In his new book, Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope, Louie has written an insightful devotional book designed to guide the reader through the Advent season. Here, Louie chats with us about the message within the book, the very personal way it ministered to his own family, and the importance he places on taking a day of Sabbath rest each week to honor God.
Homecoming Magazine: What inspired you to write this book?
Louie Giglio: For me, it sprang from becoming a pastor of a local church a few years ago and wanting to help navigate the Christmas season for our church. In my family when I was growing up, we didn’t really celebrate Advent that much, but once I got into this role of pastor, I thought, “How can we prepare ourselves so that we can really understand the big message of Christmas and not just get steamrolled by the rush and the crush that can come so fast and leave us in the dust?”
Homecoming: So for those less familiar with celebrating Advent, would this book be a good introduction for them?
Louie: It’s going to be a great introduction for them. Advent is a season of expectation, and that’s what Christmas was—I think we forget that. We say, “Oh, Christmas is the day that Christ was born.” But the day that Christ was born was a day that 400 years of silence was broken. We have one little filler page between the Old Testament and the New Testament, but in history, there were four centuries of silence, when there was no prophet, no word from God, between the last words of Malachi and the Gospel of Matthew.
That silence was broken by the cry of a baby in a manger. And that baby’s cry said that all those promises God had made for century after century after century … all those promises are now coming to pass in the birth of this baby in Bethlehem. And I think that’s what Advent has at its heart. It’s not just about preparing us for Christmas; it’s about reminding us that whatever it is that we’re hoping for—and everyone’s hoping for something—that whatever it is we’re waiting for, God is there, God is at work and His promises are still on track for our lives. It may feel like 400 years of silence, but God’s always working, whether we can see it or not. He’s always working to accomplish His best for our lives and ultimately His glory through our lives. I think Waiting Here for You will be a beautiful Advent introduction for people, but it’s also going to speak to them about God’s faithfulness in their lives.
Homecoming: Is the book primarily meant to be read alone, or with others?
Louie: A lot of people read it individually, but they can read it with their families around the dinner table. Or a couple might read it together, or just say, “Hey, you’re reading it, I’m reading it—what was God saying to you today? Here’s what He spoke to me today.”
I think the main thing that I’d like people to know about the book is that it was really written with the desire to touch people who are going through hard times at Christmas. We’re kind of stuck between the pain of our lives and the promise that Christ is coming and He’s going to make everything new. A lot of people are going to go through Christmas this year going through divorce, or wondering if their spouse will ever come back, or dealing with cancer or some other kind of hardship. This book was written for that kind of person.
Everyone, I think, is going to benefit from it and find hope in it, but every day when I sat down to write, I thought about a family who might be going through this Christmas with cancer. I wanted to make sure every word mattered for that family, every word rang true for them, every word was authentic for that family. Not just the family sitting around the table with the beautiful dinner and all the kids are perfect and the house is decorated and everyone’s all warm and cozy … I was thinking about the family that’s going to get cancer treatment on the day of Christmas or sitting in a hospital like I have done in the past on Christmas Day.
That’s the lens that I was looking through, so that they can know that no matter what the circumstance, when Christmas day came, Jesus was born and they called His name Emmanuel, which means God with us. The circumstances may not change, this Christmas, but the presence of God and the person of Christ in the circumstances change everything. I want them to know that God is with them, He is near, He is working—maybe they cannot see it or understand it—but He is working.
The craziest thing is that all through August when I was working on this, I was praying every day for families who will go through Christmas with cancer. A few months later, on Thanksgiving Day, our family became that family. We got a very serious cancer diagnosis in our family. We picked up the book four days later to begin that Advent journey, and it hit us like a ton of bricks—we are that family. We’re the family going through Christmas with cancer, and all the hopes that this would speak to and encourage that family now were coming to bear in our own lives and we were used by God to encourage ourselves. Even on our own journey, which we’re now one year into—and we’ve seen God do amazing things and bring us through—but in the midst of it all, God is faithful. If we can’t see Him working, we believe that He is working, for our good and for His glory.
Homecoming: Wow, that is amazing that your own family has been ministered to through this book like that, and I believe many other families will be encouraged by it as well.
I also wanted to ask you to talk a little about Sabbath rest, which is another topic you’ve spoken about often, and which is reflected in the theme of this book. In America, we live in this culture that emphasizes productivity and activity. How important do you think taking Sabbath rest is in the life of a believer, and how do you personally find time to make it a habit, with everything you have going on?
Louie: Sabbath is a non-negotiable for a believer. The human spirit fights against it, because the human spirit typically thinks upside-down from the kingdom of God. Human beings, me included, think that “if I work harder, longer and smarter, I will produce more.” But God’s economy is "if you will take a day where you don’t do anything, and you remember that I am God—I’m the source of everything that is, and I provide life and breath to all things, that I am the strength of your life and your portion forever"—it exponentially increases not only the quality of our life, but also the output of our life.
To put it in a corporate context, I think most people in America have heard of Chick-fil-A. They’re closed on Sundays; you walk into a mall here in Atlanta, Georgia, and all these other places are open and the lights are off and the gate down over the Chick-fil-A. So you think, “Well, bless those dear Christian people. They are just loving God and upholding their Christian values.” But the truth of the matter is that they are killing the other restaurants in the food court on the bottom line. They take on the big giants of fast food, and they do more business in six days than everyone else does in seven. It might be because they’re great, it might be because they have an amazing product, or it could be the exponential increase that comes when we do what God asks us to do.
And in the Ten Commandments—and think about that, there are only 10 commandments—one of them is to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy. So for me, I have to fight for that. Monday is my Sabbath, and I love it. Some people believe that Saturday is the actual Sabbath, but I think Sabbath is a day that we choose to say, “I’m not going to lean on my productivity today. I’m going to remember today that God is building this church, that God is building my life, that God is in charge of me, and I’m just going to rest today in that.” And it could be physical rest, or it could be the spiritual attitude of the heart.
I think it brings great honor to God, because it says to Him, “You are the source, and I trust You.” There’s a quote that I love that says, “Waiting on God ascribes to God the glory of being all to us.” I love that, because when we rest and when we wait, we really do worship God even more powerfully than when we sing and we gather at all these other times. It’s just saying, “I trust You, and I trust that if I don’t work today that I’m still going to have what I need because You are working today.”
Homecoming: That’s great. Thanks so much for your time, and it’s been great to hear from you!
Louie: Thank you!