Book Review: The Legend of the Christmas Rose

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This story is one of several Swedish legends explaining why the Christmas Rose blooms in winter.  Robber Father has been exiled from his village for stealing a cow.  One day, while Robber Mother is admiring the local abbot’s garden, she tells him that every Christmas Eve part of the forest blooms.  The abbot, taking this is a sign of God’s favor, persuades the bishop to pardon Robber Father if the story is true.  The abbot witnesses the forest blooming, but before he can pluck a blossom as proof, the lay brother with him cuts the miracle short with an outburst of unbelief and the bishop dies in the snow, grasping two shriveled flower bulbs.  The lay brother plants the bulbs in the abbot’s garden, and they bloom the next Christmas Eve.  Robber Father is pardoned, and the lay brother spends the rest of his life in meditation and prayer, hoping to gain forgiveness.

Although the story is well written and beautifully illustrated, biblically-centered parents will need to consider it closely.  The story hinges on whether Robber Father can be forgiven, and in the end he is pardoned on the basis of the miracle, with no expression of contrition for his theft.  The lay brother, in contrast, having realized his error in judging Robber Father, spends the rest of his life in penitence.  Robber Father is met with warm acceptance, the lay brother with clinging guilt.  This leads me to conclude that this is not so much a story about forgiveness, but is more of a moralistic story about religious self-righteousness.

Two sins are dealt with here — stealing and self-righteousness — but only the latter requires repentance.  Neither is considered in light of the basis for Christian forgiveness, which is that Jesus’ death enables God to forgive sinners, and sinners are commanded to forgive others (1 Peter 3:18; Matthew 18:32-35).  Apart from the grace that comes through the Cross, neither sin can be addressed biblically, and forgiveness rings hollow.

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Publication Information: Lagerlof, Selma. Legend of the Christmas Rose, The. Greene, Ellin (Reteller). Mikolaycak, Charles (Illustrator). Holiday House. 1990 (1907). ISBN: 0823408213.
Categories: 2 Stars, Age 04-08, Books That Build Character
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Posted on August 15, 2009

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