Thursday, November 29, 2012

What are you reading this Advent?

Well, my favorite time of the Liturgical Year is coming up. So many people get excited at the thought of Christmas or Easter, but I have always been partial to Advent. My wife actually loves Lent. We really are an odd match made in Heaven. Back to Advent though. I really look forward to Advent each year because I always see it as a time to start anew. All the past errors of the year and failed goals turn into new hopes and dreams of a better year.

With that being said, I wanted to find a truly great book this year for Advent to start my year right, and I think I found a pretty great one in Exploring Advent with Luke by Timothy Clayton. Ave Maria Press sent me this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing that drew me to this book was the title. This coming year in the Liturgical Calendar is Cycle C. In layman's terms, that means that we read Luke during the Gospel readings. So I thought this would be the perfect book for this coming Advent for this reason alone. I initially thought that the first four chapters would line up with Gospel readings for each of the four weeks of Advent. I was wrong, but definitely not disappointed.

In the first four chapters, Timothy Clayton tells the pre-Nativity stories that St. Luke wrote about in his Gospel - John the Baptist's birth foretold, the Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary, the Visitation of Mary, and the Nativity of John the Baptist. Each chapter then poses us with different questions that the people in the Gospel faced and which we can use for personal reflection and growth. I never though of studying Zechariah and Elizabeth's story during Advent, but now that is has been presented to me, it makes perfect sense. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus, so it is only fitting his story during Advent prepare us to receive Jesus at Christmas.

Luckily, the book doesn't end with these four chapters. The final two chapters address Christmas Day and the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas is a very important chapter as it serves to remind us that Christmas isn't over December 26th. We spend so much time preparing for Christmas that when the big day finally arrives, we are ready for it to be over the next day, but it's not! We celebrate Christmas until Epiphany and would do well to remember that.

I really enjoyed this book and think it deserves 5 out of 5 stars. It is definitely a book worth owning and reading this Advent or any Advent. I plan to go through it again in this Advent and future ones as well. I also can see this book becoming a favorite on my bookshelf. The back cover says that it can be used as a reflective guide individually or in small groups, but unless you have an effective past leading small groups, I'd keep this primarily for individual use. Not that it lessens the book for me, but I didn't feel it lent itself well to group study.

So this is what I am reading this Advent. What are you reading? Feel free to leave me a comment. Also, don't forget to enter my contest for another  Ave Maria Press book,  A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul. You can find the giveaway at the bottom of my review. Have a Blessed Advent!