The Greatest Gift
UNWRAPPING THE FULL LOVE STORY OF CHRISTMAS
By Ann Voskamp
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2013 Ann Voskamp
All rights reserved.
It Is Advent: Come
Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord....
In that day the heir to David's throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.
ISAIAH 11:1-2, 10
The mattering part is never what isn't.
The mattering part is never the chopped-off stump.
It isn't what dream has been cut down, what hope has been cut off, what part of the heart has been cut out.
The tender mattering part is—you have a Tree.
Out of the last and forgotten son of Jesse comes forth one tender branch that will grow into a crown of thorns ... a rugged cross ... your ladder back to God. Jesus will go to impossible lengths to rescue you.
Out of the stump of that fallen tree, watered with the living waters that flow from the depths of His grace, a twig sprouts. That twig will be the scepter that defeats your sin ... and lets you grow again.
Out of that stump and the sheared impossible there springs a singular shoot—tender and vulnerable.
There, here, in the midst of the inconceivable, the loud claims, the hard sells, the big spectacles, Christ comes small, the micro- macro-miracle who comes in the whisper and says, Seek Me. Just where you are, look for the small glimpses of God-glory breaking in, breaking out, sprouting, shooting, unfurling, bearing fruit, making a Kingdom, remaking the world. Slow and still. And seek the shoot that bears witness to God—the hardly noticed child, the hymn hummed over the sink, the unassuming woman bent at the register, the dog-eared Word of God beckoning from the shelf.
Gaze on shoots of glory to grow deep roots in God.
The theology of the Tree, of the Cross, always seeks the presence of God in the belittled gifts of the world.
The small Babe of Bethlehem, the dismissed Son of God, the stripped and beaten Messiah hanging exposed on the Tree—He begs us to spend the attention of Advent on the little, the least, the lonely, the lost.
Because in the rush, in the hurry, in our addiction to speed—it might just be a bit like stepping on the shoot that sprouts from the stump.
Advent, it is made of the moments.
This slow unfurling of grace.
Unwrapping More of His Love in the World
Plant wheat or grass seeds for every act of love and kindness you do today. Continue planting seeds for kindnesses throughout the Jesse Tree journey. Keep watering the sprouts until Christmas Eve. You're growing straw for the manger of the coming King! Love and new life are coming!
* * *
In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you've never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.
A Moment for Reflection
In what ways do you feel like a lifeless stump, longing for a tender shoot of hope? _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________
What are you waiting for, yearning for this season? _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________
Where can you see new life coming in what you may have considered dead? _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________ (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. Copyright © 2013 Ann Voskamp. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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