Dr. Mark Yarbrough is the President of Dallas Theological Seminary and professor of Bible Exposition. In this devotional, Yarbrough provides twenty-five insightful devotions that lead readers through the entire story of Scripture. Reflecting on texts from Genesis to Revelation, this devotional presents a unique approach to the classic message of the Christmas story and one that provides a biblically comprehensive perspective regarding the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Christ is the Center of the Story
Beginning with the introduction, Yarbrough clearly conveys the goal of the devotional, which is “to draw us to the real purpose of Christmas seen throughout Scripture” (XIV). The first three devotions initiate the journey. They focus on passages from the book of Genesis. The collection begins with how Adam and Eve’s fatal decision in the Garden of Eden led to God’s promise. “One from the line of a woman (an upright man) will one day crush the head of a serpent” (3). Yarbrough connects this promise to Christ, stating, “In crushing the head of the serpent, the Son of God, a pure and perfect man, freely brought exceedingly great pain and suffering upon himself in order to eradicate evil” (4). Carrying the story forward, Yarbrough then discusses the promise God made to Abram in that he would be given’ to God’s promise to give Abram “(1) a people, (2) a land, and (3) a blessing” (8). He further explains, “One will come through the “people” in the “land” who will bless the world…God has blessed the world through Christ. The third promise is a person—Jesus” (9). The third devotion shows from Genesis 49:10 that Christ, promised Messiah of the tribe of Judah, would rule forever. Here, Yarbrough observes, “His first scepter for His first advent was sacrificially wielded for us…But be comforted: he will yield another and better scepter. That is why we await his return. This time, he will arrive not as a Lamb, but as the lion of the tribe of Judah” (16).
The fourth devotion arises from the opening verses of Leviticus. Using Leviticus 1:1-2, the author demonstrates that Christ came as a sacrifice on behalf of humanity for their sin, as his sacrifice is foreshadowed through the Levitical sacrificial system. He writes, “Understanding the sacrificial system of the Torah leads to understanding Christ’s own sacrifice for us” (22).
Moving from the Torah, devotions five through eleven enter the biblical books of history, poetry, and the prophets. Yarbrough walks through these biblical texts with God’s covenant with David in view. God promised that David’s kingdom, throne, and house would endure forever. This covenant finds its fulfillment in Christ. He writes, “After Bethlehem, King Jesus charged another hill; not in quest for power, but with the purpose of laying down His life. As his name means, he will save his people from their sins. Although his life was given for us, he was raised from the dead and is now awaiting the day when he shall rule over Israel and all the world, as a holy, righteous, eternal king” (28). The sixth and seventh devotions use Psalms 1 and 23 to point to the character of Jesus. He is the path of wisdom and righteousness that leads to life and the good shepherd who guides and makes provision for his sheep. Rounding off this portion of the book, texts from Isaiah and Micah also affirm the Messiah’s coming and identity. Verses from Jeremiah introduce the promised new covenant. Yarbrough explains, “While originally it was made with the people of Israel and will one day come to fruition with them in an era to come, we are the present beneficiaries. The apostle Paul explains how gentile believers, by faith, are grafted in through the work of Christ” (58). He further explains, “unlike the old covenant written on tablets of stone, the new covenant is fully transformational, producing conversion and change from within” (58). Within each discussion of these texts, Yarbrough effectively demonstrates their connection to the coming of Christ and His fulfillment of the covenants and prophecies of the Old Testament.
Devotions twelve through twenty-five are drawn from the Gospels and New Testament epistles. From the Gospel of Matthew, Yarbrough stresses the importance of understanding the facts of the story of Christ’s birth. He writes, “But the singular truth of the Christmas story is perfectly clear. It is all about Jesus. God has plainly revealed the basic truths of what we need to know—what we must know. It is imperative for our very soul’s sake. The important things have been clearly revealed in the biblical record” (72). Continuing through the Gospels, Yarbrough discusses that Christ came to bring salvation, the importance of seeking after Christ as the Magi sought Him, sharing the message of the gospel as the shepherds shared the news of Christ’s birth, a call to ponder the story of the nativity, and our own stories of what Jesus has done for us. As he comes to the Gospel of John, Yarbrough emphasizes the deity and eternality of the person of Christ, and that He is the light who overcomes the darkness of sin. Yarbrough reflects on the incarnation of Christ in John’s Gospel as he writes, “This Word, who sustains all things by his being, took on flesh. He stepped into our mess. He came into our broken arena and found a teardrop waiting for him as his own did not recognize or receive him” (132). The final devotions of the book discuss passages from Romans and Galatians, displaying the gift of grace that is given through the gospel. Yarbrough concludes, “the beauty of Christmas is not just an annual event that can be packed away. We rejoice that God is true to his word. This time of year reminds us of God’s master plan that has changed us forever as we trust our great God” (156).
Reflecting on the Story
A couple of significant features of the devotional include “Advent Applications” and prayers that conclude each devotion. In these sections, Yarbrough calls readers to both reflection and action in response to each daily reading. These applications provide practical opportunities for readers to interact with what readers have read in meaningful ways, allowing readers to process what they have read more deeply. At times the applications encourage readers to include others in their journey through this book during Advent.
At the beginning of the book, Yarbrough observes that “it’s possible to get caught up in cultural Christmas and actually miss the Messiah” (XIII). The beauty of this devotional is that each day is a fresh reminder of the purpose of Christmas with Jesus Christ and the gospel at the center. Through personal and illustrative stories that complement his discussion of Scripture, Yarbrough successfully draws readers into the greater story of Christmas that not only transcends the Christmas of culture, but also conveys a full-orbed, contextual understanding of Christ’s birth. For some Christians, it is common to go through the motions of the Christmas season without deeply appreciating and reflecting on the magnitude of the incarnation of Christ and the prophetic thread that runs through the Old Testament concerning His coming. Far from reducing Christ to a nativity set, this devotional leads to greater awe of what Christ accomplished through becoming flesh. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of journeying through its pages is that it creates space in the busyness of the season simply to dwell on the radiant beauty of Jesus and His redemptive work in our lives because of His humility to become a man, offering Himself as the Lamb without blemish.
To read/hear more about Dr. Yarbrough's interview about his new book, please click on the links below:
About the Contributors
Makay is an MBTS student and web content coordinator at DTS. She graduated with a BA in history from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2019 and participated in graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before joining DTS. Currently, she and her husband live in Kansas City, MO, and are honored to partner with their local church in furthering the gospel in their community.