I am on record with my dislike for devotional books. I’m not absolutely against them and even keep a list of some of my favorites to share with people. The problem with most devotional books is that too frequently they are a combination of self-centered exaltation and superficial explanation. I agree with Matthew Barrett’s assessment at the beginning of his book, None Greater, when he writes, “While stacks of books invite the scholarly student to pick up and read, the churchgoer has little opportunity to dive headfirst into the deep things of God. Sadly, they turn to popular devotional literature to feed a spiritual hunger that only theology can satisfy” (pg. xv).
Despite this, for the second time in three months, a devotional book has crossed my desk for review. This time from Moody Publishers and known author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. This one, The First Songs of Christmas, is unique because this one is specific both in agenda and content. Unlike the general devotionals we often find, Nancy Wolgemuth has written this one for the time of advent, with each of the 31 days of devotion coming from the first two chapters of Luke.
That focus does not confine her though. While it does provide some guides for making each devotional more manageable so as to not overwhelm readers, the contents and topics covered throughout are broad and applicable. This is made possible by the format of the book. While each day begins like any other devotional with a reading of the chosen text and a brief commentary, the author follows with several other unique sections. First, she inserts short prayers each theologically rich and practically convicting. Then there is an inclusion of recommended Scriptures for readers to study more deeply. Usually, there are three additional passages that match the text and topic of the day. Finally, she closes with a section of response that asks readers poignant questions about their own walk with the Lord, (in a kind way) challenging believers to take the next steps in their relationship and actions for God.
Physically, the font and format make this book visually pleasing. It is clear that some thought was given to that aspect and this is important because it is clear that the same level of thought was put into the content as well. This is not just another devotional on the shelf, but one that appears to be very intentional in the making. As an example, generally, it frustrates me that so many include prayers in their devotionals (certainly, prompts are sometimes helpful but it seems that readers should be able to respond in their own words to what they are reading). In this book though, the prayers have added value to the content. Reading the prayers convicts one’s own heart, but never do you get the sense that she is admonishing readers, but rather praying genuinely for herself. He is just one example:
“Lord, restore to me the joy of Your salvation. How can I not be more excited at the demonstration of Your extreme love for sinners (like me) than at anything else that feels important about my day? Forgive me for crowding my mind the worship I owe you for becoming one of us at such a great cost.”
That’s the kind of heartfelt, heart-inclining writing that readers are treated to in this book.
The First Songs of Christmas is full of gracious writing. Admittedly, I read this book rather quickly for the review, but I wish I had read it a bit more slowly to enjoy it more thoroughly. Even still, it’s a great little book that I’m using as supplemental gifts to people, so it’s one that I definitely urge readers to consider.
Coffee Pairing: Every good book deserves to be paired with a good cup of coffee . . . or in this case, a good cup of tea. This particular book pairs well with the South African Rooibos tea from Serene Teaz. First, this is a red tea reminding us of the blood of Christ shed for our sins. However, like the book the flavor of this tea is powerful, yet soothing. I don’t give a lot of thought to the promoted health benefits of tea, but the claim for this one is that it reduces blood pressure and kidney stones, which seems fitting here. This particular book is good in the same ways, more by affecting the heart by reducing pressure and softening us (thus reducing those hard spots and stones in our lives).
To learn more about this book or purchase it, click here. Note: At the time of publication of this review, the Kindle edition of this book is only $1.59.
If you want to learn more about None Greater, mentioned also, click here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, the review was not compensated in any way and is not influenced by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book.