I love to read a Christmas or Advent devotional in December as a way to focus on the spiritual aspect of the season. This year I couldn’t decide between two, so I read them both.
Last year I had a book of C. H. Spurgeon’s Christmas sermons and thought to read them a bit at a time, like a devotional. But it didn’t work. I felt like I wasn’t getting the full impact and flow of thought without reading the whole sermon in context. So I ended up reading one each weekend
This year, however, I found a devotional book made up of short (2-3 pages on an iPad mini Kindle app) excerpts from some of his sermons: Joy to the World: Daily Readings for Advent. I was looking for something with short readings since my regular reading routine is pretty full, and this fit the bill.
Sometimes books made of excerpts from other books or sermons don’t always come across well: it’s obvious that some context is missing. But that wasn’t the case with this book. Each reading seemed like a complete thought. The English has been modernized a bit, but it didn’t seem to take away from the readings to me.
One of the themes is how a humble manger birth made Christ approachable: “We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger. Never could there be a being more approachable than Christ” (p. 20).
A couple of other quotes:
“Religion never was designed To make our pleasures less” (from “We’re Marching to Zion”). It is designed to do away with some of our pleasures, but it gives us many more, to make up for what it takes away; so it does not make them less (p. 32).
Now, Christ’s human flesh was God’s tabernacle, and it is in Christ that God meets with man, and in Christ that man has dealings with God. The Jew of old went to God’s tent, in the center of the camp, if he would worship: we come to Christ if we would pay our homage. If the Jew would be released from ceremonial uncleanness, after he had performed the rites, he went up to the sanctuary of his God, that he might feel again that there was peace between God and his soul. We, having been washed in the precious blood of Christ, have access with boldness unto God, even the Father through Christ, who is our tabernacle and the tabernacle of God among men (p. 51).
The tabernacle of old was not full of truth, but full of image, and shadow, and symbol, and picture; but Christ is full of substance. He is not the picture, but the reality; he is not the shadow, but the substance. O believer, rejoice with joy unspeakable for you come to Christ, the real tabernacle of God. You come to him who is full of the glory of the Father; and you come to one in whom you have not the representation of a grace which you needest, but the grace itself-not the shadow of a truth ultimately to be revealed, but that very truth by which your soul is accepted in the sight of God (p. 52).
The thought of Christ’s human flesh being our tabernacle was new to me, but poignant as our church is reading through Exodus and spent several days this month on the instructions for the tabernacle.
I also liked very much the thought in Day 6’s reading that God was pulling invisible strings to orchestrate the details of Christ’s birth, even to the point of the census being decreed to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, where the Scriptures prophesied Christ would be born. That’s a comfort in these times.
A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada is a gorgeous book filled with her art work, drawn by mouth due to her paralysis. It would make a lovely coffee table book if we had a coffee table.
It’s made up of 31 readings for each day in December (the above book had 25) centered on the theme of joy.
A few quotes:
Maybe we simply need to realize that our most unpleasant circumstances, much like Mary and Joseph’s, often have a way of becoming a beautiful portion of God’s magnificent design. God’s sovereign timetable is working in the life of your family, too, hard as that may be to accept at times. Despite the hardship, despite the inconvenience, despite our lack of understanding, God has something in mind. He is in control, and He has a design for your life this Christmas season… and through all the seasons of your life. (The book has no page numbers, but this is in “A Plan Behind the Pain.”)
Lives hinge and eternal destinies hang in the balance when men and women come face to face with Jesus the Christ. It isn’t always peaceful. It isn’t always painless. It isn’t always easy. But bowing the knee to Jesus Christ is always right. No matter what. (From “Simeon’s Message.”)
Maybe that’s why God puts those wistful longings in our hearts this time of year. He wants us to find the answers to those longings in the celebration of Jesus. He wants us to define that nostalgia as nothing more than a deep human desire to come home and adore His Son. (From “Create Your Christmas Spirit.”)
You see, when Christ entered history, He didn’t come waving a white flag. His coming was not simply a lull in the battle. It was more than a momentary cease-fire. When the angels sang, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” they were announcing an armistice. It was V-Day—an end, not just to the battle between God and humans, but to the war.
The phrase “peace on earth” carries with it so much more meaning than simply a warm, fuzzy feeling between the Lord and us. Christ, our Prince of Peace, was God’s way of announcing the close to an awful war. The Lord Jesus invaded enemy territory to lay claim on what was rightfully His. He confronted sin, and His battle cry told men that He had come to set them free.Through His death and resurrection, He signed the peace treaty in His own blood. (From “Peace on Earth.”)
I read this in bunches, both because I received it late plus I wanted to finish it in time for this review. But I think next year I’ll read just one entry a day and go more slowly and thoughtfully through it.
Though different in style, both of these books were meaty, inspirational, edifying, and enjoyable.