Keeping Holiday. Starr Meade. Illustrated by Justin Gerard. 2008. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
If there's a resounding theme (or echo) to this Christmas-themed allegory it's this: You can't find the Founder; he finds you. He's not just the Founder, he's the Finder too.
Dylan and Clare star in Starr Meade's Keeping Holiday. The two are cousins who are visiting Holiday with their family. The book actually is about two visits to Holiday.
The opening visit to Holiday is the first chapter--perhaps two. Dylan discovers that the "Holiday" he's been going to every year is just the Visitor's Center for Holiday. That there is actually much, much more to Holiday. He discovers this through a flyer, I believe, in the church yard.
Three or four years later is when readers next see Dylan. In this visit to Holiday, Dylan is joined by his cousin, Clare. The two are determined to find out more about the 'real' Holiday and do their best to get there. But it is a mystery, a challenge, an effort. The clues are not there one minute, and, then suddenly right there before them. The two eventually receive visitors passes to Holiday, these passes are good only for four days. These passes must be authorized by the Founder in order to become permanent passes to visit Holiday. If they are not authorized during this visit, they'll never receive another opportunity. The passes will expire forever. No second chances.
Mr. Smith is their nemesis who keeps showing up in every chapter--or every other chapter. He's determined to keep Clare and Dylan OUT of Holiday. He teases, taunts, accuses, discourages, etc.
Dylan and Clare meet a lot of "people" along the way. I'm not sure "people" is the right word. They encounter talking trees, talking mistletoe, talking poinsettias, talking bells, talking stars, etc. In addition, they meet an occasional human willing to help them "find" the Founder.
The book is strange. I won't lie. Allegories are just by nature strange and odd and require some effort by readers. You have to accept the strangeness, almost welcome and celebrate the strangeness, the foreignness. It requires you to completely suspend your disbelief and accept the way things work in a fictional world. Yes, this is required in speculative fiction too, but, even more so in allegory.
Keeping Holiday is an allegory about salvation. Dylan and Clare are "seeking" salvation and discovering that they wouldn't even be seeking if God wasn't the Seeker. The two discover that God is the author of salvation from start to finish. Of course, this being an allegory, readers never hear talk of God or Christ or Jesus or Christmas or Easter or the cross or the resurrection. One learns about an Emperor and a Founder and a King.
I do like the fact that the book acknowledges there is a difference between celebrating Christmas and celebrating the CHRIST of Christmas. That one can only really genuinely celebrate Christmas when you know the Savior. Knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, trusting Jesus, worshipping Jesus enhance Christmas celebrations. There is a very specific reason for the season--and it isn't an excuse to eat cookies or buy yourself stuff. So I liked aspects of this one very much. But other elements just didn't quite work for me--as allegories.
For example, in real life, the gospel should be presented clearly, openly, unashamedly, all year long. No games, no waiting games, no teasing, no follow the clues and hints, and maybe just maybe I'll tell you more. The gospel should not be presented in a scavenger-hunt way. The gospel should not be presented vaguely or smugly or 'you'll see for yourself later after you follow this long and hard trail.' That's not to say that the gospel isn't personal. It is. You cannot have faith for another person. You cannot have trust for another person. You can't pass out faith like you pass out tracts. It doesn't work like that. So, yes, it is something that a believer has to experience on their own. And they do have a 'faith journey' in a way. But the gospel is something simple and clear and factual.
This was my fourth time to read Starr Meade's Keeping Holiday.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible