Can you believe that Advent begins in four weeks?  What will your church or small group study for the Advent season this year that will help you experience the meaning of Christmas?

Abingdon Press has just released my latest book, an Advent book entitled, Not a Silent Night, along with a DVD for small group use.  It takes a different approach to Advent than any other Advent book I’ve known.

Not only does it look at Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes, but it also focuses on Mary, telling her story by starting at the end of her life with each chapter working its way towards Christmas. In the first chapter we consider the stories from the early church surrounding Mary’s death, and the hope of the resurrection Jesus brings.  Then in each succeeding chapter we’ll work our way backward, from the Crucifixion, to Jesus’ ministry, to his discovery in the Temple as a twelve-year-old boy, until finally we come to the birth of Jesus. In each chapter we’ll consider the meaning of the birth of Jesus by looking at the significance of his life, death, and resurrection.

I invite you to travel with me and experience the story of a not-so-silent night, of a young mother unexpectedly chosen by God to bring the Christ Child into the world. Along the way, we will discover the gifts she received at each stage of his life, and we will receive them too: the hope of resurrection found in the garden, the salvation gift of the cross, a new way to live that Jesus taught in his ministry, and the ever-present gift of God’s grace.

The title captures one of the key themes of the book.  We often imagine that Christmas was a time when “all is calm, all is bright.” Imagining that Christmas represents a time of “heavenly peace,” many struggle with the disconnect between the challenges of their lives and the “silent night” we think Christmas was, and promises for us.  Yet that first Christmas was decidedly not a silent night.  It was difficult and hard.  And Mary’s life was hard and characterized by adversity.  She was blessed, God-favored, and grace-filled, yet she knew her share of troubles. That’s how life was for Mary, and that’s how life is for us. Life doesn’t go according to our best-laid plans. Sometimes it’s hard and painful and scary. Yet, in the messiness of life, God is at work, bringing blessing out of pain. That’s the message of Christmas.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting excerpts from the book here on my blog.

In order to use Not a Silent Night for your small group and/or personal Advent reflections, you’ll want to make sure you begin your study around mid-November. You can order the DVD, Leader’s Guide, and book here.

Watch the promotional book trailer below:


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