Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Noted Review: "Holiday" Fiction

Meade, Starr. Keeping Holiday. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 192 pages. Paper. $14.99. 877-872-2871 (N)

Starr Meade, author of Training Hearts, Teachings Minds, an educator and director of children’s ministry, provides the whimsical fantasy book, Keeping Holiday. In the style and spirit of C.S. Lewis, Mrs. Meade presents the story of young Dylan and Clare, cousins, who journey to find the real “Holiday” and the “Founder.”

Since the book is intended for juvenile audiences, (ages 5 and up) this is an easy reading book of only 13 chapters. Mrs. Meade uses fantasy, allegory, and symbolism in spinning the tale of Dylan and Clare as they encounter darkness, mystery, deception, intense fear and finally joy on a four-day search for “Holiday” and “authorization” to keep “Holiday” forever. In the book “Holiday” appears to represent heaven, while “authorization” it would seem, represents the Biblical doctrine of justification.

While being an easy reading book, the concepts presented are anything but easy, and at times are extremely challenging. Rated as a book intended for juvenile audiences, I am not sure that youth at age 5 could clearly and easily understand these concepts. I had difficulty identifying the clear and concise Christian meaning or teaching, in the midst of the fantasy, allegory, and symbolism. Several times I had to read and re-read portions of the book in clarification.

Mrs. Meade makes it very clear that “authorization,” which represents justification is not the work of Dylan and Clare, even though they search for the “Founder” in order to be authorized. A common and recurring line in the book is, “you don’t find the Founder, He finds you,” Throughout their misadventures of darkness, being lost, struggles and challenges, Dylan and Clare are always “found” and led by the “Founder” even while they never see or actually meet him. Ultimately, they find that they were “authorized” by the “Founder” (and thus able to keep “Holiday” forever) long before they realized their changed status. Jesus said, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). And St. Peter writes of the call of the Christian sinner by the Gospel, by God, “who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). Keeping Holiday alludes to these Biblical doctrines and truths. However, and this is the most serious weakness of this book, there is no clear presentation of the Christian Gospel in the person and work of Christ Jesus. While the “Founder” must be concluded to be Christ Jesus, this is difficult to apprehend. Justification (or “authorization”) is not clearly presented as being accomplished and declared on account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on behalf of the lost, or those in the darkness of sin and death. The closest the book and author comes to this is when Dylan speaks with Missy the mistletoe, about the “Founder.” Missy says, “The Founder not only paid what they owed the Emperor [God, the Father], he also offered himself to the Emperor as the one who would meet all those requirements.” (emphasis added)

Keeping Holiday does not make reference to the “means of grace” by which the Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens the church. The “Founder” does call Dylan and Clare out of trouble and temptation with his voice or with his word. And at least on one occasion, the “Founder” provides much needed nourishment (bread) and strength to the young travelers on their pilgrimage. Mrs. Meade provides that once a person is “authorized” (justified) they then, and then only, do good works (list on page 68) which properly places sanctification in relationship to justification.

While the book has some theological weaknesses, and especially so from a Lutheran perspective; it was fun to read, and unexpectedly challenging. I don’t believe it is appropriate for younger readers (certainly not for 5 year olds), but could be interesting for more mature readers (even someone as old this reviewer!).

The Rev. Ted Bourret is Pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, Gurley, Nebraska and St. Paul Lutheran Church, Potter, Nebraska, and a regular contributing reviewer of QBR.