It’s not too late to pick up a devotional guide for the season of Advent, and one I’m excited to read this year is Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. With 25 individual readings beginning December 1st and going through Christmas Day on the 25th, Ann provides scripture readings, reflective questions and some great ideas for “unwrapping more of [God’s] love in the world.” An example of one of the reflective questions, “Who is one person you need to make space for today – someone who has been crowded out by the busyness of the season?” will help us slow down and listen with our hearts. Or, how is this for a great follow-up idea: “God made you for such a time as this. Find one person you can help today in a time of need.”
Ann sets the stage for the devotionals of the season by encouraging us to think about the way we unwrap Christmas – discovering Jesus’ family lineage – his family tree. As Ann says, “It’s the way the gift unwraps: you have Christ’s family tree before you have a Christmas tree,” which is important in helping us understand the meaning of his coming into the world.
Taking us back to the Old Testament, Ann reminds us that King David’s sons and heirs turned away from God and, in loving gifts more than God, lost out on not only the kingdom they had inherited, but also their homes and families. By all appearances, their family tree – the tree of Jesse (the father of King David), had been “chopped off at the roots.” However, our promise-keeping God said, “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot …” (Isaiah 11:1) and the family tree grew again in a redemptive new direction.
In Ann’s beautiful prose, the stage is set for us to trace God’s promise from creation through the birth of Christ over the twenty-five days of devotions. Ann includes a free offer of some lovely printable ornaments (code provided in the book) to hang on your own “Jesse Tree,” (instructions included) with each one pointing the way to the incarnation of God in Jesus. I invite you to slow down this season with me and cherish the whispers of God’s love through the ages culminating in his Greatest Gift – Jesus! – Judi Brandow, Office Team Leader & Communications Specialist