Mabel Aghadiuno reviews a book for the festive season.
[New City magazine]
It will soon be Christmas again. I don’t know if, like me, you feel inadequately prepared for its mystery and for reflecting on its marvel. However, I feel that this year is going to be different. I have been reading A Star Over Bethlehem, edited by Ann Finch. The book takes you on a journey from Advent to the Epiphany – a journey in the good company of writers as diverse as C.S. Lewis, R.S. Thomas, Hildegard of Bingen and authors of ancient English poetry. C.S. Lewis’ description of Mary as a young Jewish girl selected painstakingly from the People of Israel over thousands of years is very beautiful, as is his deceptively simple statement that the ‘Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God’. It made me feel that the whole of evolution was and is moving towards Christ.
As we journey on to the nativity we share John Chrysostom’s thoughts in the fourth century about the ‘invisible image of God’ while different aspects of Christmas are seen from the perspectives of the various players that form the Christmas pageant. The book contains the expression of the faith of Christians of two thousand years: some words are archaic, some of the imagery quaint, but the essence is identical. They, like us, lived their December days waiting for the advent of the most important event in human history. Nevertheless, a reflection by Chiara Lubich epitomises what Christmas has become for many in today’s ‘rich world that has trapped Christmas and all that goes with it and evicted Jesus!’ Nonetheless, it also challenges us to ‘celebrate his coming as never before’.
Finally, Christmas would not be the same without stories, and there are some of these in the book too – poignant, amusing and humbling. There is something for each of the twelve days of Christmas as the book concludes with the homage of the kings and makes us look forward to the ‘Eternal Spring’ of the kingdom of God. A Star Over Bethlehem is a fount of wisdom and ideal for reflection. It is also a fount of little thoughts to write on Christmas cards – thoughts to share with family and friends. As you prepare for Christmas and think about your shopping it is certainly a must for the basket!