Book Review: Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

Let Every HeartForgive me for spending the first week of the year catching up with Christmas reviews. As I said yesterday, I don’t usually have the computer time when I finish these to talk about them, and when I do I feel it’s probably too far past Christmas. But Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent by Nancy Guthrie is another that I’ve read several times now and want to share more about with you.

This book is written in a much different style than her compilation of essays in Come Thou Long Expected Jesus that I discussed yesterday. It’s written for use as a family devotional, so the language is in a simper style that I think very young children could comprehend, but I enjoyed it even as an adult reading for myself. Each chapter ends with a prayer, some discussion questions, and a few more Scriptures on the topic of the chapter. There are 31 readings: I like that it doesn’t stop at Christmas but extends through the month. (I know I said I liked that Come Thou Long Expected Jesus only had 22 readings, but those in this book are short enough that I don’t think it would be a problem to keep up with all month). The sizing of the book, too, is small enough that I think children would be comfortable holding it and taking a turn at the family reading.

In addition, there are lined pages where you can jot down anything you want to remember about the discussions aroused from the readings and a few pages of Christmas songs with their history.

The readings cover several topics that you would expect, but also a few you might not have thought of, such as this quote:

When you look at something through a magnifying glass, it looks much bigger than it actually is. Is that what Mary meant when she said, “My soul magnifies the Lord”? Was she trying to make God look bigger than He actually is?

 We can never make God bigger or greater than He is. The truth is, we can never fully take in or understand God’s greatness. But we can magnify Him. We magnify God not by making Him bigger than He truly is, but by making Him greater in our thoughts, in our affections, in our memories, and in our expectations. We magnify Him by having higher, larger, and truer thoughts of Him. We magnify Him by praising Him and telling others about His greatness so they can have bigger thoughts about Him, too.

 Sometimes we wonder why we aren’t happy, why we make sinful choices, why we feel distant from God. Often it’s because we have small thoughts about God and magnified thoughts of ourselves, our wants, our rights, our accomplishments. Mary, the one God chose to be the mother of His Son, could have easily allowed thoughts of herself to become larger, even prideful. But instead of magnifying herself, she magnified the Lord (p. 29).

And this:

Sometimes we are given a gift that we think is not really useful to us, and therefore we never take it out of the box. We stash it away in a closet or on a shelf somewhere in case we need it someday. Sadly, that’s what some people do in regard to Jesus. They want to keep him handy for when something comes along that they can’t handle on their own, but for now they have no interest in making him part of their day-to-day lives, and so they put him on the shelf. They simply don’t believe he is as good as the Bible says he is, and so they have no real or lasting joy in having received this great gift (p. 79).

Day 17’s reading on “Glory Revealed” is one that especially stood out to me.

I appreciate Nancy’s thoughtfulness and depth in these devotionals, even couched as they are in simple language.

I’ve used this book several times, once with Jesse when he was younger and then on my own. It’s one I am sure I will use again, and I am happy to recommend it to you.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

 

Book Review: Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Long Expected JesusI’ve read Come Thou Long Expected Jesus:Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, compiled by Nancy Guthrie, many times, but somehow I have never reviewed it. Probably because, like this year, I’ve finished it right in the busiest of the Christmas season, and by the time I had time to go over it, felt it was too far past Christmas to review. But I am not letting that happen this year. 🙂

In Nancy’s preface, she tells of Christmases where all the activities had been accomplished, but her heart wasn’t truly prepared. Then she tried to find a book of Christmas readings, but the ones she found did not minister to her. She wanted to find a “book with short readings on Advent themes from a number of different writers I trust and respect; that reflected a high view of Scripture; and that put the incarnation in the context of God’s unfolding plan of redemption” (p. 10). When she couldn’t find such a book, she set out to create one, reading and editing multitudes of sermons and writings from well-known theologians and Bible teachers.

There are 22 selections on various aspects of Advent, from Mary to conception by the Holy Ghost to Joseph to the shepherds to Jesus’s humility and others, from such teachers and preachers as Charles Spurgeon, Augustine, Martyn Lloyd-Jones to Tim Keller, John MacArthur, J. I. Packer, and Ray Ortland. I don’t know all of the authors, so I wouldn’t endorse everyone 100%, but I don’t think I read anything in this particular volume that I had a problem with, at least not that I noted or can recall.

