Please, please read this exceptional book! Though it says it is an "Advent Narrative" - and it definitely is - as the book even states, it is not just for Christmas and can be read any month of the year, not just December in preparation for Advent. BUT.... you'll also want to re-read it during Advent!
As I lamented to a friend, Christmas was difficult to really feel like I embraced the wonder and amazement and humility that one hopes to experience during this time. I love Advent - a time of preparation and waiting - yet, amidst all the 'preparations' I felt like something was missing.
Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey was a book I actually downloaded in October. I believe I read about it in a blog somewhere, very highly recommended, so I downloaded it in ebook format because it was less expensive than hardcover. (though now I also want the hardcover so I an lend it out more easily!)
But I didn't read it until days prior to Christmas. That is one of the downfalls to ebooks. It is so easy to acquire books (especially when they are cheap) that you obtain them but fail to read them. And then, since you don't see them on your bookshelf, you forget they're even there.
But luckily I found this book before Christmas. As I told another friend, "Christmas came late for me, but it did come." To that statement I was assured that I was wrong; Christmas had come right on time.... just for me! But this book was instrumental in it and I am certain I'll glean more and more with each re-reading. For some reason, his account of the Shepherds absolutely floored me, and I wrote all that out in my post titled "The Lamb" so I won't post it all here, but I will post some of the other quotes I fell in love with. Please, read the book!
"No man, when he comes to die, will ever say, "I spoke too much of the grace of God.""This was the heart of Israel's religion: love. Only divine love made sense of the world. This love went beyond a mere feeling. This love was doctrine. Israel's story was a story of being kept, and the only reasonable response was to love the Keeper.""This, ultimately, is what the story is about. It is a tall tale filled with people in trouble, all living somewhere between wandering and homecoming, between devastation and restoration, between transgression and grace. Every mortal character in the story needs rescue, but tthey have all turned aside, and together they have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one. (Ps. 14:3)"But why had the glory of all glories appeared the to lowest of the lows? Why had the angel chosen to reveal this message to mere shepherds, unclean as they were?Because poverty is relative. Could it be that from the perspective of heaven, the poor shepherds outside Bethlehem were no more or less poor than the rest of the world sleeping under tis watch. Could it be that the poor of the earth were in fact all the people of the earth - poor in spirit, mourning and meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness? (Mt. 5:2-12) Could it be that the Savior's coming was for them as much as it was for anyone, and for anyone as much as it was for them?""The shepherds could not have known that this boy came into this world in the same way he would leave it: Out in the open, among the outcast, poor, and despised - to ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile until the Son of God appears.""The chief priests were the keepers of the temple and of the religious life and culture of the Jews. The scribes, or teachers of the law, were the guardians of the Word of God. They wrote out copies of the sacred Scriptures, poring over every last jot and tittle. THey knew the minute details of every scroll of every book. They knew the lore. Still, curiously, not one of them seemed motivated to see for themselves if the Magi were right. They should have been the most expectant of the Messiah's coming, but all that the religious leaders displayed as they rehearsed these ancient prophetic details of their coming king was apathetic suspicion.""God's promised Messiah was a merciful gift of love to a people who needed both mercy and love. He would come to them in all their pain, brokenness, and struggle, and make everything new. THey were desperate for this, and the proof of their desperation was perhaps most evident in the fact that they couldn't bring themselves to live as through this promise was real.""God had told him, "I am your shield, your very great reward." (Gen. 15:1) God wasn't calling Abram's future descendants primarily to land or power. He was calling them to himself. He was the ultimate prize.""God renamed these two (Abraham and Sarah) Not according to who they were, but according to what he would make of them.""The problem wasn't simply that they couldn't see God's love. It was that they couldn't see themselves in an honest light either.""How easy it would have been to forget that God's covenant wasn't just about what he would deliver them from. His promise wasn't only a call out of bondage, though it was that. It was a call to Someone. God's call on the lives of his people has always been, above all else, a call to himself. He set his affection on his people and promised to make them clean and to give them life.""Still, for all Moses' greatness, from the day God sent him to lead, the people complained about him. THis wasn't because Moses was a bad leader, but because in order for people to be lead, they must leave something behind - and people grow fond of home, even if they've only been enslaved there. For every step Moses led them to freedom, they found something to lament and complain about.""He was Immanuel - God with his people (Isa 9:19, 6:13) He would turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. (Mal 4:6). Where there was despair, he would bring hope. Where there was brokenness, he would bring healing. Where there was sadness, he would bring joy. Where there was bondage, he would set people free.""Though no one could have known all of this at the time, Jesus was the priest who became the sacrifice, the king who took on the form of a servant, the prophet who himself was the Word of God (Jn. 1:1) He was Immanuel, God with us (Isa 7:14, Mt 1:23) - Son of God, Son of Man. (Jn. 20:31), Mt. 12:40)