I wanted to get a review of this book out before Advent begins to give you a chance to get hold of a copy!
Sinclair B. Ferguson doesn’t focus on the well-known nativity that we might expect for an advent reading. He focuses on another well-known passage of the Bible that many of us will be familiar with because it is so often quoted at weddings – 1 Corinthians 13. He takes the reader through a verse a day and brings a reflection and a prayer at the end of each chapter. He carefully reflects upon the verses in light of what we face in our everyday life and brings each reading back to the Christmas story, linking it beautifully with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
I really appreciated the prayers from Christians who have gone before including Augustine of Hippo, Charles Wesley, John Newton and others. I had not heard of George Matheson, a Scottish minister and hymn writer, until reading this book which led me to find out more about him as I was so moved by his words.
What struck me most about this book is how I felt challenged after reading each chapter. He talked about sacrifice, patience, envy, pride, humility, resentment and much more – things that essentially all of us struggle with at some point. I used to think I was pretty patient until I became a Mum! The author writes each chapter with examples which we can relate to, but always looks to the life of Jesus and how in His love, He can transform our lives in such an incredible way.
As Christmas leading into the New Year is often a time of reflection, I think these readings will be timely for anyone who wants to start well this coming year. This is a book that I will probably be reading every Advent, if not throughout the year because it is a reminder of what real love looks like; we just need to look at the life of Jesus to see it in all it’s fullness. It will challenge you to slow down, think upon your life and the life of Jesus and it will leave you wanting to love more deeply as Christ has loved us.