Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Watch for the Light - Readings for Advent and Christmas

Watch for the Light - Readings for Advent and Christmas, is a beautiful collection of readings filled with spiritual insight and wisdom. Selections begin on November 24 and continue through January 8 providing the reader with an entire season of reflection up to and preceding the Advent season. Some of the authors included in the collection include Thomas Merton, Phil Yancy, Henri Nouwen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many other well known Christian writers.

I was extremely excited to receive this book for review. Advent is always an important time in my home as we prepare for our Christmas celebrations. As I began reading the daily selections, my heart was filled to overflowing. It was evident each selection was carefully chosen and placed in the book to provide the reader with spiritual food for thought.

One selection I particularly enjoyed was written by William Willimon. Willimon begins his article by talking about the difficulty most of us have in being able to accept gifts or compliments. It's not natural and we feel awkward, he implies. He says we're better at being givers and we "enjoy thinking of ourselves as basically generous, benevolent, giving people. That's one reason why everyone, even the nominally religious, loves Christmas. Christmas is a season to celebrate our alleged generosity." He says, "We love Christmas because, as we say, Christmas brings out the best in us. Everyone gives on Christmas, event the stingiest among us, even the Ebeneezer Scrooges." The reason Willimon thinks we're better givers than receivers is because we're proud and arrogant people. But, says William Willimon, as he talks about the biblical account of the first Christmas, "...we are portrayed not as the givers we wish we were but as the receivers we are." He explains what God wanted to do for us was "...so strange, so beyond the bounds of human effort and striving, that God must resort to utterly unnatural, supernatural means. It tells of an unimaginable gift from a stranger, a God whom we hardly even knew. This strange story tell us how to be receivers." Willimon says God often loves us by giving us gifts we didn't think we needed and these gifts help transform us into people we don't necessarily wish to be. He uses the example of King Ahaz and how Isaiah, the prophet, is begging Ahaz to trust in God's promises to Israel instead of placing his trust in an alliance with Syria. Isaiah warns Ahaz and tells him God is going to give him a sign, a baby. Surely this was not what Ahaz expected as a sign from a mighty God, but it's the sign God gives. It is at this point, Willimon says, "Then this stranger comes to us, blesses us with a gift, and calls us to see ourselves as we are - empty handed recipients of a gracious God who, rather than leave us to our own devices, gave us a baby."  As I read William Willimon's article, I realized his article caused me to focus on Christ Himself. Jesus, the greatest gift of all, was given to all of humankind by God. He didn't expect anything from us in return, but gave His gift freely. The only requirement was that we be ready to receive.

Watch for the Light - Readings for Advent and Christmas is a powerful book filled with a variety of beautiful readings. The main purpose of the collection, according to the Editors, was to encourage a rediscovery of Advent and point the reader toward a season of inward preparation. The editors also want us to know "Advent marks something momentous: God's coming into our mist. 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."

Thanks to Plough Publishing for allowing me the privilege of reviewing this book in exchange for my honest review. It was my pleasure to read this collection and provide a positive review however I was in no way encouraged to do so.

To purchase the book, click this link.

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