“If I had not come…” John 15:22
What would the world be like today in Jesus had not come? That’s the question posed by David Nicholson in the book If He Had Not Come, based on a classic Christmas story by Nan F. Weeks originally published in an anthology back in 1938. Nicholson first heard the story almost 30 years ago and enjoyed sharing it with his family year after year. Now he has brought it back into print so a new generation of children and their families can reflect on all that Jesus brought to the world as they celebrate his birth at Christmas time.
If He Had Not Come is the story of a boy named Bobby who falls asleep on Christmas Eve whispering the words of John 15:22, which he read with his dad before bedtime: “If I had not come…” Before he knows it he hears a voice calling him to wake up, and as he heads downstairs in anticipation of celebrating Christmas morning, he finds that his world has changed. There are no decorations and no presents to be seen. He runs outside to look around, and as he walks though town he notices that no stores are closed for the holiday and many things are missing: his church, the Children’s Home, the hospital, the homeless shelter… even the New Testament in his Bible. As he searches, all he find are signs with the words “If I had not come.”
Bobby sat down, stunned at the thought of a world without Jesus. “No Christmas, no churches,” he whispered, “no places to help people who are sick, homeless, or in need…”
Then he hears the sound of church bells and wakes up rejoicing as he recognizes “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come.” The story ends with his prayer of thanks as he acknowledges, “You are the very best Christmas present anyone can have.” The final pages of the book contain suggestions for family (or Sunday School class) discussions to help children think more deeply about the story.
If He Had Not Come is recommended for ages 6 and up, so I found a time when I could read it just with Ian. Even at 6, I’m not sure he was fully ready for it. He wasn’t very responsive to the story, and my attempts to engage him in any sort of discussion fell flat. Still, I think it’s an important addition to our Christmas library, and I expect in a few years we’ll be able to go a lot deeper, once the story has really settled with him. I have no doubt that fruit will eventually grow from the seeds planted by reading the book each year.
As a parent, I appreciate the final pages by Josh Mulvihill (a children’s pastor), who goes into more depth about all the ways Christ’s life has impacted our world. Not only would we be lacking many universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations, we would be spiritually lost. A page on “The Gospel Message” spells out the A-B-C (Admit-Believe-Confess) model of repenting and receiving God’s great gift of salvation.
If He Had Not Come reminds us what Christmas is really about, and I think families will benefit from pondering its important message in the midst of celebrating the birth of Christ.
Available in hardcover ($18.99) or e-book ($3.99).
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