November 11, 2019Year of the Artist
As I showed my young son the animated film of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas last December — a childhood favorite of mine featuring the splendid narration of Boris Karloff — I came to the disturbing realization that our most memorable Christmas poetry in the English language is highly secular.
I grew up loving to recite A Visit from Saint Nicholas (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) and watching all the Christmas specials from Charlie Brown to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to Frosty the Snowman. But none of these has more than a tenuous relationship with the real story of Christmas and all have contributed to the commercialization of this quintessentially Christian holiday that many of us lament.
I struggled in vain to think of just one beautiful poem that captured the mystery of the Nativity. Isn’t there one classic ode, one rhythmic sonnet, even one jaunty limerick that pays homage to Our Lord’s birth in a charming and memorable way?
Somewhat dismayed to find that there really isn’t, I set myself to applying my modest skills to the task, confident that if God wanted such a thing of me, He would provide the grace and inspiration. If not, there was no harm trying.
This is the genesis of First Christmas, a humble but sincere effort to reclaim the feast, put Christ back in Christmas, and make the holiday a holy day once again.
What I was not expecting was how much the poem would gain from the winsome illustrations of master draftsman Frank Fraser. The story comes that much more alive and will emblazon itself on the imagination of children and adults alike thanks to Frank’s colorful contemplation of the Christmas mystery.
Speaking for both of us, our one wish is that First Christmas will put the focus back on Jesus and inflame hearts with the unspeakable beauty of his birth.
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Author Thomas Williams is an American theologian and author living and teaching in Rome. He can be reached at [email protected].
Artist Frank Fraser is an award-winning artist, designer, and illustrator who is now dedicated to writing and illustrating children’s books that lift children’s hearts and minds to heaven.