How do you know that what you call "freedom" only seems free
because you lack the imagination to conceive of any kind of life other than the one you are now living?
~Will Willimon & Stanley Hauerwas

Preparing for Christmas – A Book Review

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Full Disclosure:  I’m usually not a fan of daily devotionals, even though they are quite popular.  For many, they bring needed comfort, insight, preparation, and / or reflection.

Maybe it’s because I’m not terribly disciplined, or should I say my disciplines often change or take alternate routes, but daily devotionals have not typically kept me on path.

I think part of the problem is that many of the popular daily devotionals feel very surface level to me.  I seldom find much depth of insight, personally.  Being daily, there is often no building concept throughout the book, building upon itself day after day.  I used to try to read Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest.  He had good things to say, but it lacked coherence for me.  Likewise, I’ve often recommended (and even given as gifts) daily devotionals from John Wesley’s writings, as they are often a good entry point for folks wanting to learn more about him and his theology.  Yet, they too often display the theological bias of the editor, and again, I get lost for lack of coherence.

None of the above applies, however, to Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent, but I did not not read it daily, but in two sittings riding on a bus to and from New York City.  It was hard to put down!

Early on, Rohr defines the kingdom or reign of God as “The Big Picture,” God’s vision for the world.  He goes on to show how the time of Advent and the birth of Christ invites us into life in The Big Picture here and now, not just when we die.  He further helps us understand the kingdom of God with other phrases like “Great Banquet” and “Great Drama,” reminding us that we all play a part in The Big Picture of God’s kingdom.

Rohr is a Franciscan priest who is also the founder and animator of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Honestly, I have not read a lot of Roman Catholic authors, but often I feel that many such authors are too closely wedded to certain dogmas and doctrines that leave me disconnected.  When I read the Rescript in the front of the book declaring it “to be free from doctrinal or moral error,” I feared a similar focus in this book, but I was pleasantly surprised.  There is a healthy dose of orthodox theology, but it is tied explicitly to the action of living out God’s Big Picture for the world.  He even writes explicitly on page 48:

The Scriptures very clearly teach what we call today a “bias toward action.” It is not just belief systems or dogmas and doctrines as we have often made it. The Word of God is telling us very clearly that if you do not do it, you, in fact, do not believe it and have not heard it. The only way that we become convinced of our own sense of power, dignity and the power of God is by actually doing it – by crossing a line, a line that has a certain degree of non-sensicalness and unprovability to it – and that’s why we call it faith.

I couldn’t agree more.

This book is a meaningful tool to help us do the work of transformation – work done with God, helping us to be more fully connected to God and all God’s children.  It guides us through the beginning of the Christian year, preparing us for the work of making God and Christ evident throughout the year and helping ourselves and others see the Big Picture that we are to participate in.

Whether you are one who is disciplined at doing daily devotionals or if you read it straight through as a “regular” book, I recommend this to you for your joy and edification.

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