Bookish Thoughts on 2020

January begins. I start the year by reading more from the “God’s Word for You” series (great if you want a manageable Bible-reading each day with lots of explanation). I also take my first, long overdue trip to Belfast to visit friends. My South African adventure in 2019 gave me the confidence to fly on my own, so I finally made it over – my last travel for some considerable time.

I need to thank James Corden. He unknowingly prepared me for the coming lockdown with “May I Have Your Attention Please?”. I had seen the odd episode of “Gavin and Stacey”, which he co-wrote with Ruth Jones, but thanks to his autobiography, I’ve now watched all three series more than once. Ruth shares my love of Welsh characters, and it comes across in their writing – a real pick-me-up in all the doom and gloom.

If there’s one thing I’ll remember from 2020, it’s the tremendous uncertainty. There were times you couldn’t plan even a week in advance, whether due to the ever-changing government rules or awaiting the result of someone’s COVID test. Friends of mine were supposed to be married in April and after two-and-a-half long months, the day finally arrived. Though I couldn’t celebrate with them in person, I watched the wedding on Facebook and shared a virtual afternoon tea. I wanted them to have a keepsake on their wedding day, so I read the beginnings of several marriage books. “The Mystery of Marriage” was beautifully-written. I hope they’ve enjoyed it as much as I did.

On the news this year, the death of George Floyd impacted me. I’ve never consciously undervalued someone based on the colour of their skin. It doesn’t matter to me how someone looks; it’s more important they’re treated fairly, and I like to learn from people’s experiences. Although it’s a fictional account, “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett was outstanding. I can’t remember who recommended it, but I’m glad they did, and the book is so much better than the film.

Talking of books, my own Advent devotional was published in October. It’s been fantastic to work with my publisher and all those who’ve helped me spread the word. Almost two hundred copies have been sold and I couldn’t have done it without you.

A line in a song says: “We made it through, I do believe, the longest year in history” and yes, we made it to Christmas. I’ve followed Jesus now for over twenty years, yet Liz Curtis Higgs’ “The Women of Christmas” taught me new things about the nativity story. I enjoy some festive fiction too, and “The Little Shop on Silver Linings Street” is worth a mention. I loved the story, which moved at a good pace. I hadn’t heard of the author, but I’d like to find more of her books.

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That brings us to the end of 2020. How was it for you? Are there any books you want to recommend?

Day 25: Joy for All

The title of today’s reflection is “Joy for All”, and that’s what Jesus offers us – the joy of living in relationship with Him, so happy Christmas! Jesus is here! “Joy to the World”!

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If you liked these songs, I’ve made them into a playlist, so if you’re on Apple Music, you can add it to your library and listen whenever you like. Think of it as my Christmas present to you.

Day 20: See the King

It might seem strange that events at the end of Jesus’ earthly life are included in a book about Christmas, but I don’t think you can really know someone’s significance until you’ve seen the impact of their life as a whole. Today is about recognising Jesus when He comes. We think of Him weeping over Jerusalem and saying: “I wish you knew today what would bring you peace”, and this song’s a reminder to us not to be a people with no room for their King.

Day 17: Light of the World

Holding the baby Jesus in his arms, Simeon must have been thinking of Isaiah 49:6 when he called Him ‘A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles’. Jesus wasn’t just a light for Jews, but for all the world. This song is a new one this year, and it has the line: “You’re still the Light when the world looks dark”. Seems appropriate after the year everyone’s had.