face in dumbstruck fear. In the Christmas story, however, they appear as guides and companions. Jesus changes everything in the order of the universe. He changes the way heaven relates to earth and the way people relate to angels. I marvel as I consider what else has been changed so profoundlywhat else have I missed?
About the Author
DR. SCOTT W. HAHN holds the Fr. Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he has taught since 1990, and is the Founder and President of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. From 2005 to 2011, he was the Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Dr. Hahn is also the bestselling author of numerous books including The Lamb's Supper, Reasons to Believe, and Signs of Life. He lives in Steubenville, Ohio.
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Dr. Hahn talks about the differences between St. Matthew and St. Luke and the way they presented the details in their respective Gospels. He talks about genealogies and the key figures listed. He discusses Herod and the killing of the Holy Innocents. There's of course a chapter on Mary, and to my surprise even St. Joseph gets his own chapter. Much appreciated and deserved! There were shepherds and magi, and even focus on the star that led the Magi. He explains that St. John Chrysostom believed that it was actually an angel and not a star. There's even a chapter that talks about all the journeys the Holy Family went on, such as the flight into Egypt.
However, my favorite chapter was the one on the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. I admit that I already knew most of the theology Dr. Hahn explained in this chapter, but I was thrilled that he took the time to explain it and tie it into the Christmas story. One interesting bit of theology is how Jesus' circumcision was foreshadowing to His crucifixion. My favorite mind-blowing theological point that Dr. Hahn made dealt with the lack of a ransom offered for Jesus THE firstborn son. Since no ransom was paid, Jesus belonged to God and was in service to God. This makes the troubling passage of twelve year old Jesus being found in the Temple (Luke 2:48-49), less troubling. Of course he was in His Father's house! That's where He belonged!
Christmas came early this year with the October release of Dr. Hahn's book Joy to the World. If you want to know why Christ's coming mattered then and still matters today, you need this book. If you are someone who simply likes to keep the focus on Christ during Christmas, you'll want this book. Whether it is a treat for you or a gift for someone else, you will not be disappointed. It is perfect to read anytime of the year, not just Advent and Christmas.