Back before Father Abraham had any sons, the God of the universe made him a promise. He would be the father of a great nation, and through him all the people of the earth would be blessed. One night God brought him outside his tent in the desert and said, “Look toward heaven. Count the stars if you’re able. So shall your offspring be.”
I grew up hearing stories like this. But something came alive for me one night in college when I found myself in the Middle East, not too far from Abraham’s desert, lying on my back, staring up at that same starry sky. In the desert, the night is a magnificent thing to behold. The Lord silenced me with his glory.
I thought about this oath God made to Abraham. Here was a man who, for his entire life, had been unable to have children with his wife, though God’s promise to him was all about descendants. I thought about how hard this would have been to accept, how improbable was the math. And then I pictured Abraham stepping out beneath the brilliant canopy of stars flung across the heavens, and I imagined the Lord silencing his doubt with the same glory he was now using to silence me.
What a mercy that must have been to Abraham, for God to meet him in his doubt with this display of glory. Though Abraham couldn’t begin to count the stars above, his life was in the hands of the one who made them.
Every story God tells is filled with glory. Like Abraham beneath the stars, I want to see it. I want to be captured by the wonder of impossible promises coming true. I want to read the pages of Scripture with my eyes open to the beauty of mercy and grace.
I want this for you as well.
One of my highest hopes for this book is that it will deepen your understanding of the wonder and glory of the story of the Bible. Biblical literacy is one of the most important goals of my work as a pastor. I want people to know what the Bible says.
The challenge this book presented was this: How do I tell the story of God’s redemptive purpose in sending his Son in a way that’s faithful to the text of Scripture, knowing I must abridge or omit many wonderful and important moments? This puzzle took me through the process of embracing what this book is and what it is not.
First, this book is not complete. My focus in this volume of the Retelling the Story series is specifically to tell the story of the need for and the coming of Christ, so I’ve left a lot of Scripture untouched. For example, though I draw much from the teachings and language of Paul’s Epistles, the scope of The Advent of the Lamb of God ends before Paul comes on the scene, so here I make no mention of this man the Lord used to write half of the New Testament. Paul’s story is told in the third volume in this series, The Mission of the Body of Christ.
Also, this book is not a substitute for the Bible itself. In Deuteronomy, the Lord instructs his people to tell their children about him continually—when they’re tucking them in at night, when they’re walking down the road, when they’re sitting down to eat.
They were to have the stories of Scripture posted everywhere—on their doorposts, wrapped around their arms, emblazoned on their foreheads, woven into their conversations. There was the text of Scripture—the Law of Moses—and then there were the stories people told about it, those “have you read the one about” moments. This book is a collection of those moments.
Last, this book is not exclusively a Christmas book. We haven’t told the Christmas story well if we’ve limited its relevance to one month of the year. This book is designed to guide you through a contemplative season of Advent if you like—twenty-five chapters, one for each day of December up until Christmas Day. But I hope taking twenty-five days in June to read it will be just as meaningful.
Now I want to tell you what this book is.
This book is meant to be a servant of the Bible. I’ve packed this book with hundreds of Scripture references. Let me explain how I use them. Throughout this book I paraphrase pretty freely in order to maintain a unified voice. Rarely do I quote Scripture directly or at length. This applies to character dialogue as well. If a character says something and there’s a Scripture reference linked to it in the notes section, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m quoting the original text. I’m probably not. More than likely I’m paraphrasing and distilling a larger moment in Scripture to work within the limits of this book. That said, those references are there to lead you to the truer, taller tale Scripture unfolds with perfect sufficiency.
My hope is that this journey through the pages of Scripture will capture your imagination in ways that will serve your lifelong study of the Bible.
Along with being a servant of the Bible, this book is also my story.
Every picture of brokenness reflected in these pages is in some measure the story of my brokenness. Every need that rises to the surface is in some way a need of my own. Every tendency toward rebellion, every cry of desperation, every prayer for forgiveness, and every hope of redemption rings true in me. In these pages, I’m telling the story of how God loved and rescued me. I believe Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away my sin.
*Adapted from The Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. Copyright (c) 2018 by Russ Ramsey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com