I hope you saw last week’s list of good Advent resources, books to help you, as I put it
(rather cleverly, if I do say so myself), get ready to get ready.
Included in that post last week, I offered links
to previous Advent and Christmas lists from older seasonal BookNotes. A few of those titles from other years may be out of print, but most are still available. I enjoy
telling you about these kinds of helpful little books, and invite you to avoid the
malls and check out those book lists — I think reading book annotations is itself a nice, educational habit.
I want to note one quick point, now (and a book to go with it, of course) and
then revisit a previously published Advent/Christmas book that is one of our all time
favorites, which we have on an
extra special discount deal for a limited time or until we run out.
First, the quick point: it is said among those who study the liturgical
calender and church year that Advent is less a time of counting down to our
celebration of the incarnation at Christmas, but is a time of getting in touch
with our longings and hope for the final consummation of God’s plan for
history, the restoration of all things, at Christ’s glorious return.
Insofar as Advent includes creating space for naming our
waiting for the second coming (which in a mysterious way has already begun now as we inhabit
“the already and not yet”) it would be very apropos in Advent to study J. Richard Middleton’s new book
A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic; $26.99) which I raved about in a BookNotes review a week or so ago. It is one of the most impressive and
important books of Biblical scholarship I’ve seen in years. (Richard himself makes the connection with Advent overt in his week’s worth of Advent devotions in Advent of Justice [Wipf & Stock; $9.99] which was edited by Biblical scholar and farmer Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat, with contributions by Brian Walsh and Mark Vander Vennen.) I reviewed that here. Reading Middleton this time of year would be great, I’m just saying.
If you want a more traditional, seasonal selection of readings with a warm and reflective tone, written by beautiful writers who have paid much attention to their own interior lives and the nature of seasonal practices in the church and world, allow us to remind you of what, when it was released 5 years ago, we said
was one of the best Advent books
we’ve seen in all our years of
book-selling. We don’t usually run
repeats of our reviews, but we have often done annotations of this one, and
wanted to edit a few of my earlier comments, and share them with you here. If you know this book, you know how lovely it is. And that it makes a
great gift as well.
THIS ITEM IS NOW OUT OF PRINT — We don’t really want to take down our review, but please note we did say (in Advent 2014) “while supplies last.” There are no more of the hardcover. HOWEVER there is a new and quite lovely paperback edition, very richly produced, but with only a few art pieces. It is called GOD WITH US READERS EDITION and sells for $18.99. We will describe that in a future BookNotes blog, offering it there at our usual 20% off.) Read on!
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas
edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete) regular price $29.95 SALE PRICE 30% OFF = $21.00
some of the previously mentioned ones have the great strength of including a diversity of authors,
theological and literary, and they include enough material to take you through
Epiphany in early January, this one has as its great strength two more wonderful
features: the stunning, gloriously reproduced, serious artwork through-out and
the quality of the five primary authors who offer five great chapters. (Five, of
course, because they wisely include the week after Advent, between Christmas and
Epiphany.) This is printed on high-quality, glossy paper, and includes a
ribbon marker, making it a glorious gift, a fabulous book to hold and
include Scott Cairns, the Orthodox poet and eloquent contemplative, Emilie
Griffin, the wise Episcopalian writer who has done books on spiritual formation
(and serving God in the workplace),the late Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran
scholar and pastor who became Roman Catholic in mid-life and founded the
rigorous public policy journal First Things,
the wonderful Presbyterian memoirist and essayist, Kathleen Norris, and the splendid poet and advocate for the
creative arts, Luci Shaw. There is a nice forward by Eugene Peterson and a nice page about the church calendar and an interesting appendix about Epiphany dates written by Beth Bevis. The page design and graphics nicely accentuates the accompanying art. My, my, this is a great
Important, too, is that this work emerged from the mature writing in the pages
of our best literary journal, Image, a sophisticated, faith-based
quarterly of literature and art and criticism; Pennoyer & Wolfe are extraordinary thinkers and writers
themselves, and have put together what is without a doubt one of the most glorious books you could own. (Except, perhaps for the long-awaiting, luxurious sequel, God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter which Paraclete released this past Spring [regularly $29.95.] What a great set of books, so similarly produced.)
