The One True Light introduction

I used to be a big curmudgeon about Christmas. Not quite Ebenezer Scrooge—but close. I moaned about the rubbish on the television. I moaned about the terrible Christmas songs that get repeated every year. I moaned about all the tatty decorations—tinsel and snow globes and illuminated reindeers. In my mind, Christmas was unavoidably associated with the oppressive warmth of my in- laws’ home.

In my high-minded moments I moaned about the commercialism that seems to be replacing the Christmas message. Or I moaned about versions of Christmas that sanitise Jesus and make him “safe”.

But, of course, by “high-minded” I really mean “self-righteous”. I used to be a curmudgeon—a proud one.

However, I’ve noticed a change over the past few years.As I slide into middle age, I’ve somewhat given up the fight. I let Christmas happen to me. I embrace the festivities. I even sometimes allow myself to have fun.

But, whether being curmudgeonly or celebratory, it is easy to get distracted from the wonder of God becoming man.The build- up to Christmas is a busy time.There are presents to buy, parties to attend, food to prepare, cards to send and relatives to visit.

So it’s easy to forget about Jesus, even at Christmas—especially at Christmas. But the truth is that we’ll never enjoy Christmas properly unless we understand who it is who was born in Bethlehem that night. Indeed, we won’t enjoy life to the full until we see God in a manger.

In these Advent readings, we’re going to look at John’s version of the Christmas story. It’s not the Christmas story as we’ve come to expect it. There’s no stable, no donkey and no star. There are no angels, no shepherds and no wise men. Even Mary and Joseph don’t get a look in. Instead the focus is entirely on Jesus, the God- become-man.This is Christmas stripped bare.All that’s left is Jesus. And that’s all you need to make your December explode with joy, and your life revolve around the One who brings truth, life, community, reality, clarity—light.

So by all means make sure you’ve bought your presents, ordered the turkey, attended your parties and ticked off seeing the relatives. But see the 24 daily readings in this book as an opportunity to focus not on the to-do list, or even on Christmas as such, but on Christ—to join John in fixing your eyes on Jesus, the one true light.

Click here for sample chapters.

The One True Light is available here from and

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The One True Story introduction

Everyone loves the Christmas story—Mary meeting an angel, being told she’s having a baby by the Holy Spirit, Joseph faithfully standing by her, travelling to Bethlehem while Mary is heavily pregnant, no room at the inn, the baby in a manger, God in human flesh, choirs of angels, shepherds on the hillside, Magi following a star.

But the Christmas story is not just a great story. It’s the great story. It’s the story that ties together a thousand other stories. Everything came together on that night in Bethlehem. “The fulfilment of the ages,” Paul calls it.

Matthew can’t get the old stories out of his head as he tells the Christmas story. Five times he says that what happened at the birth of Jesus took place to fulfil what the prophets had said (Matthew 1 v 22-23; 2 v 5-6, 15, 17-18, 23). Luke makes the same point in the four songs he records.The songs of Mary, Zechariah, the angels and Simeon all riff on “tunes” from the past. Mary ends her song with the words,“He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants for ever, just as he promised our ancestors” (Luke 1 v 54-55). As the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.

The Christmas story is the one true story because it completes and fulfils all the stories of the Bible.

But it also goes on being the one true story.This is the story that makes sense of my story and your story.We were made to know God. All our longings only truly find their fulfilment in him and through him.The plotlines of our lives are meant to find their resolution in the enjoyment of God. But we’ve set our lives on other trajectories which always lead to disappointing endings.

But through the Christmas story God is rewriting the story of human history, bringing it to a glorious climax. In all the busyness of Christmas, don’t miss the opportunity to discover or rediscover how you can be part of the one true story.

Click here for sample chapters.

The One True Story is available from and

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The Image of God #5: Remade in the image of God

The post is part of series looking at the image of God. We have seen how the gospel critiques our culture’s view that reality is malleable and desire is sovereign. In this final post in the series we see how the gospel also offers a better alternative.

