Monday, November 18, 2013

Book Review: The Innkeeper of Bethlehem - The Story of Santa Claus

The Innkeeper of Bethlehem – The Story of Santa Claus
By Scott Roloff
Publisher: Scott Roloff
Published: Sept. 28, 2013
ISBN: 0780986057304

Amazon Synopsis:

A Christmas book for children, families, and anyone who has ever wondered how Santa Claus came to be. This book will permit you and your family to enjoy Santa Claus and the other secular customs of Christmas within the Christian celebration of Jesus’s birth. For little children, Santa Claus becomes a real person delivering presents to them from Jesus. Each Christmas season, reading a chapter a night will become a holiday tradition for the entire family. 

The tale begins with Shai and Adi, the childless owners of an inn in Bethlehem. When Shai rents out their bedroom, they must sleep in the stable. During the night, Joseph and Mary arrive and Adi helps Mary through a difficult labor. They bond, and when an angel appears telling Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, Shai and Adi go with them and become Jesus’s uncle and aunt. 

The book tells of Jesus growing up with his friends Mary Magdalene and John, his ministry, and his death and resurrection. These vignettes teach the lessons of life and the Bible through Jesus’s experiences. 

The book concludes with Shai and Adi following the Lord’s Star to the North Pole, where angels have built a palace. Jesus wants Shai and Adi to raise the baby angels there until they reach adulthood. The baby angels, or elves as the grown angels derogatively refer to 

them, are a mischievous lot. Shai becomes known as Santa Claus when a baby angel mispronounces “Shai, Uncle of Jesus,” claus being the angelic word for uncle. 

Jesus also wants to give a present to each boy and girl on his birthday, Christmas Day, a tradition he began during his life when he gave presents to his family. As part of their training, once a baby angel sprouts wings he or she is assigned to watch children and make toys for them. On Christmas Eve, Santa flies the sleigh to heaven to present the new adult angels to God, and then flies around the world delivering Jesus’s presents to the children of the world. 

The book is a story within a story, told by a visiting uncle to a little girl and her nephew. Each night before bedtime beginning on December 6th, St. Nicholas’s Day, and continuing through Christmas Eve, the uncle tells part of the story. Instead of numbers, the chapters are titled by day. The book can be read as a normal book or a chapter each day, and it can be read to oneself or out loud to children. When read out loud, the chapter lengths vary between 10 and 15 minutes. 

Wherever you may live, and by whatever name that you may know him–Santa Claus, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Pere Noel or Sinter Klaas–you will never forget the true story of Santa Claus, as you read it every Christmas with your children, who will someday read it every Christmas with their children too.

Book Link:

My Thoughts:

This was an interesting story that attempts to bring together the traditional Christian Christmas story with the secular Christmas tradition of Santa Claus. As a story I think it would be interesting to children under the age of 10. As the book is novel-length, it would have to be read to them.

The book seemed to have two parts; part one was the story of Jesus, which unlike traditional Christmas stories of Jesus told his whole life story from birth to death to resurrection. I particularly liked that aspect of the book as it told all of Jesus’ story. The second part of the story was about what happened to the innkeeper after Jesus’ death.

This was definitely the fantasy part of the story where we have flying reindeer, baby angels and Jesus’ adopted uncle Shai living forever at the North Pole. I thought that this was a creative way to meld the two traditional stories together.

As this is a book that claims to fit into the genre of Christian literature, I must comment on the theology within the story. While it is true that the Bible does not tell us about specific events that happened in Jesus’ life as he was growing up, and therefore the author had to create some possible scenarios in order to tell the story, I do not think he followed theologically what we know about Jesus from the Bible on some important points.

An example of one of these points was when Uncle Aaron tells the story of when Jesus was a young boy and he disobeyed his mother and got burned by the contents of a hot pot. However, the Bible tells us that Jesus did not sin even as a child. “[Jesus] was tempted in the same ways we are tempted, but he never sinned.” (Heb. 4:15).

There were a few grammatical errors that were missed in the proofreading, but otherwise the writing was clear and concise. The dialogue flowed well and the transitions between scenes were smooth.

I think this was an imaginative novel and might make a fun read at Christmas. Readers should be cautioned however, that the theology presented in the book (the portion about Jesus, as obviously Santa is not in the Bible) may not align with their understanding of what is written in the Bible itself. I gave this book two stars.

Thank you to the author Scott Roloff who provided a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author:

Scott Roloff is the author of the Christmas book The Innkeeper of Bethlehem-The Story of Santa Claus, the novel Dreams at Dusk and Short Stories for the Hopeful and the Weary. He is a lawyer and a CPA, having received his accounting degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, his MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington, and his law degree from Southern Methodist University. Scott lives in Texas with his wife, Lynne, and his daughter, Kalie.

Contact Scott Roloff:    
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