The Greatest Gift
Unwrapping The Full Love Story of Christmas
By Ann Voskamp
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2014 Ann Voskamp
All rights reserved.
Look ... for Hope
The heart that makes time and space for Him to come will be a glorious place. A place of sheer, radiant defiance in the face of a world careening mad and stressed. Because each day of Advent, we will actively wait. We will wait knowing that the remaking of everything has already begun.
THE GREATEST GIFT
In preparation for Session 1, read the devotional entries for December 1–6, found on pages 1–54 in The Greatest Gift.
Select one of the following questions to help center your group prior to viewing this session's video. You might think through your responses ahead of time, in case you choose to kick off the conversation yourself.
1. What is your family's favorite Christmas tradition? How did it begin?
2. What does Advent— the word, the season, the observances—mean to you? What personal experiences have shaped your understanding of Advent?
This week's video focuses on the single greatest priority for our lives—from God's perspective, anyway. It's the priority of lineage, of our being grafted into His family tree.
View video, Session 1 [run time 15 minutes].
At the conclusion of the video, say a brief prayer, asking God to direct your conversation and shed His light on the parts of your life needing illumination.
Questions for Discussion
Work through the questions below that seem most pertinent to the group's needs and desires.
1. What word, phrase, promise, or refrain stood out to you most in the video? Why?
2. Read Isaiah 11:1-2, 10 and then respond to the idea presented in the video that "the mattering part is never the chopped-off stump." If this is true, then why do we so often define ourselves and even describe ourselves to others in terms that reflect that chopped-off stump—that failure, that fear, that foible, that fallacy? Why do we seem to relate more to the "stump" than to the shoot, the new fruit-bearing Branch, Jesus Christ?
3. The essence of hope is ultimately presence—namely, God's presence. And yet Christmastime has a way of revealing to us the "other things" we hope in—goods and glitter, trinkets and lighted trees. What tends to distract you during this season of Advent from training your eyes—and your hope—on Christ alone?
4. Do you agree or disagree with the notion that "we only find out where we are when we find out where [God] is"? How would you describe "where you are" these days? Are you satisfied with where you are?
5. This session's title is "Look." What are you really, truly, wholeheartedly looking for this Christmas?
If time permits, turn to page 44 in The Greatest Gift and answer the questions you find there.
Read aloud the devotional entry from December 1 in The Greatest Gift, found on pages 4–5. Then name the "unfurled grace" you would most like to see this Advent season. Perhaps "unfurled grace" would look like a prodigal child returning home or a few moments of stillness at the start of each December day. Or it may look like release from a troubling addiction or a life-giving conversation with a combative colleague. Maybe it would look like a deep breath or a fresh appreciation for snowfall on tree limbs or ears to hear—really hear—the words of the wondrous carols. Maybe it would look like eyes to see the Word of God in new and personal ways. Maybe it would look like true rest.
After everyone who wishes to share has spoken, close your discussion time in prayer. Sample prayer points are provided below, which can be adapted for your group. Or you are also free to pray along different lines based on the needs of your group.
Thanksgiving for this life—stumps and all—and for the greatest imaginable Gift— the Shoot, Jesus Christ
Intercession for the needs expressed during group discussion
Determination to seek after what really matters this Christmas
Until Next Time
Prior to your next meeting, be sure to read the entries for December 7–12 found on pages 55–120 in The Greatest Gift. To seal this session's core concept in your mind and heart, ponder these two questions between now and Session 2:
1. The stump. As you enter this Christmas season, what "stump" troubles you most? A flagging relationship? Financial strain? An emotional valley? A moral dilemma? A general sense of purposeless, hopelessness, or pain?
2. The shoot. Even if your life seems devoid of brazen miracles, what little things—events, circumstances, or other small but significant signs of new life—are coming together for you this Advent season in a way that indicates God is behind them? (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. Copyright © 2014 Ann Voskamp. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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