Remade in the image of Christ

So if flourishing involves being conformed to reality, what’s the reality to which Christians are to be conformed? Colossians 3:5 begins ‘therefore’. This pattern of putting to death evil desires (mortification) stems from a new reality. And Colossians 2:20 begins, ‘Since you died with Christ …’ 3:1 begins, ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ …’ Our defining reality is the cross and resurrection of Jesus. We’ve died with Christ and risen with Christ. So we flourish to the extent that we’re Christ-like or cruciform, to the extent that we follow the path of the cross in the power of the resurrection.

Look at verse 10 of Colossians 3: we ‘have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.’ The gospel restores our humanity. For to become like Christ is to become like God because Christ is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (1:15; 2:9).

  • So the image of God is not just our origin, but our destiny.
  • And that means the church is a witness to the future of humanity.
  • And the future of humanity is Christ.

Because being made in God’s image was a relational reality, being remade in God’s image is also a relational reality. We’re remade together as God’s image. So the sins of verse 8 are communal and the virtues of verses 12-15 are communal. You can’t do them on your own! This is why the church and church planting have to be central to mission.

Paul ends that list of virtues with the words ‘be thankful’ (3:15). This is so important. It’s not that if we behave in a certain way then we will create a new reality or forge a new identity (activity ð identity). It’s not, for example, that if we live in peace then we will create one body. It’s the other way round (identity ð activity). It’s because we’re one body that we’re to let Christ’s peace rule our hearts (verse 15). It was the Serpent’s lie to say that being ‘like’ God was something to be grasped when being like God was already gifted to us. Our identity is given, not grasped.

Belief in justification by faith is another way of saying we’re not self-defined. Instead, we’re defined or redefined by God. Our identity is a gift. We’re redefined by God’s word – the word which is creative, covenantal and grace-filled.

Humanity is not the climax of creation, Sabbath is. We are made for rest, worship, relationship. Personhood and identity are not the product of our work. Sabbath is a reminder that life is a gift.

Remember: wisdom is to live in conformity with reality. And we don’t create reality – not at a fundamental level. We don’t create our identity. The gospel is the good news that God has created and recreated reality. Being thankful is a recognition that who we are is a gift from God. So we flourish as we live together in conformity to that gifted reality.

So the old adage ‘Know thyself’ still stands. Our new self is ‘renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.’ (3:10). We grow as we know ourselves to be ‘God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.’ (3:12) We grow as we tell one another, ‘You are dearly loved by God.’

But that’s tough in our world which says we’re self-defining, self-creating and self-evaluating. So in verse 9 Paul says, ‘Do not lie to each other.’ That doesn’t simply mean, ‘Don’t tell fibs’. It means don’t echo the lies of the culture in the church. Why not? Because ‘we’ve taken off the old self’ with its attempts at self-rule, self-creation and self-evaluation. Instead we are ‘renewed in knowledge’ – the knowledge of who we are in the image of our Creator. Instead of being self-defined, the Christian community is to be word-defined. So, as verse 16 says, the word of Christ must dwell among us richly.


Imaging God together

One final thought … What’s an ‘image’? The word is usually used in the Bible of an idol. King Nebuchadnezzar sets up an ‘image’ of himself to represent his power and glory. This means the true God is represented by us! God placed humanity in his world to reflect his glory. In Deuteronomy 4 Moses reminds God’s people that they did not ‘see’ God at Mount Horeb. ‘You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.’ (12) So Israel is not to create visible forms for God by making images or idols. But then Moses says: ‘But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance.’ (20) ‘Out of the iron-smelting furnace’ is the language of idol-making. Israel is not to make idols because God himself has made an image of himself to represent him in the world – his own people. The world will see the goodness and love of God in the life of the covenant community. This is how God is made known to the nations.

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The Glory of the Story Sample: Day 114 – God’s mysterious ways

Reading: Genesis 39; 45:1-11

Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from and £1.99 from I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.

