“Peace on Earth” by Mary Engelbreit is a collection of Christmas stories, poems, songs and, of course, Engelbreit’s own illustrations. The illustrations are beautiful, and are, by far, the most impressive part of the book. The book also includes a strong collection of Christmas songs and Bible stories. The first day we got the book we sang some of the songs together as a family much to the joy of our three year old daughter.
The overriding theme of the collection can be found in the title of the book: Peace on Earth. This is a wonderfully fitting theme for a Christmas collection for Jesus did come to bring “peace on earth.”
The problem, however, is how this collection implies that Jesus brought that peace on earth. For Engelbreit it appears as though Jesus brought peace by bringing the democratic ideals of democracy, equality, servanthood, and any other number of clearly Western concepts. Now, I’m a big fan of all those things mentioned but, at best, they are an implication of Christmas, not its “true meaning.”
This is most illustrated in the story “Another Boy: The Story of the Birth at Bethlehem” which includes the following passage: “What laughter would have rung through Rome if someone had pointed to that name [Jesus] and said, ‘There is the beginning of the end of your empire and of all empires everywhere.’ Yet it would have been true. Democracy began, and thrones began to totter when He said: ‘You are sons of God.’ For if all men are sons of God, then all are brothers, and the poorest are entitled to equal rights and privileges with the King.” The story then shifts from Jesus to children in general saying, “Nothing is so powerful or so perfect that it cannot be transformed by the miracle of another girl. Or another boy.”
Now, I’m as a big a fan of democracy and equality under law as the next guy but Jesus didn’t start the end of all empires by replacing one kind of government (Rome) with another (Democracy). He brings an end to all kingdoms because He himself holds all power and authority. He is a King, but his kingdom is not of this world. I like democracy, but democracy isn’t the meaning of Christmas.
The other disconcerting thing about this story is how easily the author transitions from the miracle of Jesus to the miracle of children. Again, are children a miracle? Yes. Are they the same kind of miracle as Jesus? No, not even close. This sentiment is echoed again in the poem “Let There be Peace on Earth” which has the lines “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Again, we should all be peacemakers but, peace begins with Jesus and is completed in Him. We receive and extend that peace.
Recommendation: The art is beautiful. Most of the selections are great. But, be wary of the theme of the book. I’m on board with (most) of the ideals presented but they’re not the central message of Christmas.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255