Book Review: Come, Lord Jesus: Daily Readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany by Geoffrey Rowell
by Peter Menkin 1/20/2009 / Book Reviews
Book of readings, useful for meditation and reflection at Advent and Christmas
The writings and excerpts from the Bible seep into the reader after a time, inviting meditation and offering an education for Advent and Christmas. Certainly, an Advent and Holiday time reading, the works are not authored as a standard series of Advent readings, but they are traditional:
"It is our hope that this book will encourage profound exploration and contemplation, but it is not, perhaps, a conventional Advent book of readings and prayers, for that the reader will have to look elsewhere."
Good. This is just the kind of book I wanted this past Advent and Christmas, one published by Morehouse Publishing. I must say that I have been looking at books published by the Episcopal publishing house, and for a few years have been intrigued by this one whose cover is a mother with her baby. It's an intimate cover, and so I was and am intrigued by the intimacy of the book. If you, like me, look for books for the season like Advent and Christmas, you will find this a good one with its readings and reflections for each day of the season, into the first day of Epiphany.
This "Come, Lord Jesus," had me thinking of the end of times, when we all go to heaven and are judged. Previous years I hadn't thought so much of it. Now I don't want to burden you with my own needs and interests so much, but this does more pointedly demonstrate how the readings go. First there is the Gospel, as this one of Day 4 in Advent. From Matthew:
"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him..." This of the second coming, the end of the world, and the question asked by Christ is this, "...for I was hungy and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me..." Good thoughts for reflection about a man who taught important things and as the incarnate God would ask us to be with our fellow man in ways that are good and helpful.
The reflection, which is the second part of the reading, asks, "Such grace transforms situations, delivers from sin, heals our brokenness, floods our hearts with light and encircles us in the communion of love." Of course, for the sake of brevity, I must truncate the text. But you see that there is a grace offered to us, which we look forward to in the birth of Jesus, during the Advent season, that is "...that which goes byond that moral demand--God's accepting love, his forgiveness and mercy, his overwhelming free gift, his loving-kindness."
This seems like a kind of sermon, and it is a kind of sermon. "Passages for reflection were drawn for the most part from sermons, addresses and meditations on passion themes that I have given throughout my ministry both as chaplain for many years...and as a bishop." This from the Preface. Too, there are the reflections of musician Julien Chilcott-Monk. He, I think, wrote the Mary reflections and the shorter reflections for each day, a kind of note to the reading. The longer and introductory readings and remarks by Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe (of the Anglican Church), and the almost point making writings of Julien Chilcott-Monk make this a team written book where the writing and the team impact is helpful to the meaning and for the writing of the book.
Like a prayer, "The Sequence" of each day focuses the reader. So these are really meditations and prayers, subtle sometimes. "With thy favoured sheep, O place me; nor among the goats secure me..." Perhaps you are not so steeped in the Bible, for the book relies on the Bible, and therefore here is the end of that quotation: "...but to thy side please upraise me." Asking to go to heaven, something most people who live their lives in a religious manner desire.
Continuing with the format, the book has an imaginative (fictional) statement by Mary on the Biblical text. Afterall, this is about Jesus and Christmas, and Mary is a key player. Here the writer gives mature thoughts to the young mother, and she is religiously profound. As I understand it, Mary was a Jewish woman who was well educated in her faith. That adds credence to her thoughts, as fictionalized here: "Is Jesus to establish the New Eden so that mankind can realize God's original intention for his creation? If so, mankind will have to turn, to respond." I found these very satisfying and they kindled in me the desire to imagine myself what Mary would think, and what kind of woman she was, as a mother to be.
The readings, which are not so long nor do they take a great deal of time, end with a statement for "...consideration..." In this reading, "The King is concerned with the reality of response to human need, not our tally for engagements."
As a means of inspiration, information, and intelligent readings for reflection and mediation, albeit guided worthily by the text, the book "Come, Lord Jesus!" makes a worthy addition for the season. The daily readings guide the pilgrim through Biblical and reflective texts, engaging the individual with the season, and educating him in the sense that these ideas can grow. I want to add a personl note about my own reading during this season of Advent in 2005. The book grew on me as I went through it, as I found it a gentle and easily taken series of introductions as guidance to the seasons of Advent, Christmas and entry to Epiphany.
--Peter Menkin, Epiphany
Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.