Celebrating Christmas by Amy Boucher Pye and Leo Boucher
If you want to slow down and spread advent over an entire month, here is a super little package to help you along
Celebrating Christmas - Embracing joy through art and reflections
By Amy Boucher Pye and Leo Boucher
Reviewed by Terry Young
One of the most difficult things about Advent is slowing down enough to make the most of it. This usually involves some form of less is more, and Amy and her father have produced something that may help you to slow down in order to enter into the wonder, mystery and miracle of Christmas.
The idea is simple: a set of meditations written by Amy with interleaved artwork by her father, Leo. There are four themes: symbols of Christmas; the joys and sorrows of Christmas; He is Jesus; and God becomes man. Each has a set of six meditations (except for the last, which has a seventh: Outsiders welcome!) Every meditation has a piece of art to look at, a couple of pages of thoughtful text, and a short prayer. At the end, there are questions and some idea as to how you might use the book over the four weeks of Advent (presumably skipping the Sundays to fit the 6, 6, 6, 7 pattern).
I prefer to review books in soft copy, and so I may have missed one of the best features: that it is something to feel, with pages to turn, and images to get up close to – much better in print than on a screen. Something small and tangible that you can secrete about your person and pull out in thoughtful moments is still a glory of the printed page that hasn’t made it to the screen.
I can’t say whether you will enjoy the (good quality) art or not. As I say, I think it will be more fun on the page than on the screen. I loved the colours as wise men worked their way under skies a deep shade of azure – but I’m a sentimentalist at Christmas and so it worked for me. Whatever your taste, the reflective interludes help to slow you down. Topically, the images go with the words – some in expected ways and some as a surprise.
So, that’s what Amy and her father have delivered – but what is it like as an experience? I love Christmas, so I was won over by the title. The book is dripping with nostalgia – particularly from childhood – with Minnesota’s snow, or star-filled skies. With her own children growing up, there is a fresh dose of Christmas past, candlelit churches, presents, excitement and transcendent experiences that burst past the sentiment.
Like Amy, I was born on one side of the Atlantic and live on the other so I understand the disappointment that comes when you first discover that carols are sung to all the wrong tunes, and also that sense of joy that ebbs back as you acclimatise to a new Advent culture.
Amy has shared her experiences of sterner Christmases – or blue Christmas, as she calls it – and I appreciate the balance this brought to the book. I felt a little edgy at times lest people who had hurt Amy might now feel hurt if they could identify themselves in the narrative. It’s a tricky call, and necessary, I think, to making a grown-up contribution.
Amy’s list of roles includes that of a spiritual director, and there are some stretching exercises at the end. I didn’t try them – like the Levite in the parable, I was too intent on getting on with my job, and so passed by on the other side of the road.
But if you want to slow down and spread advent over an entire month, here is a super little package to help you along. And the good news is that my online store has the hardback at (almost) half the price of the paperback!
Professor Terry Young is an author and member of a Baptist church. He set up Datchet Consulting which combines his experience in industry and academia