Monday, December 1, 2008

Recommended Reading for Advent

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2008)

Reviewed by Derek Melleby

Watching the news on Thanksgiving Day quickly reveals the often uncomfortable tensions in which we live. The lead stories are always the same: homeless shelters serve Thanksgiving meals to the poor and people campout in tents to receive deep discounts on Black Friday morning. The homeless are thankful to be inside, enjoying good food and company, while others take to the streets, sleeping outside, fighting the cold and crowds, in hopes of paying less for things they don’t really need. And then the bad news on Black Friday: gun shots at a Toys R Us, a Wal-Mart employee trampled to death, fights breaking out at outlet stores. What’s going on here?

And then in a blink, it’s the first Sunday of Advent. A candle is lit, parts of the Christmas story are read, and if you’re lucky, you get to sing a Christmas carol at church. Blink again: you’re at home, eating leftover turkey, watching football and commercials, hoping for “good news” later on 60 Minutes.

This is not meant to be an anti-consumer diatribe. I’m not trying to sound overly pessimistic. Here’s the truth: I desperately want Advent and Christmas to mean more. And the reality is that I’m included in any indictment on our North American culture. I long for the poor to fed, but do very little to help make that happen. I have so much stuff that I don’t need, but I still bargain shop with the best of them. My hunch is that I’m not alone in these struggles. Here’s what I’m learning: recognizing and acknowledging the tension and frustration of the Holiday Season is what Advent is all about. We will only be ready for the Messiah when we come to grips with how much we need His salvation.

Helping me to remember the true meaning of this season, yet again, is a splendid new collection of Advent readings edited by Nancy Guthrie: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas. The 22 readings include works from classic theologians (e.g. George Whitefield, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards) and contemporary pastors (e.g. John Piper, Tim Keller, J.I. Packer, Randy Alcorn). In the preface, Guthrie explains that she wanted to put together a book of short readings from writers that “reflected a high view of Scripture and that put the incarnation in the context of God’s unfolding plan of redemption.” This is a magnificent, one-of-a-kind collection that challenges and encourages readers to remember Jesus’ arrival and long for his return. Read it after the nightly news for maximum benefit! And, of course, I’m sure you can find it at a discounted price somewhere!

Related Links:
More about Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus and see the full list of contributing writers

More about Nancy Guthrie and her ministry

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