Book Review – Not A Silent Night

Not A Silent Night: Mary Looks Back at Bethlehem

By Adam Hamilton 
144 pages, Abingdon Press
ISBN 9781501879579

Goodreads rating: 4.06 out of 5

Protestants, by and large, have an uneasy relationship with Mary. Any interest or, God forbid, admiration of the mother of Jesus, is usually seen as ‘too Catholic’, or even more worrying, venturing into Eastern Orthodoxy. But in recent years, there has been a few noteworthy books by a couple of prolific Protestant authors that seek to rediscover the lost field of Marianology (gasp!) from a Protestant viewpoint. 

Before any Lutheran / Methodist / Presbyterian purists get all worked up here, consider this – here is this human person who knew our Lord and Saviour the best, having spent 30 years with him on earth, more than any of the disciples. Consider this, too – how much did the 13 or 14 year old Mary (the age which scholars believe she became pregnant) know of the fate of her yet-to-born child? How did she feel when the adult Jesus left her for His divine ministry? What gamut of emotions did she run through seeing her Son at being flogged, humiliated and crucified? At the foot of the cross, did she think that Jesus’ ministry had failed?

No parent has to watch his or her child die. My father had to bury one son – my brother – just three years before his own passing. And how did Mary live out her remaining years on earth? The bible only mentions her once after the ascension – in Acts 1 during the Pentecost, and discounting the vague reference Revelations 12. So, we do not know much beyond that she was a believer along with the other disciples, and the apostle John was charged by the Lord himself to take care of her. In the Testament of Mary, a historical novel by the celebrated Irish writer Colm Toibin, he paints Mary as a bitter, withdrawn old woman who walls herself emotionally from those who wished to preserve the memory of her Son.

Adam Hamilton writes a different book – he revisits Mary, also as an old woman, and moves back in time, during the 5 key moments of her life as mentioned in the Gospels. He then explores the emotions that Mary must have gone through and what we can learn through these moments of triumph and sadness. This journey ends at the very beginning, that familiar scene in a manger in Bethlehem. 

Let’s be clear here – although the book studies the life of Mary through the Gospel writers, this really isn’t about her. It is about her Son Jesus, and how we can learn more about facing challenges in our own lives through observing the one human who knew Jesus best.


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