You know the Christmas story and the main characters. You even know what Mary wrapped Jesus in at birth and that there was “no room for them in the inn.”
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Joseph and Mary—who was days away from giving birth—were turned away, rejected, and viewed as just another couple. We’ve all had that feeling at one time or another.
But there’s another side to the story. One that goes unexplored, but again, was used by God to reveal His grace and mercy—His help and hope. The story of the not-so-well-known innkeeper.
The innkeeper, unbeknownst to him, turned away the Savior of the world. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but 33 years later, during Passover, the Spirit began to reveal Himself. The fuzzy memory of a humble family asking for a room in his inn started to come into focus.
What thoughts may he have had when he realized the babe he turned away was actually the prophesied Messiah who died on the cross?
Joel and the 34th Christmas speaks to the heart and soul on so many levels for every age to enjoy. The innkeeper, just like us, was at the time unable to see the opportunity that stood in front of him—to witness a miracle.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Joel discovers…
- It’s never too late to fulfill your destiny
- A life without Christ is lonely, but a life with Christ is abundant
- He, just like us, is always surrounded by the Lord’s help and hope
We were recently able to sit down with the author of Joel and the 34th Christmas, Sandy Dittrich, and get a unique perspective on this classic tale.
- Question: Sandy, what do you hope is the takeaway for someone who reads your book?
Answer: You know, I hope that people understand that God is always surrounding us with His help and hope. Even when we think there are missed opportunities in life, it is never too late. No matter what age or what you’ve gone through, the Lord can and will use it to fulfill your destiny.
- Question: How did you get started writing the book?
Answer: I was an educator for 15 years, and I love children. I would write stories like this, and then the children would turn them into plays at school. After I stepped out of education, my husband and I fostered 60 children in 10 years. I would sit down with these children, even the teens, and read these stories—and they liked them!
It’s a children’s book, yes, but the story isn’t. It's for all ages. God aged me and my love for His children for whatever age they were at the time.
- Question: How has your heart for children become your lifelong ministry?
Answer: Through years of being in education, fostering children, working with other foster families, and parenting my own children, I’ve loved telling children [stories] and have always been drawn to helping them see the hope in Jesus.
Still, the Lord uses me, even at 70—just in a different way! I wasn’t able to shake this feeling of leaving the book alone—I knew other children needed to hear this message of being truly loved.
All children, no matter what religion or ethnicity they are, need to know this truth. This is the reason for ALL to read the story Joel and the 34th Christmas.
- Question: What makes Joel and the 34th Christmas unique compared to other Christmas books?
Answer: Most Christmas stories focus on the obedient characters of the miraculous event surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. This book, however, looks into the lives of the lonely, the weak, and the brokenhearted.
As we see missed opportunities that surrounded His birth (in the book), we are led to reflect on our own lives. Joel and the 34th Christmas brings revelation to us all that God’s presence is always there to help us and give us hope, and it’s never too late to fulfill our destiny.
- Question: How has the process of getting the book published strengthened your faith?
Answer: Several years ago, a worship leader came to visit my husband when he was in the hospital. He was praying, and turned to me mid-prayer and said, “You have a book. The Lord is telling me it needs to be produced. I will help you!”
I knew this was the voice of God. I thought, “I know you want this, but I don’t know how to publish it.” I have run into brick walls. It’s not been an easy process.
There is an emotional, spiritual, financial, and time commitment. There has been a lot of work to do, but it has strengthened my faith by putting more trust in the Lord and not in man. It’s all in His time.
A special note from Sandy: If Grandma Moses could produce her first painting at 78, if Laura Ingalls Wilder could publish Little House at 65, and if Sarah—Abraham’s wife—could have a baby at 90, then Sandy Dittrich could publish her first book at 70. It only proves it’s never too late to do what’s in your heart. If you like Christmas, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a walk through the Christmas story with the eyes of someone you’ve known but never paid much attention to before. Joel is a lonely old man who also learns it’s never too late to find joy and purpose.
Warm the hearts of your family and friends this holiday season with Joel and the 34th Christmas. This book imparts wisdom and revelation to the mature believer and tells the child of God’s great love.
As the pages turn and the story unfolds, the Lord’s divine purpose for Joel—and for you—is released!
Every character is helping and enacting the Holy Spirit to provide hope. Who knows whose life will be touched and destiny fulfilled as they read the Joel and the 34th Christmas—it’s never too late!