Books for Advent and Christmas seek to inspire faith, guide prayer

Categories: Advent,Book Reviews

By Ann Jonas
For The Visitor

To help prepare spiritually for the Advent and Christmas seasons, some noteworthy books have recently been published. They offer some wonderful options to deepen our prayer life and make the seasons more meaningful.

silent_book“Not a Silent Night: Mary Looks Back to Bethlehem” by Adam Hamilton. Abingdon Press, September 2014. 144 pp. $16.99.

Adam Hamilton, a senior Methodist pastor, has taken an unusual approach in his new hardcover book by exploring Jesus’ life through his mother Mary’s eyes. Written for Advent and Christmas reading, the book begins with the words to the beloved Christmas song “Silent Night” and then explains in the introduction that “As Mary learned, God doesn’t promise a perfect, peaceful life or a silent, holy night.” Although Mary was blessed and full of grace, she had pain in her life. God brings “blessing out of pain. That’s the message of Christmas.”

Hamilton then tells Mary’s story by starting at the end of her life and working backward to the crucifixion, Jesus’ ministry, the annunciation and finally the birth of Jesus, all from Mary’s perspective. “Not a Silent Night” contains five chapters, plus an introduction, and is a meaningful spiritual read.

nativity_book“The Season of the Nativity: Confessions and Practices of an Advent, Christmas & Epiphany Extremist” by Sybil MacBeth. Paraclete Press, October 2014. 160 pp. $17.99.

This bright and colorful book invites readers to experience a “seriously playful Nativity season.” Author Sybil MacBeth wrote the innovative book “Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God,” in which she suggests combining “lectio divina” and other prayer methods with doodling and coloring. Her new book includes practices and activities, many of which involve some form of artwork, to use during the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

MacBeth points out that these seasons are the “opening acts” of the liturgical year and “set the stage for our spiritual journeys throughout the year.” The bulk of the book focuses on Advent, with a variety of suggested activities and rituals. Great ideas to celebrate Christmas and Epiphany are also included. Many colorful photographs and illustrations make this book a creative and enjoyable book for the Yuletide season.

light_book“Light of Lights: Advent Devotions” compiled and edited by Robin Pippin. Upper Room Books, July 2014. 61 pp. $10.

Upper Room Books publishes a popular daily devotional guide each year. “Light of Lights” contains four weeks of devotions selected from this annual publication. Each week of Advent has a theme patterned after the traditional Advent wreath candles that represent hope, love, joy and peace. Each week consists of six meditations; Sundays are reserved for small-group gatherings (a guide for this is also in the book). Each day a suggested Scripture reading, a meditation, a reflection question and a short prayer is offered.

The daily reflections are very readable and thought-provoking. The five Sunday sessions include the lighting of the Advent wreath, an opening prayer, some discussion questions and an Advent prayer practice. Meditations for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the Sunday after Christmas also are part of this meaningful resource that can be used every Advent.

adore_book“Let Us Adore Him: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas” by Richard N. Fragomeni. Franciscan Media, August 2014. 112 pp. $3.99.

Noted liturgist Father Richard Fragomeni focuses on the Communion Antiphons for each day’s liturgy in his new daily devotional for Advent and Christmas. He states in the introduction that the antiphons are “like a conversation: Some days we talk to God; other days God talks to us.” The Scripture readings are listed for each day, then the antiphon, followed by a reflection on the antiphon, and finally a suggested practice, which is either a thoughtful reflection question or an action.

The Sunday readings include all three cycles so this booklet can be used for more than one year. “Let Us Adore Him” begins with the first day of Advent and ends with the Baptism of the Lord. This small book offers inspiration for Advent and Christmas from some beautiful liturgical verses and meditations.
Ann Jonas is the general book buyer for the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.