After the disappointing Watch for the Light by Orbis publishers, I was gun-shy of finding a deep yet meaningful advent book. Preparing for Jesus was a wonderful antidote. Not only is Wangerin a gifted writer, he is a deep thinker. Many of the insights in this book left me agape with wonder.
The book is divided into sections named after the central characters of the Christmas story: Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist, etc. Each reading focuses on their response as participants in God’s great drama of the incarnation.
Some sample quotes:
On Zechariah being struck dumb: God, when we encounter him, seems first to do us violence, but the violence is in fact benevolence to us, for God is destroying false gods in order to prepare us to receive him as God alone, and his mercy as the very core of our existence. (p. 35)
On Elizabeth’s pregnancy: And this is how mercy always comes to us, isn’t it? - like a baby delivered in old age; the miracle we thought we had outlived, the gift we thought impossible to receive. It always astonishes us. (p. 89)
On Joseph planning to quietly put Mary aside: If Joseph suffers a blow to his ego, we don’t see it. He never says, “She’ll pay for this! . . . Evidently one’s rights do not define one’s righteousness! (p. 108)
I did not like the section about Simeon and Anna because it added too much that is not in Scripture, but I’ll just skip over that bit next year. This is a superbly done devotional book that I look forward to revisiting each Christmas season.