Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Book Review: "The Purpose of Christmas" (Rick Warren)

TITLE: The Purpose of Christmas
AUTHOR:  Rick Warren
PUBLISHED:  NY: Howard Books, 2008.

This book's (The Purpose of Christmas) main selling point is not the message but the author. Written for a general audience, Warren writes in a way that the man in the street can understand. There is not much theological jargon and even Bible translations are carefully chosen, with preference given to modern English use. I sense that Warren tries hard to be clear on the one hand, and also faithful to the biblical text on the other hand.

About the Book
It can be read in one sitting. The purpose of Christmas is about celebration, about salvation and for reconciliation. Warren is aware of the joyous year end party mood, and begins a chapter of 'celebration' partly to dispel any accusations that Christianity is a kill-joy religion. He reverses the public perception by distinguishing between religion and grace, with religion as man's attempt to reach God, while grace is God's attempt to reach man. The second chapter points out the meaning of Christmas in terms of Christ's offer of salvation for all.  His simple 3 points is remarkably effective.
- "Jesus saves you from something;"
- "Jesus saves you for something;"
- "Jesus saves you by something." (44)

He then goes to list out 5 freedoms that arise out of this salvation. Pages 84-85 shows a beautiful picture of a multiracial portrait with the word PEACE. Somehow, I feel that this is Warren's main passion in the entire book. The way for world peace is again 3-fold. Firstly, one needs to have peace WITH God. Then one can be clothed with the peace OF God in order to share peace with all others. I love this progression as it is not only biblical, it is very practical as well.

Warren ends the book with a brief reference to his PEACE plan.
- Promote reconciliation
- Equip servant leaders
- Assist the poor
- Care for the sick
- Educate the next generation.

What I Like
1) Its simplicity and the many memorable acronymns.

FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real;

GRACE = God's Riches At Christ's Expense;

2) The 5 freedoms.
- Freedom from past guilt.
- Freedom from bitterness and resentment
- Freedom from expectations of others
- Freedom from addictive habits
- Freedom from fear of death.

3) Two Major reasons for conflicts
a) our natural self-centeredness;
b) expecting others to meet our expectations, especially those that only God can meet.

4) Multi-audience.
One does not need to be Christian to appreciate the book. Having said that, while the book can be a gentle introduction to the gospel. Christians too can benefit from the reminders through the simple messages.

My Comments
This little book is small in size but big in coverage.  Warren distills the message of Christmas into a delightful little book and makes the "Purpose of Christmas" into a gift that can be passed around from person to person. This book makes some references to his bestselling "Purpose Driven Life" but is no where close to its impact. Meant more as a simple Christmas message than a life-based treatise, we should adjust our expectations accordingly. There is not much to be critical about, since this book is for a general audience. Warren should be applauded for giving us a book for all to experience God's gift of celebration, of salvation and of reconciliation. The world needs it.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

You can read a shorter review on Amazon here.


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