We should all think early about Christmas

We should all think early about Christmas

Journey to the Light: Daily Readings through Advent and Christmas, by John Mann, foreword by Bishop Brendan Leahy (Messenger Publications, €12.95 /£11.95)

Advent and Christmas 2023, from the website of Sacred Space (Messenger Publications, €7.95 / £6.95)


Every year it has been customary for everyone to complain about Christmas “coming too soon”, as a plot to sell more goods, with Christmas puddings appearing in the shop already by mid-October.  

We are right to bridle at these commercial aspects of the Christmas Season. Yet in a way we should always be thinking of Christmas coming, for it lays the ground work more than any other Church feasts, for what people warmly recall about their childhood and the beliefs they then so easily accepted, feeling them to be founded by familiar family joys.

Christmas expresses a love of others and feeling of self acceptance which we all need. This year alas it seems the coming weeks and months do not bode well for peace and love, so it really does us all no harm at all, to think forward, to anticipate as strongly as we can the Christmas message of peace and happiness and good will among all people.

The little Sacred Space booklet provides reading for each week of Advent, laid out under several headings. It gives each reader a straight forward devotional structure to the days of Advent and the season of Christmas. Time these days is so hectic and unstructured that any such scheme is a great book for settling or ordering one’s own inner thoughts which many, perhaps most people will welcome.

John Mann was Dean of Belfast Cathedral, though he later lived at Swanage near Salisbury. Retired, he is now settled on the Isle of Man. His book takes a very personal approach to his pastoral observation, drawing greatly on his own varied life experiences. Reopening the book while writing this notice the page revealed describes his experience of visiting Catherine’s Monastery and climbing Mount Sinai.

I opened the book by chance on a page where Mann is meditating on the nature of commandment and obedience. A very striking outcome of the application of a kind of Sortes Sanctorum.

But on that chance-chosen page he writes: “The power of commandment to inspire commitment as well as obedience is vital to our appreciation of how faith becomes devotion.”

Now there is truly ‘a thought for the day’. Filled with striking insights based on experience, this is a book to buy, read and, in time, reread.