At a vendor fair last Friday, I had the privilege of meeting a woman who served as a nurse for the British in World War II. Needless to say, it was the highlight of the evening. I didn’t get her name, but she is in her 90’s and lost her brother during the war in 1941.Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach
It’s often difficult focusing on Advent during the weeks leading up to Christmas when everyone in the secular world seems to be celebrating Christmas even before Advent begins. Here is a list of wonderful Advent books that help us to prepare during this beautiful time leading up to Christmas.
Sarah Reinhard’s book, Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families, is a beautifully-designed book and an ideal gift for those families who wish to embrace the true meaning of Christmas and to grow closer to Christ. I highly recommend this wonderful book to everyone!
I also enjoyed Joy to the World by Kathleen Basi. Great book for the entire family!
My all-time favorite Advent and Christmas book is called “Donkey Bells” by Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House. This gem of a book is filled with stories, traditions, meditations and customs.
Beginning with the first day of Advent and continuing through the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, these selections from the immortal pen of Fulton J. Sheen encourage readers to explore the essence and promise of the season. Those looking to grow in their prayer life and become more attuned to the joy of Advent and Christmas will find a wonderful guide in this spiritual companion.
This is another book I read every Advent/Christmas. Beautiful meditations and quotes from Fulton Sheen.
An Advent book that my daughter-in-law introduced me to is Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen: Daily Scripture and Prayers together with Nouwen’s Own Words
It’s similar to the Fulton Sheen book above, but with Scripture and Prayers from Henri Nouwen.
The following is an excerpt from a website with interesting background information and many images to download: www.sancta.org
“After complying to the Bishop’s request for a sign, She also left for us an image of herself imprinted miraculously on the native’s tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 478 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.”
Saint John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe the patron saint of the unborn.
To read more about Our Lady of Guadalupe:
There are many ways to celebrate this feast. We usually celebrate by having fajitas and tacos. Although our kids are now adults, in past years, we celebrated by allowing them (youngest to oldest) to break open a pinata.
Happy Feast Day!
Here’s what I’ve been reading:
Synopsis: In an astonishing feat of detective work, Dwight Longenecker makes a powerful case that the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem really happened. Piecing together the evidence from biblical studies, history, archeology, and astronomy, he goes further, uncovering where they came from, why they came, and what might have happened to them after eluding the murderous King Herod. In the process, he provides a new and fascinating view of the time and place in which Jesus Christ chose to enter the world.
The evidence is clear and compelling. The mysterious Magi from the East were in all likelihood astrologers and counselors from the court of the Nabatean king at Petra, where the Hebrew messianic prophecies were well known. The “star” that inspired their journey was a particular planetary alignment―confirmed by computer models―that in the astrological lore of the time portended the birth of a Jewish king.
The visitors whose arrival troubled Herod “and all Jerusalem with him” may not have been the turbaned oriental kings of the Christmas carol, but they were real, and by demonstrating that the wise men were no fairy tale, Mystery of the Magi demands a new level of respect for the historical claims of the gospel.
Review: Excellent book. See my extensive review here at this link.
Synopsis: Aurora Manchester has the best of all worlds. Born in the big city of Manhattan, she and her family move from New York to northern Michigan, where her father, an English professor and show business biographer, teaches at a college on a breathtaking island on Lake Huron. Her mother is a ballet teacher, much loved by her students, whom she equally adores. On the island, the three Manchester kids make friends with the grandchildren of neighbours who live nearby. In their adventures, an old barn becomes the starship Enterprise. The field down the road becomes a graveyard. They go hiking and explore caves. As they grow up, Aurora and her brothers make lifelong friendships and have lots of fun along the way… until the tragic day when their whole world falls apart.
My review: This book was written by a friend of mine and I’m looking forward to reading it!
Synopsis: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The extraordinary saga of Mother Angelica–who passed away on Easter, 2016–founder of the multimillion-dollar Eternal Word Television Network and “the most influential Catholic woman in America” according to Time magazine
My review: I got this for .99 last week and I’m really enjoying it so far. Mother Angelica certainly has always been a fiesty spirit!