Today’s first portion illustrates the ups and downs of Joseph’s thirteen years in prison, while the second gives his assessment of all that has happened to him. The LORD was with Joseph is stated twice at the beginning of Chapter 39 (2-3) and twice at the end (21-23). The matching of these verses point for point shows that, in spite of all that intervenes (a period of about ten years), God is in control and Joseph’s faith is quietly victorious. Observe:

1. God is sovereign
He is a purposeful God who works in spite of Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife, and even through the dreams of the butler and baker (45:5-8). His purposes, though often beyond our understanding (Is. 55:8-9), are not vague and ethereal, but concrete and historical (cf. Gal. 4:4). He does not merely intrude to make everything right, nor is he one who ‘has no hands but our hands’ do to his work. He works sovereignly in and through people and events, bringing order and light from chaos and darkness.

2. God is hidden
He does not make his presence obvious by speaking or appearing. The story simply hints and implies. All we are told is, the LORD was with Joseph and only late in the story are God’s purposes made explicit (45:7-11). But if Joseph had not been Egypt’s prisoner, he would not have been Egypt’s governor. Sometimes it is only as we look back that we can discern God’s hand in events.

3. God is gracious
‘God sent me ahead of you … to save your lives by a great deliverance.’ (45:7) What the mighty Egyptian empire cannot do for itself (41:8), this Hebrew slave does for it. This is another incredible reversal, for the Hebrews are a scorned class (39:17). The story of Joseph clearly anticipates the Exodus, when Egypt will be defeated and hopeless slaves will sing victoriously (Exod. 15:1-18).

4. God’s people are to act responsibly
Joseph never allows his circumstances to become an excuse to sin, for sin is always against God (39:9-10). But he also knows that God has overruled the sin of his brothers for good (45:5). Though that did not excuse them, this liberating perspective on God’s sovereignty and hiddenness (cf. Rom. 8:28) saves Joseph (and can save us) from sinking into resentment at what can sometimes seem like the cruel hand of fate.

Closing thought
Joseph’s faithfulness in small things over many years prepared him for authority in great things. See Matthew 25:23.

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The Image of God #4: Disordered desires

The post is part of series looking at the image of God. We’ve seen that in our culture reality is malleable and desire is sovereign. What does the Bible make of this?

To see how counter-cultural the gospel has become consider Colossians 3:5-6: ‘Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.’ Paul is describing unrestrained sexual expression, desire, consumption – everything our culture celebrates. But Paul says it’s immoral, evil and idolatrous.

‘Know thyself’ has become ‘be yourself’, even ‘create yourself’. Our generation attempts to be self-ruling, self-creating and self-evaluating. We are our own king (self-ruling), our own creator (self-made), our own judge (self-evaluating): our own king, creator and judge – that’s idolatry!

It’s not desire itself is wrong. God is not a kill-joy who wants to stamp on our desires. Desire is part of what it means to be human. The problem is after humanity’s fall into sin our desires have become dis-ordered. They are mis-aligned with reality. So desire itself is no longer a good indicator of who we are or how we should live. We still have good desires, but we also have evil desires which do not lead to human flourishing.

I don’t drink coffee. The last time a drank a coffee I felt like my brain was firing. But it firing in different directions all at the same time. That’s what’s happened to human desires. The fall of humanity did not switch our desires on for the first time. They were already there. But now our desires are firing in different directions, sometimes contrary directions, sometimes harmful directions.

Today nearly all desires are seen as good.

But pursuing bad desires does not enable us to be the people we were made to be. They’re akin to a fish desiring to walk on the land. That desire will not lead to flourishing fish! God has not arbitrarily decided to punish some desires and not others. He didn’t look down from heaven and say, ‘That look fun – I better make a law against it’! Evil desires are evil because they’re not consistent with who God made us to be.

I’m making the case for self-denial and self-restraint. And I need to do that because self-denial and self-restraint have become counter-cultural.

