Each year I TRY to keep a focus on the whole reason for the season, especially with my kids. I do a pretty decent job of that. Well, kind of. I do have the best of intentions, though. Sometimes we do a cursory run through Advent activities, and I have a special book I read to the youngest each year. Some years we even finish that book before Easter/summer/beginning of school.
One thing that I struggle with, though, is keeping the season fresh and focused for ME. Sure, there are lots of books and blogs and various reading materials out there. They saturate many of the bookstores I frequent, but quite frankly, most of them are pure fluff with a pretty red book cover. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it just doesn't do it for me, so I generally pass.
Then I read a blurb for a new book that was available to review, and almost passed on it because 1. I don't have time to read anything, much less a fluff book, and 2. I hate that so many of my very limited posts these days are review posts. I decided to bite the bullet, though, and see what this new offering was all about.
Watch For The Light--Reading for Advent and Christmas, a new book by Plough Publishing House, is a compilation of writings/essays/thoughts from 55 people, spanning a period of hundreds of years. People like Henri Nouwen, Thomas Aquinas, Madeleine L'Engle, Karl Barth, Brennan Manning, Bonhoeffer, Philip Yancey (my favorite), and Dorothy Day are each assigned a day, from the beginning of Advent until Epiphany (January 6) to give their take on the history and heart and timelessness of the birth of Jesus.
From the introduction:
Even we who genuinely love Christmas often lose sight of its point. How many of us, content with familiar traditions and feelings of goodwill, forget the dank stable, the cold night, the closed door of the inn? How many of us share the longing of the ancient prophets, who awaited the Messiah with aching intensity thousands of years before he was born?
We miss the essence of Christmas unless we become, in the words of Eberhard Arnold, "mindful of how Christ's birth took place." Once we do, we will sense immediately that Advent marks something momentous: God's coming into our midst. That coming is not just something that happened in the past. It is a recurring possibility here and now. And thus Advent is not merely a commemorative event or an anniversary, but a yearly opportunity for us to consider the future, second Advent-the promised coming of God's kingdom on earth.
More than any other time that I have added supplementary readings to the Christmas story, THIS book has reached into a place for me that has often had to be manufactured--reflection and wonder. There is power in obtaining a glimpse into the hearts of people, many long gone, whose journeys have uncovered different types of insights into the God story.
One day, after finishing one of the readings for the day, and doing a little wikipedia research about the author that I had never heard of before, I realized something very intriguing--most of these people were rebels. Or at least not understood or appreciated during their lifetimes. The very words I was reading would have been considered too unsanitized for the cultural sensitivities of their day. They would have been ridiculed or ostracized by both the secular culture AND the religious structures of their day. But (and here is the beauty of it) they would have been embraced by the very God they contemplated.
I just love that.
And I really love this book. It is a keeper. You should check it out, too. You can find more info about it here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Handlebar Central for review purposes. No other compensation was received.