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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The First Christmas

The First Christmas

A Story of New Beginnings

Stephen Mitchell

St. Martin's Essentials

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“I love The First Christmas. What a charming way Stephen Mitchell has found to tell my favorite story of all, the Nativity, character by character (I love the donkey and the ox), with wise and thrilling interludes about God, reality, truth.” –Anne Lamott


In The First Christmas, Stephen Mitchell brings the Nativity story to vivid life as never before. A narrative that is only sketched out in two Gospels becomes fully realized here with nuanced characters and a setting that reflects the culture of the time. Mitchell has suffused the birth of Jesus with a sense of beauty that will delight and astonish readers.

In this version, we see the world through the eyes of a Whitmanesque ox and a visionary donkey, starry-eyed shepherds and Zen-like wise men, each of them providing a unique perspective on a scene that is, in Western culture, the central symbol for good tidings of great joy. Rather than superimposing later Christian concepts onto the Annunciation and Nativity scenes, he imagines Mary and Joseph experiencing the angelic message as a young Jewish woman and man living in the year 4 bce might have experienced it, with terror, dismay, and ultimate acceptance. In this context, their yes becomes an act of great moral courage.

Readers of every background will be enchanted by this startlingly beautiful reimagining of the Christmas tale.

Praise for The First Christmas

“I love The First Christmas. What a charming way Stephen Mitchell has found to tell my favorite story of all,
the Nativity, character by character (I love the donkey and the ox), with wise and thrilling interludes about
God, reality, truth.” –Anne Lamott

The First Christmas is a wonderful book, tender and rich with bursts of humor, filled with curious contrivances and surprises. Reading it felt like opening a brightly-wrapped Christmas present and finding a second box (also brightly wrapped) inside, and inside that box a third, and then another, and another, and another. Until, at the very center, in a tiny box, there is a diamond: the wisdom contained within this telling.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

“Stephen Mitchell’s The First Christmas is a wholly original and deeply inspired book. I’m swept away by his language: simple and concrete, fetching. Mitchell grants us access here to the kingdom of heaven that lies within us, folded in a simple story.” – Jay Parini, author of Jesus: The Human Face of God

"As he has done before to our enlightenment and delight, Stephen Mitchell takes an ancient text and opens it and illuminates it for our time. And now, the nativity story! Who knew there were so many perspectives from ox to innkeeper, shepherds to seekers, to Mitchell himself—all helping us see this seminal event in heartwarming, eye-opening complexity and compassion. As is often said about an important and riveting and life-changing event: you had to b… More…

“I love The First Christmas. What a charming way Stephen Mitchell has found to tell my favorite story of all,
the Nativity, character by character (I love the donkey and the ox), with wise and thrilling interludes about
God, reality, truth.” –Anne Lamott

The First Christmas is a wonderful book, tender and rich with bursts of humor, filled with curious contrivances and surprises. Reading it felt like opening a brightly-wrapped Christmas present and finding a second box (also brightly wrapped) inside, and inside that box a third, and then another, and another, and another. Until, at the very center, in a tiny box, there is a diamond: the wisdom contained within this telling.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

“Stephen Mitchell’s The First Christmas is a wholly original and deeply inspired book. I’m swept away by his language: simple and concrete, fetching. Mitchell grants us access here to the kingdom of heaven that lies within us, folded in a simple story.” – Jay Parini, author of Jesus: The Human Face of God

"As he has done before to our enlightenment and delight, Stephen Mitchell takes an ancient text and opens it and illuminates it for our time. And now, the nativity story! Who knew there were so many perspectives from ox to innkeeper, shepherds to seekers, to Mitchell himself—all helping us see this seminal event in heartwarming, eye-opening complexity and compassion. As is often said about an important and riveting and life-changing event: you had to be there. In The First Christmas, Mitchell puts us there, and the birth and rebirth happen in the reader as well—no matter how well we know the story. Mitchell's illumined text is a star that leads us to a new understanding of the Bethlehem moments in our lives."
—Julia Alvarez, Author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies

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Stephen Mitchell

Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn, educated at Amherst, the Sorbonne, and Yale, and de-educated through intensive Zen training. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, Gilgamesh, The Gospel According to Jesus, The Book of Job, The Second Book of the Tao, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Bhagavad Gita, The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, and The Way of Forgiveness. He is also the co-author of three of his wife Byron Katie’s bestselling books.

image of Stephen Mitchello
Brie Childers