WE ARE used to the production of Lent books every year in all shapes and sizes, but not so much to Advent books, perhaps. This is a pity: Advent is a season rich with images, characters, and themes that can disappear all too easily in the commercial feeding frenzy that is the “pre-Christmas rush”.
Gregory Cameron’s book tries to address this. He is the Bishop of St Asaph, in Wales, and his Advent Book of Days comprises 25 short chapters (for the month of December until Christmas), and uses each to examine a person or an image that appears in the Christmas story as we have received it. Cameron lays out the scriptural and/or anecdotal material that we have today, and leads us on to a reflection on what that might teach us now.
Refreshingly, rather than get bogged down with the minutiae of whether something “really happened”, the author wants the material that we have inherited to teach us something about how to conduct our lives in the present. Cameron is a keen artist and iconographer, which probably explains why each chapter begins with a (very well reproduced) painting or image, which serves as a visual aid for the reflection that follows. A short prayer concludes each section.
Advent is a short season, with almost too much going on liturgically and thematically. This is not a book reflecting on the traditional Advent themes of “the last things”, but, rather, a manual of preparation for the festival of Christmas itself, and seeing and hearing again the story, which can too easily become dangerously familiar.
Cameron has produced a very fine manual, and a good way of carving out a short daily space for reflection in the one part of the year when this is the hardest thing to do. I should say, too, that, although also available as an ebook, the printed edition is of a quality that eludes many publishers these days, and makes repeated use more inviting. Highly recommended.
The Revd Peter McGeary is the Vicar of St Mary’s, Cable Street, in east London, and a Priest-Vicar of Westminster Abbey.
An Advent Book of Days: Meeting the characters of Christmas
Gregory K. Cameron
Canterbury Press £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.99