Amazon Synopsis: Cinder Allia has spent eight years living under her stepmother’s brutal thumb, wrongly punished for having caused her mother’s death. She lives for the day when the prince will grant her justice; but her fairy godmother shatters her hope with the news that the prince has died in battle. Allia escapes in search of her own happy ending, but her journey draws her into the turbulent waters of war and politics in a kingdom where the prince’s death has left chaos and division. Cinder Allia turns a traditional fairy tale upside down and weaves it into an epic filled with espionage, treason, magic, and romance. What happens when the damsel in distress must save not only herself, but her kingdom? What price is she willing to pay for justice? And can a woman who has lost her prince ever find true love? Surrounded by a cast that includes gallant knights, turncoat revolutionaries, a crippled prince who lives in hiding, a priest who is also a spy, and the man whose love Allia longs for most—her father—Cinder Allia is an unforgettable story about hope, courage, and the healing power of pain.
My Review: This is not the type of novel I usually read, but it was .99 on Kindle. Well-written, enjoyable and rich in imagery, this Cinderella story has unique and unexpected twists and interesting, multi-dimensional characters. Highly recommend!
Synopsis: Beginning with the first day of Advent and continuing through the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, these selections from the immortal pen of Fulton J. Sheen encourage readers to explore the essence and promise of the season. Those looking to grow in their prayer life and become more attuned to the joy of Advent and Christmas will find a wonderful guide in this spiritual companion.
My review: This is one of the books I read every Advent/Christmas. Beautiful meditations and quotes from Fulton Sheen.
Christmas pageants have been taking place in similar fashion for the past 50 or so years. Children dress up as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Three Wise Men. In fact, the three Wise Men “from the East” are part of most Christmas pageants and readings of the Christmas story. But are the Magi fictional characters based on legends, or did they really exist?
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, author of Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men, asserts that they really did exist. But he goes several steps further and identifies them as historical figures. Of course, modern biblical scholars tend to dismiss the story of the Three Wise Men as legend. Since Matthew’s gospel offers sparse details, imaginative Christians began embellishing the story early on, giving us the “three kings guided by a magical star who join the adoring shepherds in every Christmas crèche.”
Because of the legends, many scholars don’t take the story of the Wise Men seriously. In fascinating detective work, Fr. Longenecker contends that the Three Wise Men were actual historical figures and that the visit to the Child Jesus really happened. Using evidence from scriptural studies, history, archeology and astronomy, he also discovers where they came from, the reasons for their visit and what may have happened to them after their visit.
The evidence shows that the mysterious Magi from the East were in all likelihood “astrologers and counselors from the court of the Nabatean king at Petra, where the Hebrew messianic prophecies were well known.” And that “the ‘star’ that inspired their journey was a particular planetary alignment ― confirmed by computer models ― that in the astrological lore of the time portended the birth of a Jewish king.”
Like any good detective and using a variety of resources and documents as well as Scripture passages, Fr. Longenecker distinguishes historical facts from legends and gives us the most detailed description of who these men were. The author recognizes that not everyone will be as enthusiastic as he is about the true identities of the Magi, but those are interested in history and historical figures will find this a fascinating read.
The magi may not have been the oriental kings in turbans, but they were real, and by showing that the wise men were historical figures, Mystery of the Magi demands a new level of respect for the historical claims of the gospel.
Why does it matter whether there were Wise Men? Why does it even matter where they came from? Because, Longenecker says, “the story of history matters.” It matters because “history matters and history matters because truth matters.” It matters because the events of “the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the most history-shattering events of all time. If the gospel is historical then it is true, and if it is true, then we must confront the reality of Jesus Christ. And if we encounter Jesus Christ as a historical figure, then we must also deal with the question of who he is and what he accomplished.”
If we dismiss the story of the Wise Men as legends, then we must also dismiss the other Gospel stories. The tale of the Wise Men is not fiction. The author contends these men were historical figures, taking part in historical events.
At the end of the book, the author takes the reader through a summary of his findings (not unlike the summation done at trials) and he uses Matthew’s Gospel and other scriptural readings and intersperses the historical facts as we know them (rather than the legends).
This isn’t a light read, but it is a fascinating and detailed account of the Wise Men who brought gifts to the newborn King. I highly recommend to all scriptural scholars and anyone who enjoys a good historical mystery. I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Photos copyright James Hrkach 2017