In many ways it is hard to review a book like this, with so many authors and topics. But I’ll share just a few quotes that stood out to me:

Ligon Duncan III on Joseph: “God is calling Joseph to believe his word and to act in accordance with it. And Joseph does just that. He accepts God’s word and he trusts God’s word and he relies upon God’s word and he re-orients his life to conform to that word. What a tremendous act of faith on the part of Joseph and what an example of obedience to God’s word in spite of circumstance” (p. 53).

From “For Your Sakes He Became Poor” by J. I. Packer (originally from Knowing God): “We see now what it meant for the Son of God to empty himself and become poor. It meant a laying aside of glory; a voluntary restraint of power; an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice and misunderstanding; finally, a death that involved such agony–spiritual even more than physical–that his mind nearly broke under the prospect of it. It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely human beings, that they ‘through his poverty might become rich.’ The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.

We talk glibly of the ‘Christmas spirit,’ rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.

…The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor — spending and being spent — to enrich their fellow men, giving time, trouble, care, and concern, to do good to others — and not just their own friends — in whatever way there seems need (pp. 70-72).

From “Good News of Great Joy” by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.: “God is terrifying to guilty sinners, even though he is in himself gloriously beauitful. But God is pursuing us, even though we avoid him. He himself has taken the initiative to break through our terror” (p. 99).

From the same chapter: “Our good intentions are not strong enough to control our evil impulses. We need a Savior to rescue us from ourselves” (p. 100).

From “The Lessons of the Wise Men” by J. C. Ryle: “Let us beware of resting satisfied with head knowledge. It is an excellent thing when rightly used. But a person may have much of it, and still perish everlastingly. What is the state of our hearts? This is the great question. A little grace is better than many gifts. Gifts alone save no one; but grace leads on to glory” (p. 111).

There are so many others I’d love to share. Packard’s and Ortlund’s chapters impacted me the most this time, I think. There was a lot that was deep and thought-provoking in both, especially Ortlund’s on God’s glory.

Our family doesn’t celebrate Advent liturgically or ceremonially, with different candles on different days and all that, but I do like to, as Nancy wrote at the beginning, spend some time preparing for Christmas with some kind of Advent reading. This book, so far, has been the best book I have found for that. I like that it is 22 essays rather than 24 or 25 or 31: it gives one some leeway to begin early in December but not fall behind if a day or two is missed. Though the chapters are longer than the average devotional booklet, they’re not too long to read in a sitting, and I have found I do better at this stage of life with sustained thought on topics like this rather than “grab and go” devotionals. But most of all I like the richness and the depth. I had used it for several years, laid it aside for a few years, and rejoiced to read it again this year. I’m sure I will read it again many times.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Christmas Book Giveaway

I have accumulated a pile of Christmas books, and some of them I am not likely to read again. So I thought I’d offer them to you. 🙂

I will list what I have with a link back to my review, if I have one for it. If you are interested in any, let me know in the comments on this post (not the posts of the book reviews). If you have one in particular you’d like, mention that title, and if you are the only one who wants it, you will get it. If two or more people want a book, I will use random.org to draw a winner. If you want to list a first, second, and third choice, that’s fine: if you don’t care which one you get, that’s fine, too.

I will draw names the Friday after Thanksgiving and will send them at the cheapest rate, but they should still get there in time for some Christmas reading. I’m sorry, but I will have to restrict these to US addresses due to shipping prices.

So here are your choices:

Wreath of Snow

A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs

Christmas at Harrington‘s by Melody Carlson

Treasure of Christmas, a collection of three stories by Melody Carlson (The Christmas Bus, Gift of Christmas Present, and Angels in the Snow).

Snow Day by Billy Coffey. One reservation with this one, but otherwise it is good.

25 days

25 Ways, 26 Days to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever by Ace Collins.

If I have linked everything correctly, clicking on the title should take you to my review (some of them are grouped together in shorter reviews), and clicking on the book image will take you to Amazon if you’d like to learn a little more about the books.

The giveaway and comments are now closed. And the winners are……

A Wreath of Snow: Brenda

 Christmas at Harrington’s: Kaycee

Treasure of Christmas: Abi

Snow Day: rcblibrary

26 Days: Michele

I am sending an email to notify each winner. If I do not hear back from them with their address by the end of the week, I will draw a new winner.

Thanks so much for entering!