I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to figure out how to write this post.
Because it’s about Ann Voskamp. And her gorgeous new book. And I don’t know if y’all know this, but Ann is sort of a brilliant writer. So any attempt on my part to try to do justice to her thoughtful, tender, insightful words feels like it falls woefully short. I mean, I’m a person who uses A LOT OF CAPITAL LETTERS and is admittedly overly dependent on parentheses.
(But that Ann, on the other hand.)
(I tell you what.)
(She’s a poet.)
So I’ll just tell you a story.
A couple of years ago I went on a Compassion Bloggers’ trip to Ecuador – along with Ann, her husband, Kelly, Melanie, and Amanda. On the fourth day of our trip, we woke up early one morning, hopped on a bus, and set out on an almost six-hour trek to the Amazon jungle. It was hot, the traffic was horrible, and the roads spiraled this way and that way and sometimes felt like they circled back to right where we’d started. Most of us were popping Dramamine tablets like they were cough drops, and it only took about 20 minutes before Melanie proved that she had some serious skills when it came to snatching a plastic grocery bag from our friend Keely at the exact moment when she realized that THE SICKNESS, IT IS INEVITABLE.
Once the roads started to straighten out a little bit and the motion sickness started to release its WHITE-HOT GRIP, everybody started to visit. Well, Melanie wasn’t doing much visiting because she was still trying to convince her stomach to cooperate, but the rest of us were talking about whatever came to mind. Kelly and I were deep in a discussion about college football when our attention turned to snack foods in Ecuador, and as we rifled through the snack bag on the bus, here is what I remember about our conversation.
Me: “This chip says that it has MORE cheese, but I think it tastes more like corn.”
Kelly: “I think it’s kinda good, though.”
Me: “I think I’ll try this one – it looks sort of like cheese puffs.”
Me: “Well, at first it’s like Cheetos, but then it sort of tastes like Fruit Loops.”
Kelly: “Fruit Loops? It tastes like cereal?”
Me: “Yes. First you taste cheese. Then you most definitely taste strawberry.”
So what I’m telling you is that Kelly and I were a wee bit obsessed with the snack foods and our personal taste tests. But somewhere in the middle of our in-depth analysis, I tuned in to a conversation that Ann was having in the seat behind me. And in that deep, melodic voice of hers, she was discussing the beauty of the book of Colossians with Shaun, who was sitting a row or two behind her.
So, to sum up:
Kelly & Sophie – snack foods
Ann & Shaun – the doctrine of justification
PRACTICALLY THE SAME THING.
I always think about that day on the bus when I marvel at Ann’s ability to focus on what matters most. She’s a deep thinker, a gifted writer, and, for so many of us, a trusted, treasured voice of encouragement and wisdom who makes us want to love Jesus more. That’s why I’m thrilled about her new book – which was released today – called The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.
Here’s a little peek:
This, this, is the love story that’s been coming for you since the beginning.
It is possible for you to miss it.
To brush past it, to rush through it, to not see how it comes for you up over the edges of everything, quiet and unassuming and miraculous—how every page of the word has been writing it, reaching for you, coming for you. And you could wake on Christmas only to grasp that you never took the whole of the Gift, the wide expanse of grace. So now we pause. Still. ponder. hush. wait. Each day of advent, he gives you the gift of time, so you have time to be still and wait.
Wait for the coming of the God in the manger who makes Himself bread for us near starved.
For the Savior in swaddlings who makes Himself the robe of righteousness for us worn out.
For Jesus, who makes precisely what none of us can but all of us want: Christmas.
Sometimes the heart waiting for the Gift . . . is the art of the Gift.
This waiting, your art—mark it.
Mark advent with a counting, a way of staying awake and not missing.
It could happen like the numbering of time, like the rings on a tree.
Like a leaning over that Jesse Tree of the old Testament, that Jesse Tree axed down, and counting rings down to the greatest Gift, to life out of the dream cut off.
That Jesse Tree, named after Jesse, who was the father of David—David to whom God promised that his line and his sons and his family would reign forever without end.
And when David’s sons and grandsons and great- grandsons turned from God and loved the gifts and the flesh more than the Giver and the Father—their kingdoms fell. Their homes fell apart.
It looked as if the whole family tree of Jesse had been chopped right off at the roots. But God . . .
It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: you and your family will be blessed by this book. It has 25 different devotions for the Advent season, and each day has its own ornament. In the absolute sweetest, most edifying way, it’s the stuff that Christmas traditions are made of. You can buy it here on Amazon or here at Barnes & Noble.