I used to work for IVP, the publisher of this book. I hope that fact doesn’t cloud my reading of the book or your reading of my review.
Whether you celebrate/observe Advent or not, you will be aware that Christmas is coming. Songs for a Saviour’s Birth is a recent short Advent book from IVP, William Philip, the minister of The Tron Church in Glasgow (a congregation that was forced away from the Church of Scotland over the stance shifting on gay relationships, despite a commitment to peaceful separation and great financial investment) has penned a book that recognises the cultural reality of Christmas as a time for songs and singing, by bringing that into touch with the ultimate, Gospel, reality that these songs should be about the Saviour’s Birth.
In Songs for a Saviour’s Birth, Philip beautifully blends the pastoral and the theological in a way that focuses ultimately on Jesus. Theological, in that by writing this book and publishing it when he did, William is saying something profound about the entrance of God into History, and the need for followers of Jesus today to not so contextualise the Gospel that we ignore the radical reality and life-shattering claims that shape it. Pastoral, in that this is a book that applies the beautiful and peculiar glories of Scripture to the real concerns and needs of followers of Jesus today. This book is about Joy, as IVP’s blog post linked to above recognises, but this is not some flippant joy in a world where all is well. This is real joy. Joy for the hearers, joy for the humble, joy for the helpless, joy for the heavens, and joy for the hopeful. This is a book about joy because that is what the Saviour’s birth offers.
The five songs, all focused on different joyful people who took part in the first Christmas, and relating to situations people today can find themselves in (humble, helpless, and hopeful, to name just a few) are drawn from the Gospel of Luke. This book would thus be good for someone used to doing a weekly longer quiet time, or for someone looking to observe each of the Sundays of Advent, give or take. It’s short length – five chapters, not too many pages – means that it is ideal as a first advent book, or as something to sit alongside more regular daily readings.