With four weeks to go, I thought I’d write some kind of introduction to Adventbookclub and the book.
This is now the third year of #adventbookclub, which is brilliant, but it raises the question of ‘which book’! I was initially drawn to this book when I saw it in the SPCK Publishing catalogue because I have enjoyed other books by Stephen Cottrell and found them a helpful way to come at things.
I also mentioned before, how when I opened it, the strapline grabbed me:
For those who thought they knew the story well
and who of us don’t? We are brought up with the story year after year from Infant School. An angel appears to Mary to tell her she will have a baby; Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem on a donkey; there is ‘no room’ for them in the inn, so baby Jesus is born in a stable, laid in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes; shepherds come to visit him and Three Wise Men from the East follow a star and bring shiny gifts. We all know the story…
…or do we?
I am always looking for a new way to get inside a story, especially one that is so familiar that if we are not careful just washes over us and it’s power is lost. The birth of Jesus is not some random separate event, it is part of God’s story – the whole story, and this book works to set it in that wider context.
Stephen says in the Introduction to the book that the idea of telling the story backwards comes from a painting he saw, Albert Herbert’s Nativity with Burning Bush, which you can see here and is the illustration on the front cover of the book. He leads us, unusually, from light to dark; from Christ’s presentation in the Temple to the prophecies of Isaiah and the call of Moses. We start at the end, the known, and work our way to the beginning. The Light truly shining in darkness. God of light, shining his light and life into the darkest of places.
Each chapter is a narrative, an expression of the person and their involvement in God’s story. We open ourselves up to their lives, that we may open our lives up to God and his ongoing work in us.
Stephen’s suggested questions for the book are:
- which person in the story did you most relate to?
- what surprised, shocked or delighted you the most?
- how has this changed your understanding of the Christmas story?
Good questions! And good pointers, though not the only possible questions, for our exploration together. A journey towards Christmas, towards God, that looks to enter anew into what the story means to me and to the wider world in 2014, where I am.
So, you’re welcome along. I’m thrilled by those who’ve already said they’re joining in, but there’s room for everyone. I’m looking forward to the journey and sharing it with you. Do buy the book, and I look forward to joining the conversations with you.
as I come again this Advent,
thinking I know the story,
settled in what it is all about,
show me something new,
a different perspective of you
and your work in the world.
take me with you.
May your story
Your light shines in the darkest dark,
and through me
Oh, and as an aside, not being the right age (really!) I had never even heard of this Walking Backwards to Christmas, so can make no comment on any similarities 😉
Join us reading Backwards to Christmas by Stephen Cottrell from SPCK Publishing this advent. Be part of #adventbookclub, share your thoughts here, on your own blog (and let us know we’ll link to it), on Twitter using #adventbookclub or on the Adventbookclub Facebook page