A Word From the Author

On or about the 25th of each month I send a text to my two adult children. It simply says “ months until Christmas!” When my grandchildren get old enough to have texting, I will send it to them. I also tell my wife how long it is until Christmas, usually adding for her that we can start celebrating Christmas even sooner!

Like most children, I loved Christmas. Of course, the presents were huge, but very early in my life, I became aware of the wondrous meaning. The season came with an extra measure of grace. Perhaps that is what I felt. I loved almost everything about the season, the cold weather, the winter smells of Kentucky, the sleeping trees that had shed their leaves, the bright lights on homes throughout the town, and the music we sang and heard. I felt the joy and saw the difference it made in people.
Being raised a Baptist, I didn’t know about the sacred rhythms of the year that more liturgically minded Christians enjoyed.When I entered seminary, I learned about Advent. Beginning with the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, we could have four Sundays to prepare and reflect on the stunning truth that God came to earth as a baby. I was hooked on Advent from that moment on.

The celebration is even deeper and longer in the Catholic Church. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year, so the Church starts by anticipating the arrival of Jesus, the focal point of the faith. And it extends beyond Christmas for forty days! Highlights include the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) commemorating the arrival of the wisemen through the Feast of the Presentation (February 2) which focuses on the presentation of Jesus at the temple with Simeon’s prophecy and the prophetess Anna’s proclamation of the baby as the fulfillment of God’s promise. The Church offers many rich opportunities for worship and reflection for anyone who loves Christmas.

When I first learned that my good and gifted friend Barbara Davis was working on a series of oil paintings from the first Christmas, I knew the paintings would be lovely.When she gently hinted that she would like devotionals for each scene, I enthusiastically volunteered, and she graciously accepted. We decided against an Advent-long daily devotional, for the market has many of those offerings. The first Christmas is a collection of stories of people and events God providentially wove together to bring His Son into the world. We wanted to focus on each scene without being bound to a particular number.

Our shared hope is that this book, through pictures and words, will deepen your love for Christmas. Your story is also in the first story. We pray you will occasionally take time to pick up this book, gaze upon the paintings, read the words, and reflect on how each story invites you to find your story in it. God certainly intends to weave you into the broadening tapestry of His great love we’ve humbly tried to capture here.

Above all, we pray and wish for you a very blessed and merry Christmas.