Down to EarthDown to Earth: The Hopes & Fears of All the Years Are Met in Thee Tonight, Mike Slaughter & Rachel Billups, Abingdon Press, 2016.

In this book for the Advent season, pastors Mike Slaughter and Rachel Billups explore what it means for love, joy, peace, and hope to come down to Earth. The book accompanies a four-week Advent study that opens up Christmas to examine how one helpless baby changed everything.

What makes this a great read during Advent this year, is how relevant it is to current events. While it was written before we had two primary presidential candidates or even an election, reading it post-election is food for the soul. Slaughter and Billups acknowledge that we put too much attention on the wrong things. They write, “Or in arguing about things such as red cups, sexual identity issues, who we voted for, and where refugees should go, are we allowing these issues to create dividing lines between us?”

All this does is provide a “devilish distraction.”

Instead of focusing on these distractions, the pastors argue, we should put our attention on what matters. “What binds us together?” they ask, “Our unity in Jesus.”

Advent and Christmas remind us that the Messiah that was expected, was not who came. The people expected a strong military leader or the perfect candidate who would “make Israel great again.” Instead, a small baby boy, crying in the night, came down to Earth.

Unexpected. Largely unseen. Unheard.

Some thirty years later, the Messiah was still unexpected. He never did what the people expected him to do. Instead of building walls to separate people, Jesus’ Kingdom movement tore down walls of division. “Jesus followers,” the pastors write, “are called to build bridges over the global ideological chasms that divide us!”

This is the call that the book offers: Unity. We are living in a  time in the world and in the Church, where this message is a critical one. The Christmas narrative urges people of faith to be the love, joy, peace, and hope that Advent teaches. When others walk away from us, what experience of Jesus will they have? Will they feel lighter and happier, or will they feel frustrated and judged?

Down to Earth encourages us to look beyond ourselves and beyond the first world complaints, and peek into the manger to see the face of grace.

A DVD, Leader Guide, Youth Study, Children’s Leader Guide, and a seasonal devotional are available as part of the Down to Earth study. You can purchase your own copy of the book by clicking on the image below:

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital review copy.