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Wake Up to Advent by John Sentamu

The Archbishop of York's Advent book features 25 meditations which stimulate the reader to find their own voice rather than ‘the preacher’s’

SentamuWakeUptoAdventWake Up to Advent
By John Sentamu
SPCK, London
ISBN 978-0-281-08354-1
Reviewed by Alec Gilmore

Twenty five meditations-with-a-difference for Advent. The foreword wisely suggests ‘read no more than two or three pages at a time’. To plough on from start to finish would be like tackling a score of sermons (Anglican) or homilies (Catholic) at one sitting and by the end of Week One far from ‘Waking Up’ you could be forgiven for nodding off.

Viewed as ‘sermonettes’ they have several merits. One, they have a sound biblical reference, even if at times the connection between text and content is somewhat tangential and with no attempt to be expository. Two, it avoids simple answers and slick explanations.

Three, the overall structure is clear (Week One Wake Up!; Week Two Clean Up!; Week Three Feed Up!, Week Four Grow Up!) with flexibility for each day. Four, while life today is much in evidence, the content is invariably a bit of a hotchpotch, possibly because Sentamu’s intention is to address heart rather than head and to stimulate the reader to find their own voice rather than ‘the preacher’s’.     

So much for the content. Is it a good book and can it be recommended? Recommended, yes. But ’good’, unanswerable. Like any sermon, its value depends every bit as much on the receptor as on the creator. To one, it may be ‘rubbish’; to another, adorable.

Each day concludes with a reflection. This is the engine room. Once readers sense the spark this is where they will work. Reflections bristle with jumping-off points, from how God speaks to us to diet and eating problems, from self-understanding to life-style, and from daunting tasks to simple things. Suggestions roam widely, from simply something to think about (7) to challenging questions on every-day life (5), and from deep issues of faith (3) to matters requiring more than a touch of imagination (2).

If these are lines that motivate you, fine, but don’t expect an easy ride. Once something sparks it is up to the reader to fan it to a flame and four tests may help them to decide whether it is ‘a good book’. At the end of Week One are they more awake or have they nodded off? After Week Two do they feel cleaner or is there no change? After Week Three how much are they looking forward to the next meal, and after Week Four, how high are their hopes of a different Christmas?

Alec Gilmore is a Baptist minister


Baptist Times, 25/10/2019
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