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Posts Tagged ‘Watch for the Light’

I suppose it’s fitting, since I’m such a reader, that I mark Advent each year with a few books reserved for this season. For the tenth year, I’m diving into Watch for the Light, which gathers together authors from all centuries and perspectives, and presents their reflections on the season. I can recite a couple of the shorter poems nearly by heart, and there are certain readings in the collection I look forward to each year – for example, the excerpt from Gail Godwin’s novel Evensong, Henri Nouwen’s thoughts on waiting for God, Kathleen Norris’s musings on the Annunciation, and many others. The book has readings from Nov. 24 to Jan. 6, and certain phrases from them resonate in my head and heart all through the season.

For a totally different perspective on Advent, I turn to Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher’s lovely novel about a group of five barely connected people who end up together at a huge house in the north of Scotland. They are all, for their own reasons, expecting a bleak Christmas; the word “Advent” never appears in the book, and none of the characters are particularly religious. But what happens as they draw together, in that dark northern country, in a dark time in all their lives, is beautiful to behold – and light breaks forth in the final chapter, in an astounding way.

Madeleine L’Engle’s book The Irrational Season is loosely based on the church calendar, so at this time of year, I turn to the first chapter, “The Night is Far Spent.” The image of Madeleine, standing at the window of her New York apartment with a cup of hot bouillon in her hands, on a sleepless night, perfectly captures Advent for me: the waiting, the restlessness, the yearning, and the pinpricks of light coming through the dark. (The following chapters, on Christmas, Holy Innocents and Epiphany, are likewise beautiful, strange and thought-provoking.)

I’ve been reaching for comforting books in this season of strange newness, so any day now I’m planning to pick up The Golden Road, L.M. Montgomery’s sequel to The Story Girl, which begins just before Christmastime. I love the Christmas chapter, full of rich food and starlight, and the Story Girl’s red silk dress, and the beginning of “Our Magazine,” which keeps the little group happy and occupied through the long Canadian winter. (And the New Year’s resolutions they make are hilarious, e.g., “I won’t get mad at Felicity, if I can help it!”)

Someone recommended Accompanied by Angels, Luci Shaw’s book of poems on the Incarnation; I love Shaw’s work, so this is a new addition to my list this year. And although they’re not books, the words of my favorite Christmas carols – verse after verse – are my constant companions in this season. I love them all, from the tremulous yearning of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” to the trills of “Angels We Have Heard on High” to the soft strains of “Silent Night” (my dad’s favorite). We’ve been singing Christmas carols at our small group for weeks, but now it’s time to bring them out in earnest – and I’m so glad.

I’ve written before about my love for the Mitford books – all nine of them – but I’ll be picking up Shepherds Abiding, the eighth in the series, this month. I love watching Father Tim work to restore a dilapidated Nativity scene, and somehow restore his own soul. And finally, finally, real hope arrives for the quiet bookseller, Hope Winchester.

What are you reading this Advent?

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