I first read Russ Ramsey’s writing standing inside a glassed-in stairwell at the Philadelphia airport on a chilly, late-November night. I’d just flown in to Philly from Thanksgiving weekend in Michigan, and as I waited for the train to arrive and take me the rest of the way home, I huddled with other travelers out of the wind on the platform and opened to Russ’ essay, “The Last of a Generation,” in The Molehill, Vol. 1. I’m certain my fellow wanderers thought I was crazy as I stood, leaning against my bag, weeping at the beauty of what I read.
To this day, that essay remains one of my favorite bits of ink on paper. Fortunately, though, after that introduction, I was almost immediately able to dive into more of Russ’ writing. Advent was beginning and I was about to embark in what has become a yearly practice: reading Russ Ramsey’s Behold the Lamb of God each day in December.
The book, twenty-five short chapters, written to be read each day of December up through Christmas, was written to pair with Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God album, but it can stand alone. It traces the story of the coming Christ, from the creation account, to Abram’s covenant with God, from the story of Israel in captivity, through their years seeking another king like David and the words of the prophets to a wayward people, to the events of the first chapters of the New Testament—the arrival on the scene of the long-awaited king, not a conquering hero, but a tiny baby, wrapped in flesh.
Ramsey writes each chapter with an easy voice, that of the storyteller telling his tale. It is steeped in Scripture, but there are almost no direct quotations. Instead, he footnotes the references for his paraphrases of the biblical scenes and ideas that he’s referencing. He speculates—not outside the biblical narrative, but within it. What was going on in the mind of Jacob-the-schemer when he was wrestling with God? How did Joseph feel the night that Mary was in labor? Ramsey writes in his preface: “My hope is that this journey through the pages of Scripture will capture your imagination in ways that will serve your life-long study of the Bible” (p.xxii).
These chapters are meant to be read aloud. Approximately equal in length, each could be read in 8-10 minutes with your family each night. Or, if you prefer, there’s an audiobook you could listen to in the car on the way to work each day. My tendency is toward the ink-on-paper…with a cup of coffee in the waning December morning light, each day spending a few minutes turning over one bit of the Great Story of Scripture. The Story of a God who made the world and then provided a Lamb—His very own Son—to take away its sin.
Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative was published by Rabbit Room Press and is available from their store, as well as in other online venues where books are sold. Ramsey’s next book, Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, will be published in January 2015 by Crossway. That book has 40 chapters, one for each day of the Lenten season.