Title: In This Light, Thoughts for Christmas
Author: Justin Welby and friends
Publication Date: October 2018
Length: 128 pages
Reviewer: Norman Graham
In This Light is a wonderful little book (print length 128 pages though I read the Kindle version) and is basically a compilation of short reflections written by Archbishop Justin Welby (or Archbishop Justin as many of the contributors seem to know him) and a selection of his friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
It comes under the general idea of expressing thoughts about what Christmas means to each contributor and there’s plenty of inspiration here. There are names and organisations I already knew of but a good few I hadn’t heard of before which I intend to find out more about myself.
I’d have to say that while the majority of contributions are in various ways clearly Christian celebrating Christ’s incarnation from differing perspectives there were a few (very much the minority) which were more the kind of ‘nice thoughts’ rather than explicitly Christian but the majority I found at least intriguing and frequently inspiring. There is also honesty from those who find Christmas a difficult time.
While there is much to inspire I think my favourites include Christians from North Korea, South Sudan and Iran who highlight the dangers of following Christ in places hostile to Christianity and Sally Philips speaking about life with Olly her beautiful Down’s Syndrome son. I’ll admit the testimony I loved most was of Billy the 32 stone lobotomised Glaswegian! I won’t give spoilers but for me his story, told by Revd Jo Davies, Anglican Chaplain at HMP Pentonville, is itself worth the price of the book. I also loved reading of those I hadn’t heard of like Pippa Cramer relating the Connections programme for older people and the team at Charis Tiwala providing emotional, practical and spiritual help to those affected by the sex industry.
I read it through fairly quickly but it’d be beneficial to take maybe one or two each day and it’d be an excellent resource to use for group discussion.
I read the Kindle version and the main testimony part of the book finished around 60% (I admit I was a bit baffled at the prospect of the booking ending there!) but the remainder offers more snapshots this time of the contributors, their connection to Justin Welby, how they met etc. It is interesting that often Justin Welby seemed to simply hear about a particular ministry and either visited them or invited them to Lambeth Palace. Also interesting that some of Lambeth Palace itself has been turned into a Community of St Anselm with people from every denomination living at the Palace alongside Archbishop Justin. I wonder if the Queen would open up Buckingham Palace for the same!
If you’re looking for an indepth examination of differing perspectives on Christian views on Christmas then this is neither the book for you nor the purpose of this book. If you’d like brief looks at how Christians within the large and broad umbrella of Christendom feel about Christmas then you can’t go wrong with this (it’s also a great resource for prayer). There’s something for everyone here and although a fairly short book it’s well worth it and I imagine myself going back to it long after Christmas has past. In fact on reflection I’d say it’s one of my Books of the Year for 2018, an unexpected delight. It’s not that often I give a book 5/5 as I’m quite hard to please but this deserves it. Highly recommended.
Review via NetGalley/HarperInspire ARC.
Thanks for reading.