Eugene Peterson’s introduction to God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, is lengthy and
robust, wise and beautiful. Here is how he starts,
Birth: wonder…astonishment…adoration. There can’t be very many of us for
whomn the sheer fact of existence hasn’t rocked us back on our heels. We take
off our sandals before the burning bush. We cath our breath at the sign of a
plummeting hawk. “Thank you, God.” We find ourselves in a lovish existence in
which we feel a deep sense of kinship – we belong
here; we say thanks with our lives to Life. And not just “Thanks” or “Thank
It” but ThankYou.“ Most of the people who have lived on
this planet earth have identified this You with God or gods. This is not just a
matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as
a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the
nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to
the overwhelming gift and goodness of life.
And then Pastor Pete continues,
Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this
fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few
days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations
with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a
community of wonder. The wonder keeps us
open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can
account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond
anything we can make.
He goes on from there to reflect on the meaning of this
season, the particularity of Jesus’ birth, and the relationship between
creation and incarnation, between God’s work and our own. It is really, really rich, a wonderful
opening to this handsome, deep volume and deserves repeated readings.
Peterson eventually offers a few beautiful lines that are truly memorably (and quotable) and then
follows with a very astute observation. Notice: people in the first century were not credulous, even as they were influenced by their culture’s religious and political ways:
Birth, every human birth, is an occasion for local wonder.
In Jesus’ birth the wonder is extrapolated across the screen of all creation
and all history as the God-birth. “The Word became flesh and dwelth among us” –
moved into the neighborhood, so to speak. And for thirty years or so, men and
women saw God in speech and action in the entirely human person of Jesus as he
was subject, along with them, to the common historical conditions of, as
Charles Williams once put it, “Jewish religion, Roman order, and Greek
intellect.” These were not credulous people and it was not easy for them to
believe, but they did. That God was made incarnate as a human baby is still not
easy to believe, but people continue to do so. Many, even those who don’t
“believe,” find themselves happy to participate in the giving and receiving,
singing and celebrating of those who do.
Yes, even those who don’t believe “find themselves happy to participate…with those who do.”
I don’t need to tell most BookNotes readers that we disapprove of those Christian organizations that want to turn this holy season into a battle-ground against the secularists, protesting those who say “happy holidays” and whatnot. Ugh. We think being winsome, respectful, and gracious during this time of year is the better way, and, anyway — as Peterson has suggested — most people are at least vaguely interested in Christian Christmas practices. Rather than pick a fight, why not show some good will? And be ready to explain the hope that is within us…
I have long thought that Christmas is a wonderful time for
natural, winsome evangelism, for showing that we live with hope and expectation. People really do sing theological truths in the
carols; even the malls blare songs with religiously-rich lyrics. People do ponder “the hopes and fears of all the years” in the quiet moments of December. People are truly open to getting gifts and cards. It is a great time to give books about the Christian faith to those with
whom you otherwise may not feel comfortable taking about
your faith. It may be one of those
rare opportunities to share a book or CD with your un-churched friends and it
won’t seem intrusive. Lots of people give books this time of year, and an Advent devotional of this literary and artistic tone would work well as a gift for nearly any educated friend.
We are happy to sell this throughout the season at the customary 20% BookNotes discount, but for this week only — until December 5, 2014 — we have it at 30% off.
Or, until we run out — it’s “while supplies last” as they say. You can order by clicking on the “order” link below. Or give us a call, if you’d like to talk.
– offer expires December 5, 2014 –
God With Us:
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want
if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know
Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street Dallastown, PA 17313 717-246-3333