When someone becomes a Christian they don’t simply change their opinions. Nor are they simply forgiven by God – though that, of course, is true. Paul’s view is much more radical than this. Paul says that when someone becomes a Christian they die and rise again: ‘You have died with Christ … you have been raised with Christ.’ This is what’s symbolised in baptism (whenever and however it takes place) (Romans 6:1-5). Baptism is like a funeral. How do we escape humanity trapped in sin and under judgment? Our old self (indebted and enslaved) dies and we rise to live new lives (free from the debt of sin and free from the slavery of sin).

Colossians 3:3-4 says: ‘For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also with appear with him in glory.’ We have died and risen to new life. But our new resurrection life is hidden. Christians are not glowing super-beings who float around free from the problems of this world. Our bodies are still subject to decay. But when Christ returns our glorious new life will ‘appear’. It will be evident as we receive glorious resurrection bodies.

So is resurrection just a future reality? No, we have resurrection life now. But it’s a hidden life. It’s not yet revealed in all its glory. So how does it appear? How do you spot a Christian? If it’s not because they glow with spiritual energy, how can you spot them?

The answer is there is verse 5 of Colossians 3: ‘Put to death’. Our new life is revealed in death. Our resurrection life is revealed as we put to death evil desires. That’s how you spot people with resurrection life: they’re the people denying themselves, putting others first, making sacrifices for Christ.

It’s not just that we die to self now and then one day we will receive life. It’s the other way round. We’ve already been raised with Christ. We’ve already received new life. How else is anyone going to die to self? Nothing is more contrary to the instincts of the old humanity. It’s only because we have received new spiritual life through faith in Christ that we want to and are able to die to self.

My friend Andrew has a severely handicapped daughter. It means he can’t stay away from home overnight. It means many hours of unrewarded patience and sacrifice. But quietly he gets on with it. He’s a nobody in our celebrity culture. But in the kingdom of God he’s a hero.

Does the pursuit of self-fulfilment make us happy?

You may be thinking, ‘All this talk of self-denial doesn’t sound much fun. It doesn’t sound like the good life.’ But here’s where things gets surprising. Yankelovich’s instinct was that the move to self-fulfilment would be liberating. But he admits the evidence shows the opposite. After 3,000 in-depth interviews and many more questionnaires, he concedes that the search for self-fulfilment has been futile.

If life is about self-fulfilment then it’s only as good as your last experience. If it’s about self-expression then it’s only as good as your last performance. It’s all precarious and we’re all insecure. So our generation suffers far more from depression, anxiety, mental disorders.

Or let’s return to Christopher West’s image of sexual desire as rocket fuel launching us beyond the stars. He asks, ‘What would happen if the engines of that rocket became inverted, pointing us back only upon ourselves and no longer toward the stars? Launch that rocket and the result is a massive blast of self-destruction.’ (Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, Ascension Press, 2009, Kindle Location 1001.) David Wells explains:

Whereas the older kind of success was durable, this is not. This is fleeting. It is dependent not on its own quality but on the perceptions of others. Perceptions, however, are fickle, changing, quickly superseded, quickly forgotten. Success today, therefore, has to be constantly renewed, burnished, updated, recast, reinvigorated, made even more current, made freshly appealing, dressed up afresh, and reasserted. This is an on-going project, and if it does not go on, our success begins to evaporate. (David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant, IVP, 2008, 152.)

Or think of it like this. Think of the Christians you know who are most preoccupied with themselves, their desires, their status. And then think of the Christians you know who are most preoccupied with serving others and God’s glory. Who are the happiest?

If life is about developing character and virtue then it has substance. You can find joy in the routine. We were made in God’s image to reflect God’s glory in his world. And Paul ends this section in verse 17 of Colossians 3 by saying whatever you do, do it in God’s name for God’s glory. Everything we do becomes an opportunity for a true self-realisation through self-giving. We gain our lives by losing our lives – including in the routine and everyday.

Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.’ (Mark 8:34-35) Yes, this is eschatological (as Mark 8:38 makes clear). But it begins now. Those who live for themselves are relationally and emotionally impoverished. Those who live for Christ and for others are rich beyond wealth.

