This sprightly volume is a companion to The Last Week in which Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan presented a day-by-day account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and his execution and resurrection. Here they explore the beginning of Jesus' life. The authors speak of the two books as providing bookends that frame the Gospel stories of his public activity, mission, and message.
We are used to thinking about the Christmas Story in terms of Jesus in the manger surrounded by Mary, the animals, the shepherds, and the three kings. Borg and Crossan offer a "parabolic reading" of the infancy narratives which they see as a valid alternative to viewing them as fact or fable. The accounts of Jesus' birth given in Matthew and Luke are very different yet share a common goal of presenting the Gospel story in miniature.
Borg and Crossan explore the genealogies, the visitation by the angels, and the birth in Bethlehem. What is being emphasized here is the messianic role of Jesus: Matthew sees him as the New Moses and Luke views him as a contrast to Caesar Augustus. The last section of the book is the best with its theological treatment of light, fulfillment, and joy. Borg and Crossan condemn the selfishness and the lust for power that characterized the Roman Empire, which saw itself as a light shining in the darkness. The infancy narratives side with the poor and the powerless, those who yearn for peace and surrender themselves to God. Borg and Crossan want us to ponder the anti-imperialist thrust of the birth stories.