Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness

Author Peter Sills
Publisher Sacristy Press £14.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789591002

This book explores the path of Christian hope, which has become a precious commodity in recent months. It has a clear structure, utilising the Advent antiphons (which are included) and also the ‘I am…’ sayings of Jesus as a framework. The antiphons are familiar to us in a versified form through the hymn ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!’ and they speak of a hope that is both personal and social, reflecting the hopes of people in every age and of every faith. The seven hopes that are explored (one per chapter) are for truth, justice, freedom, a new beginning, light, peace and love. The book is wide-ranging, biblical and spiritual and contains numerous references to modern life, including the coronavirus pandemic. The author’s background in law and economics is evident and this exploration of hope is written out of his conviction ‘that the Christian understanding of both the human person and human society offers the best way forward out of our present confusion.’ One of the strengths of the book lies in its ability to make meaningful connections between biblical material and life in the 21st century. The book makes no claims to be suitable for group study, but for personal reading and reflection during Advent it would be both challenging and worthwhile.

Reviewed by MICHAEL FOSTER

Advent, Spirituality


 

At home in Advent

At home in Advent

Author Gordon Giles
Publisher BRF £8.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857469809

This book invites us to take Advent and the Christmas seasons seriously. By using a number of meditations based on commonplace articles like traffic lights, burglar alarms and even Christmas jumpers, Gordon Giles unlocks the meanings of the story that shapes the time of year. This is a well-written book, which includes prayers and practical actions for the reader to undertake during the month it is based around. These are challenging and helpful. He provides questions that can be used by home or other study groups. The book has a definite context, having been written during the tight lockdown of early2020, which makes it even more relevant. We have all become far more acquainted with our own houses, the commonplace, and a book that seeks to see the spiritual significance of this is therefore most valuable. The author tackles issues of expectation, waiting, mortality and hope as well as celebrating the joy of the incarnation and the salvation that Jesus brought. This is a first class read and a valuable aid for the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Reviewed by CAVAN WOOD

Advent, Reflection

 

The Glorious Journey

The Glorious Journey

Author Liam Kelly
Publisher DLT £6.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780232534931

The author takes us through this little book using his knowledge and inside information about two popes, Francis and Benedict. He refers frequently to them by name yet at the same time encourages us to see them more simply as two gentlemen of great faith. There is a DVD of the film, The Two Popes available to accompany this structured reflection. However this is not a necessity and the book alone can be helpfully used during a time such as a retreat, or during Advent or Lent. The eight chapters lead us through the journey of life with themes common to us all e.g. Loneliness, Love, Listening, and so on. Each chapter sets a simple theme which the author uses to explore the life experience and conversations between the two popes. Within each chapter we are invited to reflect on our own lives and questions are asked of us as fellow travellers on the journey of life. Each section ends with a prayer and a closing reflection quoted from a formal address by either Pope Francis or Pope Benedict XVI. There is much for us to treasure in this pocket-sized book, for it acknowledges the joys, sorrows, weaknesses and strengths of life for us all as human beings. There is also assurance that we never journey alone for the grace of God is always present.

Reviewed by SUE PIPER

Advent, Reflection

 

The Celtic Year

The Celtic Year

Author David Cole
Publisher BRF £ 8.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857469687

David Cole is well known and respected for the books he has already produced on Celtic Advent, Celtic Saints and Celtic Lent. This new work focuses on the eight points of the Celtic year: the four seasons, and the midpoints of each season. Each of these sections contains an introduction, a liturgy, daily devotions and prayers and blessings. Perhaps, in these uncertain days, like our Celtic forebears, we need to connect more to the cycles of the year and appreciate the flow from samhain, or winter, to imbolc (spring) then to beltane or summer and, finally, lughnasa or lammas, which is autumn. Reading this book is an ideal way to do so, with meaningful and moving liturgies and daily devotions covering a theme for each day of the week, starting with creation on Mondays and leading us through incarnation, the Holy Spirit, community, the cross, the saints to the resurrection or new life. While this carefully researched book is of interest to all readers it is a wonderful resource for those taking services, like Forest Church, which reflect the Celtic tradition.

Reviewed by MARGARET TINSLEY

Advent, Spirituality

 

37 Kings and a Budgerigar

37 Kings and a Budgerigar

Author Richard Littledale
Publisher Authentic Media £7.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781788931588

There may be a collective noun for those of us who collect nativity sets. I suspect there are quite a few of us. But the individual noun for Richard Littledale, whose collection you will find in this book, is inspiration. The author has chosen 25 of his sets, enabling us to spend Advent engaging afresh with the birth of Jesus. He describes each pictured set, reflects on it, and links it with a reading and a prayer. We have 25 new ways of entering familiar territory; and the author didn’t use all his sets! What a variety! There is a nativity set to hang on a Christmas tree: do you mix the sacred and the secular? There is a set made from pencil rubbers: telling of Jesus who came to erase the world’s mistakes. There are sets from many cultures, all in rich diversity answering Jesus’ question ‘Who do you say that I am?’ And there is the budgerigar in a Peruvian set, as welcome in the stable as are absolutely all of us. Even though books are primarily verbal, this book encourages us to go beyond words: to look and to play as we enter the story with wonder and worship. So, definitely buy the book, but also make or buy a nativity set for yourself that you can handle as you re-enter Bethlehem this year.

Reviewed by ROSIE MEDHURST

Advent, Nativity

 

Comfort and Joy

Comfort and Joy

Author John Kibble (ed.)
Publisher CHP £0.80 (or £30 for a pack of 50)
Format pbk
ISBN 9781781402245

This little booklet is an ideal Christmas gift offering to congregations that have endured the rigours of lockdown and online services throughout the year: tangible pages which will illuminate the Christmas season and reinforce the meaning of the incarnation. It comprises nine traditional carols, each with an associated Bible text and a short reflection from wise Christian leaders, including Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell. There is one each day from 25 December to 2 January. Each reflection reminds us, without sentimentality or triviality, of the profound truth of the incarnation – God with us, through thick and thin. Buy a pack and, if you are able, distribute it among your church family on the fourth Sunday of Advent, or even at midnight on Christmas Eve. It makes a fine stocking filler.

Reviewed by ELIZABETH HOGG

Advent, Carols