David Nicholson remembered hearing a story told at Christmas time nearly thirty years ago and has shared the story with his family every year since then. Recently, the short story found in a 1938 anthology was published as a beautiful children's book titled If He Had Not Come.
The forty-page hardcover book is beautiful. The illustrations bring the story alive and evoke the feeling of a simpler, more peaceful time. I can only imagine the long ago days when a young boy could leave his house early in the morning and walk by himself to a factory next door, to a five-and-dime store, to church, to a hospital, and more.
Sadly, this Christmas story is not about the Christmas joy Bobby found as he walked around town. Instead, his adventures are what he dreamed when he went to bed on Christmas Eve thinking about the Bible verse, "If I had not come." (John 12:22) Bobby found a world where nobody was celebrating Christmas, the church was missing, and there was no hospital to take care of the sick. Bobby eventually realizes that Jesus coming to earth was the very best gift of the Christmas season.
Like David Nicholson, I thought the depiction of a world completely without Jesus was a thought-provoking story to be shared often during the Christmas season.
Unfortunately, the story proved to be a bit too abstract for Lauren (my eight year old). At first she was confused when he woke and didn't see Christmas decorations in his living room. After a few more scenes, she started asking me if it was all a dream. The idea of imagining a world without Jesus didn't make sense to her; I don't think she ever grasped the idea that the mean parts of the story were related to not having Christ in our world. She heard about how Bobby couldn't find his church, the Children's Home, the hospital, and the homeless shelter, but she doesn't have the background knowledge to know that most of these beneficial things were founded by Christian men and women.
Even though Lauren struggled with the abstract concepts, I still loved the ideas presented in the book. I could see myself using this book as a discussion starter in a group of upper-elementary school students in Sunday School. There are several pages of questions and discussion topics at the end of the book which would make it easy to turn this short book into a full lesson. My oldest daughter read through the book and suggested that it would be a good way to start a discussion in a teen Bible class or devotional.
If He Had Not Come is recommended by the publisher for ages six and up. It retails for $18.95 (hardcover) or $3.99 (ebook).