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Sunday, December 23, 2012

God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas -- A Book Review

It's almost Christmas. Did you find it difficult to slow down, in the midst of seasonal frenzy, and connect with the true meaning of the season? Did gift buying, cookie baking, and greens hanging interfere with your experience of our place in Christian history and with Jesus' place in your heart this year? Have you prepared Him room? It's not an easy proposition. We found that this book, God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, graciously provided to us in exchange for my honest review, was a tremendous spiritual asset this year.

The preface begins: 

'This book is the result of a journey that began on Christmas morning, 1998, in Ottawa in a small Anglo-Catholic church called St. Barnabas. It was my first encounter with what my high church friends call "smells and bells." throughout that Christmas service a translucent ribbon of incense lingered just above eye level. Its constant presence provided a gentle introduction to the physical elements of the Christmas service that I had not experienced before -- the Eucharist, the processions, the sights, sounds, and yes, smells.

It was a mystery to me at the time, but I left the church that Christmas morn with a sense that I had worshiped God with all my senses -- with my whole being -- for the first time in my life."

Regular readers of Liturgical Time already know, from that excerpt, that I was hooked on this book from that point forward.

The Church calendar allows us to simultaneously look back into history at the steps Jesus and his followers through the century have taken, and forward into the unfolding of our present day walk with our Lord. This book does the same.  I found myself enriched by discussion of the historical roots of the  seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany while seamlessly inspired to live them more deeply in this present day.

Beginning with an Introduction that prepares us for wonder, continuing through an Advent section that daily guides us through this preparatory season, and providing companionship through the full Christmas season and the joys of Epiphany, this book serves as a worthy guide to the family or individual seasons of this time of year.

God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe, contains the writings of several talented and well known contributors, both Catholic and Protestant. The shift among from the voice of one contributor to another, as the book proceeds, adds to the sense of worship in community. Like traditional worship, this book is a sensory delight. It is the type of book that you feel the weight of in your hands.  The high quality paper, ribbon marker, pervasive color, and exquisite art present a tactile and visual feast.  

As we used this book night by night, I thought of families and individuals who may want to begin incorporating traditional observances into their devotional life. I have been told by some that this can be a difficult process, juggling lectionaries, calendars, and devotionals with which one is not familiar. This book however, makes the process simple and frees one up to simply drink in the blessings of the process and to worship unfettered. Each part of Advent through Epiphany is introduced with a historical background section that explains its meaning. Each daily section has a full set of recommended readings, a reflection, and a prayer provided. Keeping track of feast days that fall within the season is not taxing; the book does it for you, day by day.

For those for whom traditional observances are old hat, the devotions and reflections in this book re-invigorate the reader by conveying the meanings of the various parts of the season and inspire one to life application.

As I logged in to Amazon to submit my review, the sidebar invited me, as usual, to “sell my book back” to them. I never do this, but this time, I actually laughed out loud. This is one book that will never leave my home. It will be awakened from its annual off-season rest and opened again and again to bless our Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons.

The content of God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas is will bless adults and older children. Heartily recommended. I had expected to publish this review a bit later, but logged in to Amazon today to find that the book is on sale at 10% off, so this seems the perfect time.

God bless the last days of your Advent season and we wish you a Merry Christmas!

Pax Christi,

This book was a Review Copy sent by the publisher — common practice in the industry. No payment was accepted in exchange for a review or mention, and the reviewer was in no way obligated to review the book favorably.

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