Book of the Month: November 2016

9780857464323Lighted Windows: An Advent Calendar for a World in Waiting by Margaret Silf

Perhaps I’m just nosy, but there is something fascinating about lighted windows. Whether you speed past them on your way elsewhere, or have time to stroll past and take a slightly longer look, even the briefest glimpse can offer an insight into other worlds or other ways of being. What you see can trigger memories or awaken possibilities; can comfort or disturb. Especially if all you can see is your own self reflected in the glass.

Day by day from the start of Advent to Epiphany, Silf’s lovely book switches on the light behind all sorts of windows, offering us the freedom to do what we so often long to do but are too scared or too polite: press our noses up against the glass and look at what’s inside. More than an Advent calendar, through readings, reflections, questions and prayer, Silf’s insights help us understand what we are really seeing.

And she’s not afraid to challenge. The very first prayer turns the traditional cosy image of lighting a candle upside down and invites God to blow out “the little candle of my own making” where it prevents us seeing “the bright sunlight of God’s leading.” Later we are asked to reflect on our experiences of the use or abuse of power and whether it has been used to transform or control; and to consider whether the experience of suffering just might be “a gateway of possibility” through which we may find God’s healing love.

The idea of looking through windows rather than at paintings is powerful: it reminds us that we are seeing is not static or flat but something living and three dimensional (at least!) which can draw us in or point us forward. It will not be the same for everyone, but then we know that “in my Father’s house are many dwelling places” all them with lighted windows, through which we will see the things we need or are meant to see. And the great mystery of God’s grace is how often windows become doors for us to walk through.

More than 25 years ago, I stood with my face pressed hard against a church window, watching a healing service, wanting to be a part of it but afraid to step inside, knowing that somehow to do so would change my life. I didn’t then understand the difference between fear and awe: how one holds you back, while the other invites you forward.

Just as the glimpses of light we encounter on our travels can stay with us long after the journey’s end, I believe this is a book to turn and return to, because it will continue to comfort and inspire long after you close it on the final page.

Reviewed by The Revd Norma Fergusson, Associate Vicar The Shrivenham & Ashbury Benefice.

Buy Lighted Windows at the special price of £7.49 in the shop or buy online for £7.49 + postage until 30 November 2016. RRP £7.99.

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