Sunday, December 13, 2009

Top 5 Books to read during Advent and Christmas

Christian History Home > Reviews > My Top 5 Books to Read During Advent and Christmas

Carmen Butcher, associate professor of English at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, scholar-in-residence, and Christian author and blogger | posted 12/10/2009 01:23AM

This list represents my own desire during this holy season to experience new birth in my soul, as modeled by that divine-human baby lying humbly in the manger. My main interest is in learning how to do discipleship, in finding affective theology to grow in me a more Christ-minded, thankful, wonder-filled, and kinder lifestyle. These are the books I am sipping tea over and steeping in this Christmas.

St. Augustine: Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany
Translated and annotated by Thomas Comerford Lawler

From the Paulist Press Ancient Christian Writers series, this splendid book of sermons invites us into the lives of the earliest Christians. Here, as the translator says in his excellent introduction, the "brilliant and profoundly spiritual" Augustine explores the divine mystery of the Verbum infans (the unspeaking infant Word) in fifteen sermons for the Christmas season, two for New Year's, and six for Epiphany. With great pastoral care for his congregation, Augustine expounds the Christian creed, exposes the heretical fallacies of his time, explains difficult passages of Scripture, praises God's infinite and ineffable mercy, and works to resolve his listeners' doubts—all in language that is accessible to the ordinary layperson. Above all, Augustine asks us to celebrate with deepest joy and gratitude the "wondrous humility" of the omnipotent and divine Word's coming into this world as a helpless human infant.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons
Translated and edited by Edwin H. Robertson

Hanged on April 9, 1945, for conspiring in a plot to assassinate Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the most unforgettable Christian writers of the 20th century. He writes that Advent is genuinely celebrated by "those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come." This collection of his complete Advent sermons challenges us to consider how Christ's incarnation can transform our lives. It also includes insightful biographical information.

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Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Thomas Aquinas
By Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP

Through the writings and prayers of this Doctor of the Church and founder of the Order of the Preachers (Dominicans), this Christmas book calls us to loving action founded on the discipline of daily prayer. Its devotions from Advent through Christmas lead us into intimacy with God. Each includes a reflection from Aquinas, Scripture verses, a prayer, and a call to action that helps us live out God's new birth in some practical way each day, thus emulating Aquinas's goal: "Nothing but you, Lord. Nothing but you."

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Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for Advent and the Christmas Season
Translated by Irene Edmonds, Wendy Mary Beckett, and Conrad Greenia

Based on the critical Latin edition by Jean Leclercq and H. M. Rochais, this scholarly collection succeeds in being both engaging and readable. It includes an excellent introduction by Wim Verbaal, situating the reader in Bernard's 12th century milieu, when he was an unknown Cistercian abbot. It includes seven sermons on the Lord's Advent; six on the eve of Christ's birth; five on the Lord's "birthday"; one on the feasts of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents; three on the Lord's Epiphany; and several for afterwards, all with this eternally vibrant theme: "There will be no lack of what you can do so long as you do not lack brotherly love."

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Martin Luther's Christmas Book
Edited by Roland H. Bainton

The well-known Reformation scholar and author Roland H. Bainton (d. 1984) here presents 30 timely excerpts from Martin Luther's Christmas sermons, nine Nativity illustrations by Luther's contemporaries (including four by Albrecht Dürer), and two of Luther's five Christmas carols. Luther's down-to-earth meditations on the reality of Christ's birth—Mary's cold and lonely stress, Joseph's misgivings, Herod's scheming, the wise men's questions, and the divine baby's naked accessibility—reveal the miracle of the Incarnation as a real event in history. Luther's message is that we should keep Christmas every day of the year.

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