Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

25 April 2011

My thoughts on Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

I read Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, an anthology of readings about Easter edited by Nancy Guthrie, during the run up to Easter. And it was just as good as Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus was for the season of Advent.
As Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus did for Christmas, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross drilled down into the Easter story quickly, profoundly and powerfully. It opened up lots of the small detail that can be missed when reading over such familiar stories, bringing a freshness to the Easter story.

Interestingly, when I read Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus I started it two days before Advent.  I'd been waiting a long time to read that book and couldn't hold out for those last two days.  Twenty two readings - one a day with a few missed days here and there because December is such a busy month - should have seen me finish the book pretty much on Christmas Day.  As it turned out it was all done and dusted by 10th December.  I was like the child who just can't wait to open the presents under the tree.  Two or three (or five!) readings a day.  I virtually swallowed the book whole and it was pure joy.

I started  Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross at the beginning of Lent.  Now if my Lent maths is correct, that should have given me 46 days to get through the 25 readings.  And as it turned out, I needed every inch of Lent to get through it.  I loved this book like the Advent one.  And yet it sat untouched on my desk for days at a time and when I did pick it up I could only take in one reading at a time.  I finished it just in time for Easter.

Which seems about right.  Because Easter is much harder to take in than Christmas.  Christmas is all about the greatest Gift ever - the gift of Immanuel.  And we get to share in the celebrations and rejoice.  But at Easter we become aware of why God needed to send this gift of Jesus.  The spotlight is shared between Jesus - the crucified and risen Jesus - and our wretched sinfulness that nailed Him to the cross. 

If you don't have a strong sense of God's love for you, of the sacrifice He made in sending His one and only Son to die on the cross, of the enormity of Jesus' work and the pain He bore on the cross or of the magnitude of your own sinfulness then this is a must read.  It isn't an easy book- although there are some glorious bits - but it is truly worthwhile. 

And it need not be confined to the lead up to Easter because we need to understand all of these things all year round.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish
but have eternal life. 
John 3:16

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