Dipping into Advent: Reflections for Advent & Christmas
by Alan Hilliard (Messenger Publications, €9.95)
Sacred Space: Advent & Christmas 2019-2020
by The Irish Jesuits (Messenger Publications, €4.95)
Candles in the Night: The Advent Experience
by Anna Burke (Veritas, €7.99/£7.00)
Whatever about family feasting, fun and commercial excess, Christmas for Christians of all traditions around the world is a special time of the year, no matter whether it is celebrated in December or January according to the local ecclesiastical calendar.
It is a time of the year when a sense of solidarity in the message of the Gospels, should pervade not only the world of faith and family, but the whole world of humanity.
Here are some books for Advent which will help set the special spirit of the season for many people.
These three booklets are intended for those in a hurry – and who isn’t these days? They fit easily into pocket, brief-case or bag, and provide a sort of spiritual snack, perhaps to go with the hastily grabbed coffee on- the-go.
Of these the one by Alan Hilliard is certainly the more engaging. His lucky dip approach brings up not only snippets of his own family life, and adult experiences, but a great many other things.
How surprising, for instance, to find one of his reflections devoted to that almost forgotten writer, one so well known to older generations, ‘Fr John O’Brien’, the author of Around the Boree Log (1921), sentimental verses drawn from the lives of Irish Catholics out in Australia in the early decades of the last century.
We still have our people ‘down under’, though for many of them it is a very different life they are seeking to that their ancestors knew there. This may be an Advent book, of a sort, but it is one which many readers will find gives pleasure and insight all year round.
They fit easily into pocket, brief-case or bag, and provide a sort of spiritual snack”
The book has indeed a year round purpose, as Hilliard mentions in the beginning. Talking about the deep and rapid changes that have taken place he remarks that “we are moving away as a society from a faith supported by hierarchy and structure” – this has left many people in the lurch. “The reflections in this book challenge you to dip into the real spirit of the season. You may like some and not others, and this may change from day to day.”
This is certainly a little book to buy, and also readers might add to his earlier book, Dipping into Lent (Messenger Publications, €7.95).
Perhaps by now readers of this paper do not need much reminding about the pleasures and benefits to be derived from the Jesuit website Sacred Space. This booklet is what you might call a pocket spin-off and provides the familiar, though still popular resource of a Scripture reading, reflections on them and a special weekly topic, this is more directly focused on the coming season in all its aspects.
Sr Anna O’Brien provides some 20 short chapters, not so much keyed to daily reading, as to a very varied set of daily reflections all built up around the idea of Advent, beginning with waiting and preparing, and ending with the coming of Emmanuel.
Contrasting with the other two books, but in a way enhances what they also set out to do: to prepare for the coming of the infant Jesus and the essential meaning of Christmas, which has to be love, peace and reconciliation between person and person, individual and God.