I would definitely recommend Russ Ramsey's Behold the Lamb of God. Is it an advent devotional? Yes and no. Yes, it's perfectly fine to use the book as an advent devotional. It would make a lovely early Christmas present. But is it only an advent devotional? I say that this is one "advent" devotional that is worth reading all twelve months of the year.
One reason why I think this is so is that it is all about engaging the reader with the Bible story. One could perhaps think of it as a bible story book for grownups. (Though I will add that this one would be fine to share aloud with the whole family.) Perhaps you're a new Christian, and, you're curious about what's in the Bible but the idea of reading the Bible through intimidates you more than excites you. Perhaps you've tried in the past to get the "big picture" of the Bible but for whatever reason, you gave up or lost interest. Perhaps you've been a Christian for many, many years, but, you're still not all that clear what the Bible is all about and how the testaments fit together.
Biblical literacy is important to Ramsey, and he's adapted the 'big picture' of the Bible into twenty-five readings. These readings point the way to Jesus Christ, and help emphasis the reason WHY we celebrate Christmas. About seventy-five percent of the book focuses on the Old Testament, but, don't think this means that Jesus is excluded--far from it! Christ is to be found in both Old and New Testaments, and, if you've never realized how or why, then, perhaps this devotional will help you see the Bible in a new way. That is perhaps the Holy Spirit will use Ramsey's book to minister to you.
I enjoyed this one. But I didn't enjoy all twenty-five readings equally. But by the time we get to the end of the book, it was absolutely giddy-making, and a true delight. The excitement built throughout the book as the plot advances towards Jesus: his birth, his life, his ministry, his death and resurrection. There was just something JOYOUS about it.
My hope is that reading this devotional will encourage you--inspire you--to pick up the Word of God and read it with new passion, new devotion, new longing to TASTE AND SEE spiritual things.
Woven throughout the story are all of humanity’s wrath and greed and lust and gluttony and sloth and envy and pride—together in force with all of their consequences. But through that darkness shine the bright rays of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Gal 5:22) It is the story of evil against good, of darkness locked in an epic struggle to snuff out the light forever. Will the darkness prevail in the end, or will the light overcome the darkness? (Jn 1:5) This, ultimately, is what the story is about. It is a tale filled with people in trouble, all living somewhere between wandering and homecoming, between devastation and restoration, between transgression and grace. Every mortal character in the story needs rescue, but they have all turned aside, and together they have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:3)
It’s the story of the one true God calling a people his beloved, though they’ve lived in perpetual rebellion against him. Since the beginning, this story has had an end—a glorious end. God’s call on the lives of his people, ultimately, is to himself—though it would come at a greater cost than anyone could imagine. The story ends with the maker and lover of the souls of men drawing his people to himself—purchasing their redemption through the lifeblood of his own Son. God did not spare his Son but gave him for us all. And if this is true, how will he not also, through his son, graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32) The tale is a tall one, but it’s true.
To worship God is to dwell on who he is, to consider his handiwork. (Job 37:14) Often worship requires stillness. Stillness allows a mind to hold complicated thoughts without losing them. Silence was a gift God gave to Zechariah, and the old man put it to work.
There was no one around to coach them, no one to tell them everything would be all right. He held her and he prayed. They thought of the angels who visited their dreams. They thought of Adam and Eve taking the forbidden fruit and how one of the consequences of that act of rebellion was shooting through Mary from head to toe, every three minutes now. It was not a silent night. She strained and groaned and fought for every breath. She pushed as sweat beaded on her forehead. Joseph wiped her brow and told her a hundred times that he loved her, he loved her, he loved her. Swept up in waves of pain and contractions, Mary continued to push and breathe and strain while time passed. Eventually, as if cresting a ridge, her labor gave way to delivery, and her groaning gave way to the sound of the cries and the coos of little lungs drawing in the breath of earth for the first time. Joseph laid the baby on Mary’s chest, and to the wonder of the helpless man and the relief of the weary woman, they beheld him who, though he was the Son of God, was every bit a fragile, tiny baby.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible