This fall I read The Hunger Games series and I think that I would say the experience was brutal. I'm still processing the books, and I don't know if I'll be able to re-read them again in order to form a well thought out opinion, but I believe they will stick with me for some time.
One part that sticks with me the most, is the trick (or skill perhaps) that Katniss, the main character, uses when she becomes overwhelmed with what has happened in her life. When she isn't sure what or who to believe, she starts running simple facts through her mind: what her name is, who her parents are, how old she is, etc. This seems to calm her down, and it helps her to analyze more complicated thoughts where the facts might be more murky.
I have considered this idea as the girls and I have been reading several Christmastime stories over the last week and a half. One book that I think we ought to own, does a startlingly beautiful job of telling the facts of Jesus' birth while giving the story mystery and peace at the same time. The First Night by B.G. Hennessy and painted by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, might seem easy to get through during a first read. Each page has a simple sentence relaying a concept about the night Jesus was born. "At the edge of an old and crowded town there was a field." Or, "There was a mother, a father, and a baby. The baby lay on a bed made of hay." The pictures on the other side of page illuminate and help us process what is being read. Paired together, the story brings wonder and a sense of expectation to the reader.
Hadley asked me the other day, "Momma, when does Jesus not be a baby anymore?" We had been taking a look at several versions of the Christmas story earlier that morning, and I think Hadley was processing who Jesus is. Why is this baby important? Why are we reading about this baby's birth? What will this baby do? I don't know if it was so much that Hadley was being critical of Jesus' infant state, but that she is expectant now of what Jesus' role in her life is.
I think that's why Hadley talks more about Santa. Hadley knows what Santa's role in her life is. That's easy. And in the stories we have about Santa, she sees him doing stuff. I suppose it's easier for me to talk about Santa with her because there isn't a lot of confusion. Santa brings presents. Done. Jesus, though? He came to save us from our sins? That's a little more complicated. But with The First Night, the girls and I can read the story and begin to process the importance of what we believe about Jesus' birth.
Which brings me back to The Hunger Games. The stuff in those books is terrifying. I don't know if I have ever been so scared reading a book in my life. But some of the stuff in the Bible is quite scary, too. For me, at least, it's easy to get overwhelmed with the fear and confusion of what is going on. The same is true of the Christmas story. That's why I like Katniss' tactic of starting with something simple, working her way through that, and then moving on to the next thing. I think that is what we're doing when the girls and I are reading The First Night.
My favorite line in the book is, "And in that warm, dark stable his life began." It's the last line in the book. Mary is holding Jesus as he sleeps; his hand is curled up by his cheek, his mouth in an "o." I like that this is where the story ends. I like that this seemingly simple sentence - a baby's life beginning in a stable - leaves me wondering and expectant. It's not that I don't want to think about what's to come, or what brought all this to occur in the first place, but like Katniss in The Hunger Games, I think it's good to be at peace with the "simple" facts before moving on to the ones that get confusing and scary.