Author Steven Estes applies the wisdom of Proverbs to help readers rediscover the joys of Christmas
The shopping, the family get-togethers, the office Christmas party, the decorating, the memories of loved ones who are no longer with us . . . What should be the happiest time of the year often becomes a stressful, anxiety-ridden, and emotional season for many who are seeking perfection and trying to meet unrealistic expectations. But December doesn’t have to get the better of us.
In A Better December: Proverbs to Brighten Christmas (New Growth Press, October 2013, ISBN 978-1-936768-67-7, $12.99), pastor Steven Estes offers gems of Solomon’s proverbial wisdom to help readers find the joy and celebration we all desire for the Christmas season. Even though Solomon lived long before Christ, and three thousand years prior to our modern observance of Christmas, his wisdom is timeless and remarkably applicable to those who long to find themselves refreshed and renewed instead of depleted and cranky in December. Estes deftly combines the wisdom of Proverbs with humor and touching stories, drawing heavily on traditional holiday themes.
Estes has found a wealth of practical advice from King Solomon (circa 900 BC) to help with the typical holidays issues such as materialism, stress, and loneliness. Estes explains his approach, “The connection between Solomon and Christmas is tongue-in-cheek. People know about his vaunted wisdom, but do they know about his savvy market research where he predicted a major future trend: the Christmas holidays? Solomon wrote his blockbuster Proverbs to help future readers navigate December,”
Some of Estes’ favorite Christmas advice from Solomon includes:
• Solomon has an eye for “an ornament of fine gold” on a tree (25:12), and for the “fool full of food” at the holiday office party (30:22). But don’t assume that everyone smiling in the room is happy, he cautions, for “even in laughter the heart may ache” (14:13).
• He counsels us that dazzling gifts won’t dazzle for long: “Death and destruction and never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man” (27:20).
• Get yourself some joy when passing those sidewalk bell-ringers with their red kettles, because “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” (19:17).
• Write a letter to a soldier overseas this time of year, he prods, for “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land” (25:25).
But A Better December offers more than mere clever tips for surviving the Christmas holidays. It is also intended to be a gift book for non-Christian friends and neighbors. Through its gradual, non-threatening introduction to the gospel, readers begin to grasp that Solomon is good, but Jesus is better.
With a foreword by Joni Eareckson Tada and whimsical pen-and-ink sketches by Sarah Halulko, this compact book is written for those struggling at Christmas—burdened with sadness (widows, singles, the elderly, those far from home), or harried with stress (shopping demands, financial strain, awkward visits with relatives). It lays out wisdom that has stood the test of time. The book makes for a charming, spiritual read, without sermonizing, to those hungry at the holidays for true comfort and a real home.
About the Author
Steven Estes is a pastor who has known “better Decembers with my family than either Currier or Ives,” but also understands a gray Christmas. A Better December draws on Estes’ twenty-three years of counseling church members through the holiday season as well his other writings on the topic of human suffering.
He teaches a preaching class at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) where he completed his M.Div and Th.M. degrees. Estes is a conference speaker and on the board of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF).
Estes is the author of Called to Die (the story of slain missionary Chet Bitterman), and co-author (with friend Joni Eareckson Tada) of When God Weeps and A Step Further. He and his wife, Verna, have eight children.
Learn more about Estes and his books at www.steveestes.net.