Review Roundup: December 2021

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Prepare Him Room: A Daily Advent Devotional

By Susie Larson
Reviewed by Sonya Vanderveen Feddema

In her introduction to Prepare Him Room, author Susie Larson writes about the Christmas season, “We are people created in God’s image. We have access to his presence and his promises. So why all the strain and stress?”

Each of Larson’s 24 Advent devotions is based on a chapter of the gospel of Luke and includes other passages to ponder, a biblical meditation, a prayer, and a suggestion for fasting. Larson notes that she has been a strong advocate of fasting for many years and doesn’t believe it involves abstaining only from food and drink, but can include fasting from TV and social media to “steward your perspective with vision and wisdom.”  

Prepare Him Room would make a great addition to a personal devotional collection. (Bethany House)

Acoustic Sketches 3

By Phil Keaggy
Reviewed by Robert J. Keeley

Phil Keaggy’s latest instrumental release, Acoustic Sketches 3, continues a series he began in 1997. In these albums, Keaggy delivers acoustic pieces, most between two and four minutes long, that show his active imagination as he tries out new ideas on the guitar.

This album has given him the opportunity to take those ideas and flesh them out into full-fledged pieces. In some of these pieces, Keaggy uses looping—the ability to capture a few seconds of what he’s playing and have it repeat indefinitely so he can play other things over it. Fans of Keaggy’s music will find familiar ideas presented in new ways; those new to his art will be astonished at his virtuosity and his strong melodic sense. (Bandcamp)

Plague, Pestilence and Pandemic: Voices From History

Edited by Peter Furtado
Reviewed by Aaron Vriesman

The more I study history, the less I fret about the present. With the recent pandemic raising anxieties, it was helpful to read Peter Furtado’s collection of firsthand accounts from the pandemics of the past.

From the Plague of Athens in the ancient world to COVID-19 currently, disease has erupted and disrupted people’s lives throughout recorded history. Furtado has sections on the Black Death in the Middle Ages, syphilis and smallpox in the Age of Empire, and polio and the 1918 flu pandemic in the modern era. Furtado’s selections bring perspective on the current pandemic. Disease has always been part of the sinful human condition. The suffering and fearful reactions are nothing new under the sun, but God’s faithfulness always prevails. (Thames & Hudson)

Shh … Baby Jesus Is Sleeping

By Lisa Tawn Bergren, illustrated by Laura Watkins
Reviewed by Lorilee Craker 

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect bedtime book for God’s littlest image bearers at Christmastime.

Written by Lisa Tawn Bergren, the author of the bestselling God Gave Us You, this winsome board book lends itself to cozy times as small children watch the first Christmas unfold through the eyes of animals in the stable—sheep, mice, cows, chickens, and others. These animals call their own babies to be at quiet peace as they watch the holy family settle down for the night.

“Not a peep, Little Sheep. Baby Jesus is sleeping!

“Lie down now, Little Cow. Baby Jesus is sleeping!”

The illustrations by Laura Watkins are luminous and soothing, and the brown skin of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds are appropriate to their Middle Eastern heritage. (Waterbrook)

The Lowdown

Santa Through Eyes of Faith: Around Christmas we spend a lot of time thinking about presents, but have you ever wondered why we give gifts? Learn about the life of St. Nicholas in this picture book from the new IVP Kids line and discover why he became known as one of the greatest gift givers of all time. (IVP Kids)

Tony and Maria Reimagined: A reboot of West Side Story tells the classic tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City. This reimagining of the beloved musical stars Ansel Elgort (Tony) and Rachel Zegler (María). (20th Century Studios)

Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas: Olivia, a young assistant pastor, deals with transitioning to lead pastor at a new church a month before Christmas and finds a little romance along the way. (Lifetime, December 4)

Love, War, and Redemption: Beasts of a Little Land, by Juhea Kim, is set against the backdrop of the Korean independence movement and follows the intertwined fates of a young girl sold to a courtesan school and the penniless son of a hunter. (Ecco)

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