Our relentless desire for quite pleasures has is like a diet of whipped cream and sugar icing. If that’s all you ever eat then you’ll get ill. That’s our culture. We’ve over-dosed on self-fulfilment and now we feel sick. But virtue is deeply nourishing for the soul. It creates lasting contentment and joy.

Yes, following Christ does mean suffering and sacrifice. But we’re also being confirmed to reality. We’re becoming truly human. We’re living life as it is meant to be lived.

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Review: Vaughan Roberts on Transgender

Today sees the publication of Transgender by Vaughan Roberts. It’s a short guide that combines great pastoral sensitivity with biblical clarity. Vaughan is Rector of St. Ebbe’s Church in Oxford.

The first chapter describes the phenomenon of transgender in its many guises, inviting us to feel the pain of those involved. Many teenagers grow out of such feelings, but not all. Vaughan encourages to steer between a response of ‘Yuk’ and a response of ‘Yes’. In chapter two Vaughan sets transgender in the wider cultural context of individualism and the prioritising of authenticity. The result of these trends is that, instead of attempting to correct someone’s gender identity so it corresponds to their biological sex, the assumption is now that we should correct a person’s biological sex to correspond to their gender identity.

Vaughan then views the issues through the biblical framework of creation, fall and redemption. True freedom is found not through radical independence, but through being who we are. The result of being left to invent our identities is a deep insecurity and fluidity. But in reality our identity is given to us in creation. We are made embodied and sexual. As a result of the fall, however, we are now all disordered. Some people have disordered bodies which, in the case of gender, includes a small minority with intersex conditions. More common are disordered minds. This includes phenomena like depression and anxiety. But it can also include gender dysphoria. These are not necessarily a direct result of an individual’s own sin. But they are the result of humanity’s rebellion against sin. We are now all in some way or other broken people in a broken world. Vaughan draws on his own experience of same-sex attraction to illustrate this point. The gospel is the good news of redemption through Christ in a new creation. Before the day when our bodies will be redeemed, we are to resist desires contrary to God’s will. ‘That means that those who experience gender dysphoria should resist feelings that encourage them to see themselves as anything other than the sex of their birth.’ (61) Though this may be difficult, this will lead to a greater experience of freedom and a secure identity. Vaughan ends with a chapter entitled ‘Wisdom’ where he address a series of ‘What if …?’ scenarios including advice to parents, friends and churches.

At 64 pages this is not designed to be a definitive account of the topic. But Vaughan packs in a tremendous amount of content which is pastorally sensitive and biblically robust. It can readily be read at one sitting and so serves a great primer for Christians confused by the cultural trends or individuals struggling with gender dysphoria.

Transgender is available from and


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The One True Story and The One True Light commendations

Yesterday saw the publication of my new book of advent readings, The One True Story, and the US publication The One True Light. Here are some commendations …

The One True Story

Available from and

This accessible devotional book helps us to experience a daily delight in discovering how our story connects with the ongoing story of Christ and all he is doing in the world. By drawing on contemporary examples from everyday life and words of worship from believers across the centuries, Tim Chester highlights passages of Scripture that challenge us with the down-to-earth implications of living lives that are centred upon Christ.

John Russell

Pastor, Cornerstone Church, Nottingham

Every year our advent candle builds expectation for Christmas, but it burns down to nothing. This wonderful book will create expectation and leave you feeling moved, joyful, thankful and awestruck. You will not be empty-handed or empty-hearted after spending a month with these devotions. Along the way, you will learn to see the riches of Christ in the Old Testament and feel a fresh impetus to see centrality of the story of Jesus in the pages of your Bible.

Adrian Reynolds

Director of Ministry, The Proclamation Trust

Have you become a Christmas cynic like me, jaded by a commercialized holiday?  Instead of saying ‘bah humbug,’ let Tim Chester take you past the trees and tinsel to the ancient biblical drama that led up to Jesus’ birth.  The One Trust Story connects the familiar Christmas story to God’s mighty works in the past, as well as to our lives in the modern world with freshness and delight.

