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December 4, 2004
Column #1,214

                      Perfect Christmas Gift: A Bible for Children
                        
      What is the perfect Christmas gift for a child aged 6-10?  It is not a doll or a video game, though they have their place.  Neither communicate a thing about Jesus, whose birthday is being celebrated.

     I suggest you consider giving Max Lucado's Hermie & Friends Bible, a new edition of the International Children's Bible (ICB). Max Lucado, one of America's most prolific writers for adults and children, begins this Bible with a "Dear Friend" Introduction:

     "You've just opened the most important book you'll ever read. It's the greatest adventure book of all time. In this book you'll read stories of kings and queens.  You'll
find tales of faraway lands. You'll encounter good guys, bad guys, people in love, parents, children, brothers sisters.

     "But here's the best news. In this book you'll meet God who made you. The God who loves you so much that he sent his own Son to earth, just so you could live with him in heaven, one day. When God sent Jesus, he gave you and me a forever friend. What a
story!"

     "Your friend, Max Lucado.

     "P.S. I've invited my friend, "Hermie" (a little green caterpillar) to add some special thoughts for you."

     Lucado's introduction to Luke's Gospel sounds like what a father might say to his child: "Can you imagine Luke in the home of the mother of Jesus? "Mary, tell me what
happened when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Start from the beginning."

     The International Children's Bible (ICB) is the first Bible written for children, requiring only a third grade reading level. It is a thought-for-thought translation of the ancient text, rather than a word-for-word translation which I find adds clarity.

     For example, here is how the ICB version quotes the angel Gabriel speaking to Zechariah, giving him the good news that though he and his wife are elderly, they will have a son named John who "will help many people of Israel return to the Lord their God. He himself will go before the Lord. John will be powerful in spirit like Elijah. He will make peace between fathers and their children. He will bring back those who are not obeying God back to the right way of thinking. He will make people ready for the coming of the Lord."

     Compare that with the more familiar words of the New International Version (NIV):"Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go before the Lord, in the spirit of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

     One long sentence is broken up into four short clear sentences. A word like "righteous" is explained. The confusing phrase "turning the hearts of fathers to their children," becomes "He will make peace between fathers and their children."

     Compare the NIV's opening words of Mary's Magnificat: "My soul glorifies the Lord/and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant."

     ICB: "My soul praises the Lord; my heart is happy because God is my Savior./ I am not important, but God has shown/ his care for me, his servant girl."

     A little picture box of Hermie comments on the night an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds: "An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And if it weren't for a God who likes to put a little extra on top of the ordinary, that might have gone unnoticed.

     "But God dances even in the common moments. And that night he really danced.

     "The black sky lit up with the glory of God. The night was ordinary no more. "The angel came in the night because that is when the lights are best seen, and that is when they are most needed. God comes into our common lives for the same reason. His most powerful tools are the simplest."

     Next to Luke 5:16 about Jesus slipping away "to be alone so that he could pray," Hermie asks, "How long has it been since you got alone with God and listened to his
voice? ...Let me ask you a simple question. If Jesus, the Son of God, the perfect Savior of our lives, thought it important to get alone and pray, wouldn't you be wise to do the same?"

     There is no better Christmas gift for a child.

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