“The Greatest Gift”, Ann Voskamp


Photo courtesy of Tyndale Publishers

I studied a few Advent devotionals this year and this was certainly the most unique. If you’ve read any of Ann’s writings you’ll know she has a marvellous lyrical voice that is so powerfully evocative enabling the reader to join her in the scene she is describing.

There are 25 devotionals starting with 1 December and finishing on Christmas Day. Most of them reflect on a passage of the Old Testament drawing us to parallels with people of the OT and Jesus. It’s really only in the last few days when Ann swoops into the NT. Each day includes Ann’s reflections, three questions for self-analysis and a recommendation to practice a key aspect of the day’s teaching.

The devotional for Christmas Eve was simply magnificent in it’s lyrical fluidity and power as Ann reflects on the birth and she describes us as follows:

“Tonight there are only the manger tramps, who tramp in with all our poverty of spirit … so there can be an abundance of God.” (p247).

A manger tramp – I love that image.

The book is worth it’s price for this chapter alone.

This is another great production of Ann’s as it helps point us to Jesus each and every day. There was a home video Ann produced for each of the 4 weeks of Advent where she shared particular reflections relating to the Advent candles. These videos were a great accompaniment to the book.

This book could easily be read at any time of the year and I recommend it highly.

Whose plan: ours or God’s?


Photo courtesy of Dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He planned to divorce her quietly. What a good guy. He’s been told his fiancé, Mary, is pregnant. But he’s not the father. But the law provides him with an out. But rather than publicly humiliating Mary, Joseph decides to break it off quietly.

Based on my various readings, most men, at the time, would have called the engagement off. The only question was how best to do it.

His plan was sound. He felt humiliated and didn’t quite understand the miraculous nature of the situation. I take it Joseph wasn’t fully aware of his lineage or the significant part he was to play in being the second last in the line that began with Abraham (Matthew 1:17)

Read more

Reflections on Advent


Photo credit: Unity Church Albany, New York

Advent means “coming”. It is a season many Christians practice for the four weeks prior to Christmas. According to Wikipedia it is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for His Second Coming.”

I observed Advent for the first time last year. Perhaps a better way of describing what I did was I studied it. I didn’t light a candle or do anything else symbolic. I read a few devotionals and spent more time each day just reflecting on Jesus.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience last year so am doing it again. Like last year I’m working through some devotionals to help stimulate my meditations and prayer time.

Once again I’m blown away by Jesus’ humble arrival. The Israelites were expecting a grand entrance by a king. But who turned up? A baby. Born in a barn.

Read more

Post-Advent Musings

Photo Credit: beliefnet.com/beyondblue

Christmas is over. I trust you had a joyous time with your loved ones. I had two family-filled days that were fun and peaceful.

I’ve now begun to reflect on the year ahead.

A friend of mine mentioned a few days ago that she and her husband establish a key word for the year. Yes, one word. They prayerfully meditate on this and arrive at that word. A word they’d like to infuse more into their life and walk with Jesus. My friend’s word is “JOY”.

That was a new idea for me. It’s ruminated in my mind ever since and I’m sensing I may adopt a similar approach to 2013.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means “God with us”).” (Matt 1:20-23 NIV)

Read more

Merry Christmas

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.

Christ is the reason for Christ-mas. We wouldn’t be celebrating it if it weren’t for His birth.

As I’ve reflected on Advent these past few weeks, I’ve spent more time in His presence, being thankful and expectant.

“The longer we gaze upon Jesus, the more we realise that life as we know it can no longer remain the same… Our adoration of the Christ child must lead to obedience and devotion.”1

That’s my prayer for all of us: that we adore Him by our obedience and devotion. Not just tomorrow, but everyday.

I hope you can get some time alone in the next day to be still in the presence of Jesus.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, wherever you may be, and may the peace, joy and hope He provides fill you today and always.

I thought I’d leave you with one of my favourite carols, magnificently sung by one of my favourite singers, Chris Tomlin.

Be safe, be still and be expectant.

Blessings to you all.


Notes: 1. “Silence – and other Surprising Invitations of Advent”, Enuma Okoro, Upper Room, pp95,96.

Observing Advent – Part 3

Photo Credit: Unity Church Albany, New York

As I’ve continued to read, pray and meditate on Advent this past week, I’ve been struck by the sheer humbleness of Jesus’ entry into the world.

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 NKJV)

Jesus, the Bible tells us, was born in a manger.

What’s a manger?

I’ve grown up with the classic Sunday school nativity scene picture of the cute wooden cot-like construction filled with hay or whatever making it appear pretty standard for babies born in those times.

Read more

Observing Advent – Part 2

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

I continue to reflect upon the “coming” of Jesus as the days draw closer to the celebration of His birth. If you missed my first post on advent, you can find it here.

As I meditate on a number of different perspectives and on Scripture, I was particularly struck this week by how God chose some pretty anonymous people to play significant roles in the birth of Jesus.

There’s Mary, who was a young teenager, when Gabriel visited to tell her she would be birthing the greatest human to have ever lived. God, in fact.

The shepherds were tending their sheep on the night Jesus was born. I understand the occupation of shepherd was considered a quite lowly one in Jewish society at that time. But it was they, who received the visit from an angel of the Lord, and “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” (Luke 2:9) No wonder Scripture describes them as being “greatly afraid.”

Read more

Observing Advent

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Advent means “coming”. It is a season many Christians practice for the four weeks prior to Christmas. According to Wikipedia it is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for His Second Coming.”

I’ve never thought much about Advent. I’m not sure why. But this year I decided I would. Any practice that helps me reflect more on Jesus is a good one.

I’m using three devotionals during my quiet times, all of which bring a slightly different perspective and use different Bible verses to reflect on Jesus.

Read more