Jeramie Rinne

Senior Pastor, Evangelical Community Church of Abu Dhabi

Every Christmas our hearts must be re-tuned to God’s glorious purpose for sending Jesus into this world. I heartily recommend Tim Chester’s, The One True Story, to do just that. Read it and you will once again resonate with the God of the universe who loves you through Jesus.

Barbara Reaoch

Director, Children’s Division, Bible Study Fellowship


The One True Story made me marvel once again at God’s amazing salvation plan. I thoroughly enjoyed journeying with Tim Chester to discover how Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament, the hope of the world and the Lord of all! This is a book that will help you worship God and love Jesus more. Surely there is no better way to prepare for the wonder of Christmas than that?

Marcus Honeyset

Pastor, author and Director of Living Leadership

The One True Light

Available here from and


If you’re looking for a fresh, creative, insightful, and thoroughly biblical and Christ-exalting guide for Advent, look no further. Tim Chester’s book, The One True Light, applies biblical theology to the first 18 verses of John’s gospel to show us how the Incarnation affects every aspect of our lives. Brief and simple enough for children, yet deep and rich enough for mature Christians, this is a book that inspires awe, wonder, and praise for Emmanuel, God with us.

Bob Kauflin

Director of Sovereign Grace Music

Most of us struggle to keep the main thing the main thing – and at Christmas, even more so! In this advent devotional Tim strips away all the unnecessary distractions and helps us focus on Christ. Journeying daily through John 1 we catch a fresh glimpse of Jesus and are invited into a deeper relationship with him – essential if we are to recapture the true meaning of Christmas.

Elizabeth McQuoid

Commissioning Editor and Trustee of Keswick Ministries

In this short, accessible book, Chester invites us to “join John in fixing our eyes on Jesus, the one true light”. As I read it, that’s exactly what I found myself doing. Buy it and read it. Buy another and give it as a gift. It’s an investment not an expense.

Steve Timmis

Executive Director, Acts 29

This is a book that churches should be handing out in bulk for Advent. With lucid biblical content, helpful application and superb prayers for each day, it surges with the comfort and joy of Christmas.

Michael Reeves

Director of Union and Senior Lecturer at Wales Evangelical School of Theology

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New release: The One True Story and The One True Light

Last year my book of advent readings, The One True Light, was a UK religious book best seller for a couple of weeks. Today sees the worldwide publication of a companion volume, The One True Story. Also today The One True Light is published in the United States for the first time. Here’s the blurb of each book. I’ll post some commendations tomorrow.

The One True Story

Everyone loves the Christmas story. But the story of the baby in the manger is the culmination of a thousand other stories. It is the focus of the story of the Bible and the story of human history.

This book has 24 short meditative readings working through Bible stories from Genesis to Jesus. Each day includes ideas for reflection, prayer and application, designed to excite you about the gospel message in the run-up to Christmas Day.

As you prepare for Christmas, get a fresh insight into the full script of the nativity, the story of our world, and the plotline for the rest of your life…

Available from and

The One True Light

We may be familiar with the baby in the manger, but have you met the Word who was in the beginning with God? Have you met the One True Light who is full of grace and truth? Or the Cosmic Lord who won the right for people to become Children of God? They are one and the same person.

Join Tim Chester as he guides us through the opening verses of the Gospel of John, and enjoy a Christmas infused with new meaning and light.

With ideas for reflection, prayer and application, these short, meditative readings will excite you about Jesus in the busyness of the run up to Christmas Day.

From the introduction…
“The build-up to Christmas is a busy time. There are presents to buy, parties to attend, food to prepare, cards to send and relatives to visit. So it’s easy to forget about Jesus, even at Christmas—especially at Christmas. But the truth is that we’ll never enjoy Christmas properly unless we understand who it is who was born in Bethlehem that night. Indeed, we won’t enjoy life to the full until we see God in a manger.”

Available here from and
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