Watch for the Light~ Readings for Advent and Christmas.
I've never formally observed Advent, unless you count opening the 24 doors on the Precious Moments Advent Calendar.
In my circles, Advent was merely the countdown to the fun of Christmas day.
Over the past year, my family has collected a small library of Plough Publishing titles. Each one has been challenging and enjoyable, the kind of book I look forward to sharing with people.
A Plough Advent devotional was an ideal choice.
Watch for the Light combines material from the ancient and modern voices, from every corner of Christendom.
We have St. Chrysostom, John Donne, T. S. Eliot, Madeleine L'Engle and Philip Yancey.
The selections also vary greatly in length and style.
(This seems to be turning some readers on there heads. Most devotional entries are one paragraph long, paired with a single Bible verse. The editors here did not confine themselves to that mold.)
One reading was fourteen pages long- and worth every word, because it was written by Alfred Delp before he was hanged by the Nazis in 1945.
Another was a few scant stanzas from Sylvia Plath, reminding us that:
If you dare call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait's
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent."
Frankly, I don't see how these selections could be uniformly reduced to one paragraph. It would compromise them. And the diversity is excellent.
There's Brennan Manning, calling us to be "Shipwrecked at the Stable," captured by the pure Love that was suddenly seen enfleshed.
There's Karl Rahner- "We roll up all our needs and yearnings into one word: Come! And yet... could you approach any nearer to us that you did when you became the Son of Man, when you adopted our ordinary little ways so thoroughly? It is said that you will come again, and this is true. But the word 'again' is misleading... because you have never really gone away. In the human existence that you made your own for all eternity, you have never left us."
There's Evelyn Underhill- "We have got to begin by a humble recognition that human things can be holy, very full of God... that all life is engulfed in him and he can reach out to us anywhere at any level."
There's Emmy Arnold- "The true Christmas experience is to feel that this Christmas peace is the greatest power; that even now on earth it overcomes all unpeace. That this peace shall come to all, that is the expectation and the faith of Christmas!"
There's St. Bernard of Clairvaux- "Let the Word, I pray, be to me, not as a word spoken only to pass away, but conceived and clothed in flash that he may remain with us. Let him be, not only to be heard with the ears , but to be seen with the eyes, touched with the hands and borne on the shoulders. Let the Word be to me, not as a word written and silent, but incarnate and living..."
There's Henri Nouwen, writing about the way Mary and Elizabeth and Anna must have waited- "Active waiting is to be present fully in the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it."
Let me put it this way: Reading Watch for the Light will enlarge your concept of Advent.
We live in Advent, waiting and working in anticipation; the Eternal Birth takes place in us; and the tidings of Goodwill go out ahead of us into 2015.
Thank you Plough Publishing for this fine book. My last comment will be how well-made the book itself is, a solid hardcover that's 327 pages long and feels good in my hand. It would last for years if you re-read it over and over.