Scott James. The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent. Nashville: B&H Books, 2014. 73 pp. $9.99.
Church and Ministry
Christmas holiday cheer is in the air. If you’re like me, you want to enjoy it in every way. Christmas music, decorations, cookies, and gifts are one way to spread the cheer, but there is no better way than to meditate on the advent of Christ. If you’re also like me, the former Christmas festivities come easy. It’s easy to develop a tradition of decorating a tree, driving around town to look at Christmas lights, or count down to Christmas morning. In fact, sometimes those good and wonderful blessings distract from centering Christmas around Christ.
One way to keep this temptation at bay is to have a daily dose of the gospel throughout the Christmas season. A great resource to do this is Scott James’s, The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent. Scott developed this twenty-five day devotional for the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, where he serves on the elder board.
Each devotional walks through an Old Testament promise that points to Christ, followed by a brief paragraph explaining the text. Then there is a series of questions meant to spur review and reflection. The devotional explores six promises that look forward expectantly to Christ and are worthy of reflection during advent: (1) the promise of his coming, page 11; (2) the promise of his birth, page 23; (3) the promise of his life, page 33; (4) the promise of his death, page 45; (5) the promise of his resurrection, page 55; and (6) the promise of his eternal reign, page 63.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
In the introduction, James remarks: “The material is primarily designed for families with children, but I think that anyone wanting to meditate deeply on Christ will find it helpful” (10). As I read through the devotional, I got really excited about sharing this material with my children. Some of the concepts will require explanation, but, for the most part, James presents the content in bite sizes that are digestible for families – even ones like mine that struggle to have all three children, six and under, sit for fifteen minutes.
Likewise, I enjoyed perusing this compact devotional, and though my experience with it was inspectional, I felt my heart fill with praise. My experience confirmed this assertion by James: “The image of the Child in the manger should fill our hearts with praise because we know what that Child would grow up to accomplish—He would save His people from their sins” (8). Indeed, The Expected One triumphantly puts the image of the coming King before us to gaze upon, enjoy, and savor throughout advent.
I enjoyed how Scott James focused this advent devotional upon Old Testament texts. The Expected One reinforces our anticipation of the Christ by examining texts that stirred Israel’s anticipation of the Messiah. James attentively selected Scriptures that are undisputed Messianic texts, among them are Scriptures such as: Isaiah 11:1, Micah 5:2, and Zechariah 9:9.
Each devotional is perceptively written. I was taken by December 12ths entry on Zephaniah 3:17. Here James asks us to reflect on the distinction between God sending someone else and God sending himself to rescue us. He explains, “Because God is the only One who is able to save us. Also, it shows how important the rescue mission is to Him – so important that He did not mind humbling Himself to come accomplish it” (39). What a simple, but, nonetheless, penetrating point to ponder!
Quite honestly, I could see this resource deployed in a number of other functions, besides simply families. Sunday school teachers could use this for their classes; weekly small groups might use it for an advent series; pastors could lead staff through a fifteen minute devotional during advent. The functions are numerous.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
The Expected One centers readers on Christ during advent as they anticipate the coming King.