After our first reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, my daughter declared that we would read it again in preparation for every future Christmas. Meanwhile, I searched for some contemporary seasonal stories, and found that high-quality holiday-themed fiction for older readers can be elusive. I was delighted to discover that prolific children’s author Katherine Paterson has published two collections of short stories for Christmas, available through my local library. I began with A Midnight Clear: Stories for the Christmas Season. Each of the dozen stories here was written to be read aloud at church on Christmas Eve, and they uplift the hope at the heart of the Christmas story.
Readers encounter an older woman whose loneliness is relieved by a young neighbor; a cynical man who discovers warmth and holiday spirit in the company of a stranger; a young couple who receive hospitality when they need it most. Paterson’s stories are well-crafted and believable, heart-warming and not overstated. I found nothing preachy in these tales, yet each carries the Christmas message of caring for one another, of having hope in the coming Light, of finding peace amidst the confusion of the human condition.
Next I shall sit with Angels and Other Strangers: Family Christmas Stories, which has just arrived at the library. I anticipate a few cozy evenings reading with my daughter, reflecting together on the Light at the heart of this season.
What fiction have you read that draws you closer to the heart of Advent, helping you to wait in hope? Does your family have favorites that are revisited each year?
Disclaimer: This review is based upon a book borrowed from my public library. No fee was received.
Posted in book review, holidays | Tagged Christianity, Christmas, fiction, hope, inspiration, Jesus of Nazareth, peace, spiritual life | Leave a Comment »
With a sense of expectancy, I am beginning to prepare my heart for the season of waiting. Advent, the beginning of the new church year, will arrive on November 30. We can take this time to reflect and see where God is present in our lives, and how we ca be present for one another. During this season, when many people are choosing to be in a rush, we can intentionally seek more prayer time, a more contemplative rhythm. In this we might discover the roots of true joy.
Over the coming weeks I will re-read one of my favorite Advent books, Silence & Other Surprising Invitations of Advent by Enuma Okoro. In this book readers are invited to reflect on the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. We see how longing, waiting, and faithfulness were experienced in their lives, and how our lives, too, are full of this hunger for God. Elizabeth and Zechariah give us examples of the mysterious ways that God works in our lives, giving us hopeful joy that we can anticipate God coming into our hearts, if only we prepare room. I encourage you to read my previously posted review, and to have this book as a companion during your prayer times this season.
For prayers by an Advent wreath, I highly recommend O Radiant Dawn by Lisa Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com. Read my previously posted review for details on how this booklet can benefit your prayer time, whether you will be praying alone or with children.
I enjoyed the focus on on the O Antiphons in O Radiant Dawn, and I encourage you to explore this liturgical tradition. One collection of resources, including brief daily prayers, can be found through the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, which is Sr. Joan Chittister’s order. If you are drawn to listen and contemplate the O Antiphons, there also are beautiful recordings available online, via youtube.
Over at The Art of Simple there is a wonderful collection of resources aimed at keeping the Advent season both joy-filled and simple. You might begin with Tsh’s brief and encouraging post from last year.
What are your favorite books and traditions for a prayerful Advent? I invite you to share in the comments below.
May you be filled with joyful expectancy that this season holds as you make room in your heart for the coming of peace and hope.
Posted in book review, holidays | Tagged Advent, Catholicism, Christianity, inspiration, spiritual life, spirituality | Leave a Comment »
Nourishing spirituality in everyday life allows one to be aware of God, and aware of abundant blessings. By cultivating attentiveness one can notice God’s work in all aspects of life, far beyond formal prayer time. Parenting, where a person receives the gift of caring for a child, can be full of awareness of God’s presence. Yet it also can be work that makes one tired to the bone. A parent can feel grateful and blessed, while at the same time wishing for a bit of breathing room and momentary peace. Parents will find an understanding companion in Rachel S. Gerber, author of Ordinary Miracles: Awakening to the holy work of parenting.
Rachel Gerber writes with honesty. She does not pretend that parenting is easy, or that finding God amidst a pile of laundry is easy, or that giving thanks from an exhausted heart is easy. She allows readers to travel with her, to experiment with a spirit of attentive thanksgiving. By sharing stories from her mothering experience, she opens a door to seeing God’s presence throughout the tasks of caregiving.
Ordinary Miracles carries a guiding story from Luke 24 in the gospels, when two followers encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus. At first they do not recognize Jesus; rather, they are full of sorrow at his recent death, and see only a stranger. Later, when they eat together, the followers realize that Jesus had been present all along. As Rachel Gerber writes, “Love is present in our darkest hour of greatest disorientation, in our most mundane days, and in moments of exhilaration of joy and beauty when we finally awaken to the blessings of life. God surprises.”
If you have a book-loving new parent in your life, Ordinary Miracles would make a fine gift. The chapters are not long, and the book can be picked up readily in between the duties of caring for a young child. This book would make a wonderful discussion for a church parent’s group, or a mothers’ book club. There are discussion questions at the end of the book to help guide conversations.
I urge you to pick up a copy of this encouraging book, where you can read this heartfelt reminder:
“You are loved just as you are, wherever you are, because you are enough. And this: You have people to love.”
Even though we cannot see the whole picture, we can see and love the person in front of us. God’s love and grace will meet us where we are, and will carry us.
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.
Posted in book review | Tagged Christianity, inspiration, motherhood, parenting, spiritual life, spirituality | 1 Comment »