Book Review - Why Christ Came

Image of Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation
by Joel R. Beeke, William Boekestein
Reformation Heritage Books 2013
Paperback 160

Why? Every young child’s favorite word is “why?” Why do we have to go to bed now? Why can’t we have licorice for dinner? Why do we have to always brush our teeth?

With the hustle and bustle of another Christmas season upon us. It is the grown up children among us who are asking “Why?” Why make such a fuss with wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, when the kids are just going to break the toy in a couple days and complain about it. Why go through with painful family trips to the in-laws, awkward holiday parties at work and endure the rush at the mall?

Christmas ultimately is much more than gifts and toys, we know. It is about a baby in a manger, and a donkey standing in the stable (or is the donkey really part of the picture?). The routine nature of Christmas choirs and holiday schedules threaten to have us asking “Why?” even as we think about the Christ child. We get it, Christ came. Can’t we make more of a fuss over the cross and the empty tomb?

Meditating on the incarnation

Against this backdrop, authors Joel Beeke and William Boekestein present 31 meditations on the incarnation in a little book titled Why Christ Came. Unlike many Christmas devotionals, this book does not recount the Scriptural account of Christ’s birth. It doesn’t play gotcha about the donkey and other extra-Scriptural additions to the Christmas story. Instead this book focuses on the big question: Why.  Why is it so special Christ came?

In thinking about the Scriptural teaching concerning why Jesus came, what purposes he aimed to fulfill, and what reasons compelled him to come, our hearts will be redirected from the contemporary holiday bustle and even from a traditional churchly pursuit to a fuller contemplation of the very nature and work of the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Each of the 31 meditations are short and fit in 3-4 pages (with large font). The entire book can be read in a little more than an hour, if you are a slow reader like me.

Why Christ came

The chapters focus on the reasons for Christ’s incarnation and include some of the following answers:

  • To Save Sinners
  • To Destroy the Devil and His Works
  • To Bring Great Joy
  • To Reveal God’s Love for Sinners
  • To Bring Peace
  • To Bind Up Broken Hearts
  • To Make Us Partakers of the Divine Nature
  • To Be a Merciful and Faithful High Priest
  • To Satisfy Our Deepest Thirst
  • To Reveal God’s Glory

As you can see, these aren’t the typical Christmas devotions. The authors include a Scripture-packed exploration of each theme and often add poems, excerpts from a Psalter, and quotes from the Reformers or other notable Church leaders. As a Baptist, I appreciated the many quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the like. Those documents are not very familiar to me and yet they are rich in Scriptural reflection.

Evaluation

The authors are definitely Reformed, but mostly steer clear of controversial matters. And apart from one or two statements that might seem questionable to some, the large part of the work will meet with approval from any gospel-loving Christian who is hungry for Christ.

This small and readable work has a catchy cover and an inviting tone. I encourage you to pick up a copy and add it to your Christmas reading this year. It would make for a great series of family devotions or for personal devotional reading during the advent season.

About the authors

Joel R. Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

William Boekestein is pastor of Covenant Reformed Church in Carbondale, Pennsylvania.

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