Some years ago, I walked into the First Presbyterian Church of Logan, West Virginia as a near-rabid fundamentalist. Everything was black and white and King James 1611. I was there to meet with the pastor to secure his help in a worker’s rights campaign. When I left, I had his signature on the petition, but in a rather unusual manner, I also had a book recommendation that has remained with me ever since. The pastor knew Kenneth Bailey and recommended to me his book on the parable of the Prodigal Son. Eventually I would get the book and my eyes would be opened to the world under the words on the page.
Included in that book, The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern (2005, IVP-Academic), was a short skit that really brought the academic statements Bailey had made in the book to a demonstrable light. This book, Open Hearts in Bethlehem: A Christmas Drama, rather a play with a longer introduction, reintroduces me to the artistic side of the academic Kenneth Bailey.
The book is rather small, but includes an introduction, notes on the cast and music, and of course, the play itself. It is a wonderful, short, drama about the birth of Jesus. Why another play? As the book description implies, there are often mistranslations and poor understandings that make it into our traditions. I am not saying this a bad thing, but to see a new understanding of the Christian story is to see it almost afresh. It helps to pinpoint those areas we simply miss because of our patina of tradition. Simply, it is a beautiful play from a wonderful academic, preserving the magic and majesty of Christianity while helping to clear away the cobwebs of previous plays.
I highly recommend this and hope you warmly receive it.