Book Review: The Season of the Nativity

Book Review: The Season of the Nativity

Author: Sybil MacBeth

Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN:9781612614106

The Season of the Nativity: Confessions and Practices of an Advent, Christmas & Epiphany Extremist

Last year I had the fortunate opportunity to read and review Sybil Macbeth’s Praying in Color, which I loved dearly. When her latest book, The Season of the Nativity, arrived to remind me of the upcoming Advent Season, I was sure it was going to be packed with joy-filled activities and insights. I was right!

This little book, published by Paraclete Press, is a delight on so many levels. You can “hear” the exuberance of the season in every word Sybil writes. Not only does MacBeth tell the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany story in her words, but much like her Praying in Color books, she makes the season a full-body experience including ideas for crafts, visual tools, memory-making opportunities, songs, and smells…all of these ways of entering and living into this beginning of the Christian calendar and celebrating the birth of the Christ child.

The opening chapters of the book provide background and give insight to the reader who might not be familiar with the Liturgical Calendar. I know my Christian tradition did not practice the seasons of the Christian year and the information sections here in the early chapters of the book can be helpful for those persons who aren’t familiar with these ancient practices. Another thing I enjoy so much about Sybil’s books, she is mindful of the learning styles of people. She doesn’t simply “shoot from the hip” with a bunch of dry information and fact spewing to tell the story; no, she is also a visual and tactile learner who includes beautiful full-color illustrations as well as suggesting physical sensory aids to help inform and tell the story.

As I’ve alluded, the book is an appeal to every facet of the human experience. I liken it to the idea that we are invited to enter into the season with all our “heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Likewise, the appeal isn’t just to specific age groups, but spans the entirety of the seasons of life… no child is left behind, from the youngest soul to the most advanced soul, there is something to be experienced and something to be shared.

Just this past week, as my church was preparing to enter into this Advent-Christmas season, we used The Season of the Nativity to frame what we called The Advent Prayer Encounter. This was our opportunity to teach and introduce this deeply moving and very important time of the year to our church family. We used a number of ideas from Sybil’s book to engage people from five years old to seventy plus years old in the telling of this story. I believe the evening was a huge success, in part because of the wonderful diversity of styles and activities for telling and actively inviting participants to experience the story with all their senses through words, songs, art, sights, smells, and the invocation of memories.

This is another delightful addition to my Advent resource shelf and I’m sure it will be for anyone who is interested in living into the intimacy and mystery of this Yuletide season. Young or old, new to the season or seasoned veteran in all things Advent to Epiphany, you’ll find something to engage and freshen your perspective. Thanks to Sybil Macbeth and Paraclete Press for another delightful read.

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