There are two excellent resources that have recently been released that I want to recommend for your use this Advent season. They are Sinclair Ferguson’s new book Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent and Matt Maher’s new album The Advent of Christmas. Below are my reviews of each.
Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent by Sinclair Ferguson. The Good Book Company. 132 pages. 2018
In this new Christmas devotional, respected theologian Sinclair Ferguson writes that everyone seems to agree that Christmas is about love. However, he states that if you would ask people why Christmas is all about love, or what they meant by “love”, the answers would vary a great deal. Christians, however, would agree that Christmas exists only because of love.
In this book of Advent readings, the author looks at what is referred to as the “love chapter” of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. In the 24 readings for the days leading up to Christmas, he walks us through this passage of scripture line by line and explores what it means for us.
The author tells us that the real meaning of the Christmas story is challenging. It is about love coming down. And it makes us think about love in a new way. In these readings, he explores how and why Love came down at Christmas—and the difference this makes to our lives.
Each reading ends with a “Reflection” and a “Prayer”. For example, the prayer for the first reading is from Amy Carmichael.
My wife and I enjoy reading an Advent devotional each year to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This year, we’ll be reading Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson.
The Advent of Christmas – Matt Maher
Matt Maher is one of the most respected songwriters of our day. He has released Christmas songs in the past, but this is his first full-length Christmas album. The 13-song collection includes both original songs and traditional favorites that he hopes will help us prepare for and better appreciate the period of Advent, leading up to Christmas day. I really enjoyed this new release from Maher. Below are a few comments about each song:
Gabriel’s Message – This song is about the angel Gabriel’s message to Mary, the most highly favored lady (Luke 1;26-38). The song features piano, strings, drums, and backing vocals.
He Shall Reign Forevermore – This song was written with Chris Tomlin and was originally released on Tomlin’s 2015 album Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship. The song opens with piano and strings and builds powerfully with drums and backing vocals. It uses Isaiah 9:6 and Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” as a reference.
Unto us a child is born
The King of kings and Lord of lords
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
Born On That Day – This triumph song was written by Maher, Brian Elmquist, Mitch Parks, Jesse Reeves and Chris Tomlin. It opens with strings and builds powerfully. The song features some excellent drums and strings.
Christmas was born on that day. Oh, what a day, Oh what a day.
Jingle Bells – The lyrics to this holiday standard were written for a local school choir by James S. Pierpoint in 1857 with the title of “One Horse Open Sleigh”. Maher brings a fun, jazzy arrangement to the song, with piano, drums, horns, backing vocals, bass and violin.
The First Noel – This song, which probably goes back to the 18th century, was first published in Some Ancient Christmas Carols in 1823 by Davies Gilbert in London. On this version, to which a new chorus is added, Maher sings over piano, then is joined by bass and drums and backing vocals.
Hope For Everyone – This song features upbeat gospel music with the message of hope that Jesus brings. The song starts with Maher singing backed by acoustic guitar and then builds powerfully with a choir. Hear the angels sing that there is hope for everyone. We are waiting on the promise, Jesus, who bends low to be among us. He is the one who lights the darkness. This is the highlight of the album.
Glory (Let There Be Peace) – A different version of this song was previously released as a single in 2016. This version opens with some gospel organ and finger snaps, and then builds with some powerful drums and backing choir vocals. Do not be afraid, His love is strong enough to save us.
Let there be peace, let it start in me.
O Come Emmanuel – While this song is often linked with the 12th century, the earliest surviving evidence of the hymn’s text is in a hymnal published in Cologne in 1710. Maher’s beautiful version, which includes a new chorus, features bass, synth and finger snaps. It then builds powerfully.
Always Carry You – This beautiful song features lead vocals by Amy Grant, backed by Maher. In Luke 1:30, the angel tells Mary not to be afraid. She then says in Luke 1:38, “Let it be to me according to your word”. This was beyond her understanding, but she won’t be afraid, every word is true. What would it be like to never be afraid?
Love Came Down – This beautiful song about the coming of Jesus was written by Maher and Jon Guerra. It begins with acoustic guitar, synth, strings, and builds with a choir.
Born to heal the bonds of men
Born that we be born again
Hark The Herald Angels Sing – The lyrics to this song were written by Charles Wesley, and the music by Felix Mendelssohn. This joyful version, which features some new lyrics, includes Irish penny whistles.
Merry Little Christmas – This fun, upbeat song is about the joy of the Christmas season. It has a good drum-driven beat. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a wonderful life that we have.
When I Think Of Christmas – This song has Maher sharing his feelings as he thinks of Christmas. There are memories, singing songs, hope, raising a glass, thinking of those not with us. For a moment, the world is at peace. The song features piano and strings.
These are two resources that my wife and I will use to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus. What other resources would you suggest to our readers?