The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier. Illustrated by Francisco Ordaz, (Concorida, 1998), 32 pages. Historian Paul Maier opens The Very First Christmas with the observation, "Children’s Christmas books are often long on fancy but short on fact." Rather than focusing on winter wonderlands or "Ebenezer Scrooges who are transformed by the spirit of Christmas," Maier seeks to "return the Christmas focus where it belongs"--on the biblical and historical account of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.
Maier sets his story in the rural American West, where a thoughtful mother reads the Christmas story from Luke 2 to her inquisitive son, Christopher. The book records Christopher's questions about the events surrounding Jesus' birth along with his mother's careful answers. Their dialogue results in a clear, historically accurate, and theologically orthodox explanation of Luke's Christmas story for children ages 5 to 10.
Through the precocious Christopher, Maier anticipates the very real questions that children ask when unpacking a biblical text: "Is the month of August named after Caesar Augustus?" "Was Jesus born in the morning or the afternoon? On December 25th? In the year zero?" " "How could Mary have a baby if she and Joseph weren't married?" Our five-year old daughter really enjoyed this one, and she highly recommends it.