Today I have a review of When God Comes Down: An Advent Study for Adults, an excellent and accessible advent study by Rev. James Harnish below. You can also read, rate, and comment on my review at Amazon.
I considered several Advent studies this fall and the excellent price, an expanded book preview at Google Books, and content that’s easy and fun to read and theologically-sound, I decided Rev. Harnish’s “When God Comes Down” was the way to go.
Our small group (8-12 persons weekly) found this an engaging Advent study. Harnish suggests Scripture passages to inspire the reading before each chapter and leaves the text unpublished so readers can review the short, pertinent passages in their favorite translation. Each chapter is short and accessible (under 10 pages), something to read and digest within less than an hour per week. In fact, one meeting we read a chapter out loud as a group and we had plenty of time for discussion in the hour-long study.
The theology is Scripturally-based, acknowledges its historical context, and is inclusive and relevant for people today. Harnish is a United Methodist pastor and as a United Methodist myself, the “God talk” he presented felt sound to me. That said, I believe this study can be used and enjoyed by non-Methodist just as easily.
Each chapter connects well, referencing each other without relying on each other; this is helpful if someone misses a meeting or doesn’t do the reading. Harnish also uses the writings and faith journey of Thomas Merton as a thread running throughout the book to great effect for both those in our group who knew Merton well and others who didn’t know him.
The chapters cover excellent themes. I appreciated the study starts with Elizabeth and Zechariah, a necessary part of the nativity story that often gets overlooked in the average Christmas pageant. Their chapter’s theme is what it takes to confront situations one cannot control. Next is Joseph, who deals with a balance of awe and fear when asked to be obedient to God. Harnish explores the concept of “le point vierge” in Mary’s story (again, inspired by Merton’s writings), and what it means to provide a guestroom for Jesus (not just the Innkeeper but each of us today). There’s even a fifth chapter for groups to meet on Christmas Eve or Day or the Sunday after Christmas.
Finally, each chapter has a round of challenging, accessible discussion questions as well as a practical spiritual focus of the week in-between meetings. I could see this being a good every-other-year Advent study. I had the Kindle ebook copy while everyone else had a print copy (same price) and I was able to follow along well, though I wish there were real page numbers. Thank you for reading. thelifemosaic