Sent: Delivering the Gift of Hope at Christmas on Amazon
Unlike many print and online offerings for the liturgical seasons of advent and lent, this isn't a book of devotions, though it contains four – as in four Sundays of Advent – average length chapters and a short afterward chapter by Jorge Acevedo. I read it cover to cover in about an hour, and enjoyed how all four contributors told their real-life stories of discovering the presence of God in others, about becoming the divine presence for others in the context of a particular narrative. Yet as present as God always is to us, as present as people can be to each other, Advent remains a season of hopeful waiting, often silently, typically in darkness of many kinds (insert here another of my wonderings about how it might feel to celebrate Christmas in the southern hemisphere).
This isn't a book I'd expect to read again soon, but it is the type of book that would be an excellent Christmas gift or drop in to visit a friend offering. Mostly I see its value in (1) encouraging each of us first to look back a few months or years and tease out similar narratives from our own lives; and (2) looking around us wherever we go for opportunities to receive and to give to other individuals or communities with the time, talents, and treasures God has given us.
In chapter 4, "Dry Bones," Rachel Billups admits "pastors can bring incredible vision to churches, but we also can damage people's vision." Anyone who has spent any time in the church realizes that ultimately, pastors, local church officers, and other leadership are simply laity (literally "people" as the word laity derives from the Greek), called and sent by God, any of whom can bring amazing visions to church and world, any of whom can damage and denigrate dreams and visions. Needless to say, "Dry Bones" references the famously colorful account in Ezekiel 37 where the living Word of God breathes life back into the recently reassembled bones. Rachel also cautions us about the life-giving power of our own speech. If you're from the Reformation traditions, you may recall the Heidelberg Catechism telling us we move from Christmas with the mystery of Spirit in Flesh, to Ascension, with the mystery of Flesh in Spirit.
Jorge Acevedo's short concluding chapter uses Pastor Eugene Peterson's image of God moving into the neighborhood by sending Jesus. Sent: Delivering the Gift of Hope at Christmas brings actual accounts of real people who have brought hope by being the God's Presence wherever they were. Let's start looking around us wherever we are and wherever we go, writing our own chapters as God in the Spirit sends us to deliver gifts of hope to our worlds during the Advent-Nativity seasons and all year round everywhere.
my amazon review: Write Your Own Chapter about Delivering Hope