Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Why Christ Came
Part of this is because we're focused on the wrong thing--Christmas rather than Christ. But this too brings up a sore spot in the Church population at large. How are we to focus on Christ when we have so many distractions? After all, who's kidding who? We read the Christmas story a few times and try to pay attention, but it's not easy keeping Christ at the center of the Christmas season when there's good food and exciting gifts and tons of activities to prepare for. In all the years I've been celebrating (and I'm not all that old) it's always a busy time, and I generally end the holidays with a feeling of guilt for not being more Christ-focused.
But this year was different. This year Christ was the center focus of our Christmas season, and though we had just as many parties and events to prepare for, (which are fun too, I might add) every day from the beginning of December to the end we took a few minutes to focus on why Christ came to earth. And I ended the Christmas season, for one of the first times I can remember, feeling fully spiritually nourished, as well as surfeited with all the normal joys of the season.
My mother found the book that we all read together to put this special focus in our holidays. It's a new release, just in 2013, and it's entitled Why Christ Came, by Joel Beeke and William Boekestein. Though Christmas is over, I want to review it while it is fresh in my memory. It's worth getting any time of year, but it added the perfect touch to the Christmas holidays.
And this is speaking from our family, who hasn't sat down to read a book all together in the evenings for years.
The Book (synopsis from back cover copy)
When thinking about Christ’s birth, we often focus our attention on Luke’s detailed gospel account. But to appreciate the main point of the story—that the eternal Son of God assumed our flesh-and-blood human nature—we need to learn from the rest of the Bible why Christ came to earth. Why did Christ come? In this book, thirty-one thoughtful meditations answer this vital question, and the answers encourage us to celebrate Christ’s birth more deeply, see more clearly how it is connected with the rest of His ministry, and recognize its importance for our lives.
Every devotion was rich with Scripture references, quotes from the psalter, and quotes from church fathers. W purposed from the beginning to look up the suggested Scripture references in parentheses, and I highly recommend doing so, because there's nothing like seeing a principle clearly set forth in the Bible. Plus, it's a good way to involve the whole family in the learning process, and it keeps everyone paying attention for when their verse is called.
There were so many good reasons why Christ came. I think the main reason I took away from this book is that Christ came to glorify God, and to receive worship. He didn't just become a man to "hang out" with us while he was on earth. 'Sympathizing with our weaknesses' doesn't diminish the fact that he is the Son of God. He came to reconcile our sin with God's holiness, not just to offer a quick patch to hide it from God's sight. It was a deep and anguished sacrifice to reconcile us with our righteous Heavenly Father, and what a joy that it broke the chains that bound us, and we take this time of year to celebrate that freedom.
Other favorite devotions were 'To Bind up Broken Hearts' and 'To Satisfy Our Deepest Thirst.' No matter what I was going through on each particular day, the devotions always ministered, and always seemed to hit exactly what I needed to hear. They were meaty, yet not long, and even young children could probably sit through them.
As the December days slipped by, my anticipation built up for what could possibly be the topic on Christmas day. I made sure not to look ahead, and when it came to December 25th, as soon as my dad read the title, it took my breath away. 'To Reign as King'--what a beautiful, absolutely fitting focus for Christmas day, and what a triumphant and joyful way to start out Christmas morning. We started the day with our reading, and the rest of the day felt like a special holiday of worship and rest, almost like Sunday--with Christ at the focus of it all.
But the book doesn't end at Christmas day, unlike most Advent programs. Why Christ Came goes for 31 days. On New Year's Eve, after having a wonderful time with guests, we had twenty-five minutes left in 2013 to finish our book. We finished it with two minutes to spare. And what a very fitting way to end a year. It was a perfect finish to a beautiful new journey.
Just because we read this book doesn't make us some perfect family who can somehow pull off Christmas Like Jesus Would Celebrate It. Quite the contrary, it simply helped one very imperfect family set aside our busy distractions for twenty minutes each day and focus on Christ. Not a long time, but it was enough. And after it was over, we still had gifts to wrap and movies to watch, and too much chocolate to eat. But those twenty minutes a day shed grace on the season, and put the center on Christ so that we could reflect on Him as we went about our other activities. It was the first year I felt connected to Christ in the season that should be all about him. And that's why I'm passing it on now through today's review, because it was such a blessing, and so needed, in our family.
Why Christ Came can be used for more than Christmas. It would be very fitting for Easter, or if you don't celebrate traditional church holidays, it doesn't really mention any holidays in the devotions themselves, and would be perfect at any time of year. You could read it in January or July just as well as December.
This book had other beneficial side effects for us after the Christmas season ended. It was so universally enjoyed that we're now reading another book as a family--Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung, which will be an upcoming review sometime next week. While we've done family devotions together before, reading a book aloud in the evenings is new, and it's been a blessing to read all together. So one good habit led into another, and I give Why Christ Came, by Joel Beeke, five stars, and highly encourage you to pick up a copy. It's only $5 on Kindle, $10 in print. Or if you act now, you can get the print copy for $5 through Reformation Heritage bookstore.
Worth the price, and a wonderful and worshipful way to put Jesus Christ as the center of your day and expand your knowledge of why he came to earth. It blessed our family's holiday season, and I hope it can be a blessing to some of you as well. :)