Author Andrew Nunn
Publisher Canterbury Press £12.99
Bethlehem Bound is not a typical Advent book. Rather, Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark, takes us on a journey into the Nativity and beyond, beginning on 17 December, ‘when Advent shifts a gear’, and concluding with the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. There is also a postscript dealing with Candlemas, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, on 2 February. Thus we enter into a kind of pilgrimage, from Advent to the end of Epiphany, from the crib to the cross.
Each day we encounter a different character through gospel readings and commentary and through stories, told in the first person. These back stories are partly scriptural, partly imaginative, somewhat similar to Ignatian meditations. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Donkey’s Story’, exploring the nature of pride and humility.
Andrew Nunn presents the usual cast of the nativity play, but also introduces unexpected characters such as Jesse, father of King David; Anne or Hannah, the mother of Mary (from a story in the Qur’an); Stephen, the first martyr; and St. Thomas Becket, helping us to see the Christmas story in its wider context. Amongst the familiar elements, he drops in interesting facts and observations and references to poetry and art works which make the text come alive.
This is a book that would be very suitable to use day by day for personal study and prayer but I would also recommend it as a resource for planning Christmas services, talks and studies.
Reviewed by APRIL McINTYRE