Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book Review: Peace, Classic Readings for Christmas- by Stephen J. Nichols

693010: Peace: Classic Readings for Christmas
By Stephen Nichols / Reformation Trust Publishing

Each of us is on a search for peace. During this season, we bake cookies and play music, but such comforts only hint at a much greater peace in the distance. The good news of Christmas is that we can stop searching, because we already know the One who is peace. This new book reminds us of the real meaning of Christmas, a world-changing event that reaches beyond December 25th and affects every life, every day, for all of time. Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2:14a). Meditations, Bible passages, and hymns unite with beautiful illustrations inviting you and your family to enter into the true peace of Christmas.
Dr. Stephen Nichols has collected a series of meditations and reflections on Christmas gathered from throughout the history of the Church. This collection does a wonderful job of placing Christmas into its proper place within the context of God’s plan of redemption that He is working out in history. Christmas, Nichols highlights, does not begin in Bethlehem. It begins at creation. It does not end with the wise men; it ends in heaven. Dr. Nichols has organized all of the writings around the central theme of “peace” but the book is anything but redundant. He has done a wonderful job of selecting writings that reflect on various different aspects of the incarnation and work of redemption so that the reader’s attention is continually directed to a different aspect of the Christmas message. The book includes an impressive array of perspectives from Leo I to Bonhoeffer, from Ambrose to Wesley, from Augustine to Wesley, from Luther to Piper, and many others.

The result is a book that has an almost devotional quality. Rather than a systematic presentation of doctrine beginning with A and working through to Z, the great and deep truths of Christmas are examined like a precious stone that is turned all different directions so that the light might glimmer and refract off of each surface and angle. It more closely represents a classic liturgy than a modern study. In fact, the book ends with an adaptation of portions of historical liturgical readings and songs for use in either church or home.

Although the book will no doubt be beneficial to any Christian who wishes to gain deeper insight into the Christmas story, I think its main benefit may be as a resource to preachers looking to expand the scope and depth of their Christmas or Advent sermons. The meditations in the book are so rich that I found myself repeatedly wanting to preach on the underlying scriptural passages so I could share the themes and truths highlighted in the book. I think many preachers will similarly be encouraged to dig a bit deeper into a number of scriptural passages with their congregations.

While I have always celebrated Christmas, I have never been a fan of how it is usually done. I recall teaching my children when they were younger that there were two distinctly different holidays that were celebrated at the end of the year and that unfortunately sometimes people (even in church) get them a bit mixed up. What Dr. Nichols has done in this book, however, is to call our attention to the true wonder of Christmas that should characterize the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. That wonder should be with us every single day of the year.

* I received a free copy of this book from Reformation Trust Publishing as part of their book review program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

No comments:

Post a Comment