Tag Archives: Advent

Review: The Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp

The Greatest Gift, by Ann VoskampThe Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp (Tyndale House, 2013)

What better antidote to the stress and hurry-hurry of December than a few quiet minutes, every day, to re-orient our thinking and ponder the true meaning of Christmas?

The Greatest Gift, subtitled “Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas,” is a collection of Advent devotional readings tracing the promise of a Saviour – “the love story that’s been coming for you since the beginning” (p. x).

Each day’s reading begins with a page of Scripture and a brief look at how this is part of the Advent story and how it’s relevant to us today, whatever our circumstances. It ends with a practical suggestion for applying the day’s thought and with three questions for further exploration.

Ann Voskamp is known for her lyrical prose and for her call to recognize God’s grace – and find gratitude – in both the happy and the difficult days. These daily Advent reflections speak to wherever we may find ourselves, and they offer hope, peace and perspective.

My favourite lines:

The Light never comes how you expect it. It comes as the unlikely and unexpected – straight into Bethlehem unlikely and the feed trough hopeless, and Christmas whispers there is always hope. (p. 139)

The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not on the fears. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends. When does He ever end?” (p. 189)

I found these daily moments of reflection helped me to more fully appreciate the days leading up to Christmas. The Greatest Gift is a lovely gift book for yourself or a loved one, and it’s rich enough in content to read again in future years.

The author’s website offers downloadable paper ornaments which readers are encouraged to place daily on a simple “Jesse Tree” (instructions included). This could be a personal or a family act. For those interested in a family Advent devotional, there’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas.

Ann Voskamp is the bestselling author of One Thousand Gifts. She blogs daily at A Holy Experience. The Greatest Gift is a 2014 “Christian Retailing’s Best” award winner.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

En-joying Advent

I hope last week’s post, On Joy and Interruptions, wasn’t a downer. The intent was to acknowledge and work through some of the feelings common to the season, but maybe the positives didn’t come through clearly enough.

Everyone finds their own way, and different circumstances impact our situations, but whether life in general is happy or sad, Christmas comes just the same. Not everyone was happy and peaceful in Bethlehem when God broke into human history.

Now that I’ve embraced the Christmas season, the joy is coming in. I still don’t like the commercialism and a lot of what North American culture adds and subtracts from the observance of my Saviour’s birth, but I don’t have to beat them or join them. I can be myself, present with the Lord, and enjoying His presence with me.

I encourage you to take a few quiet minutes each day — hard to carve out of the whirlwind, perhaps, but of great restorative value. Read the Christmas narratives. Or some of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. Listen to — truly hear — a Christmas carol. Sit with God and ask for His peace.

No, I’m not “ready for Christmas” in the sense of hatches battened down, presents bought and wrapped, cards mailed, freezer stocked with goodies. But I’m contented in Advent. And the other things will come in due time. My responsibility today is to not accept the anxiety, but to abide with God and to be alert to the gift ideas and other nudges that He will give in His own good time.

One of my top 5 Christmas albums is A Day of Glory, from The Austin Stone Church. Five and a half minutes of stillness to hear the words of this song will bless you. It might even set your spirit dancing: Hallelujah, What a Saviour.

Advent: Preparing for His Coming

This week was my turn to post at InScribe Writers Online. Observant readers will notice I’ve used the same opening line or two there as in this Wednesday’s post here, “God With Us,” but the InScribe one is an Advent/Christmas post. Click here to read “Preparing for His Coming“.