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Ann Voskamp's Simple, Upside-Down Christmas
Courtesy of Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp is a wife, mother of six, blogger, and the best-selling author of One Thousand Gifts. Her second book, an Advent devotional titled The Greatest Gift, has already spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Voskamp recently spoke to Her.meneutics writer Sharon Hodde Miller about how her life has changed since the publication of her first book, and the challenges of keeping a Christ-centered focus in an ever-demanding world.

Reading The Greatest Gift is like meeting an old friend, because it captures the voice and heart of your first book, One Thousand Gifts. However, the format is rather different from the first. Why did you decide to write an Advent devotional?

Whatever I'm writing comes organically out of my life. The same thing with One Thousand Gifts—that book came out of what I was wrestling with. Over the past dozen years, I've written Christmas devotionals for the month of December, just for our family, about four times. I rewrote them as the kids grew older and their understanding deepened and widened. The Greatest Gift has been birthed out of the past 12 years, long before I was an author or blogger.

As you wrote this book, did you have a particular reader in mind? Was there anyone out there that you hoped to nurture or encourage?

It's Christmas for adults, again! Adults are tempted to produce and perform Christmas for their kids and their families, and they arrive at Christmas Day weary and disillusioned. So the book really was born out of prayers for adults to be recaptivated by wonder. Christ came to do it all, and we have nothing really to do but to receive and to experience the babe in the manger—and he's a near-weightless babe.

That's the essence of the book, that every page will lift the weight off you, and to experience that grace is utterly weightless.

I'm a brand-new mom trying to figure out our Christmas traditions. My husband and I are asking questions like: Santa or no Santa? How many presents should we give our kids? How can we keep Jesus central when Christmas is so commercialized? As I think through these questions, do you have any advice for women like me?

A simplified Christmas isn't about circumstances as much as it is about focus. How do we focus simply on Christ?

This year we hung our Christmas tree upside down. We have this little tree that's hung from the ceiling to remind us that we want an upside down Christmas, that Jesus came to turn things upside down. And if we're the Advent people awaiting the King who's going to bring an upside down kingdom, how are we going to live an upside down Christmas?

It's a beautiful reminder to us: If we're just consumers, we can be consumed, so how do we turn that around and give the gift back in some beautiful way to the people who need it?

The Holy Spirit is going to lead every family differently. I don't think there's a right or a wrong way to do this. Remember, Jesus came to bring grace, and grace is weightless. So—no burden on anybody. If anybody chooses to do it differently, there's no law to this. There's lots of grace for everybody, right where they are.

Since your first book came out, your life has changed a lot. I imagine the demands on your time are more pressing than before. How have you managed, with the world pressing in, to stay focused on Christ?

In our family, God graciously tied our family rhythms very tightly. Little did we know what was coming around the next corner, but he did.

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Ann Voskamp's Simple, Upside-Down Christmas