For many people, Christmas feels like a time of chaos, commercialism and shallow sentimentality instead of the rich spirituality it’s supposed to represent.
Vancouver resident Greg Pennoyer is launching a book in several cities this month, which aims to cut through the Christmas clutter. God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas is a sumptuously illustrated new book which features meditations and prayers for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany from six of today’s key spiritual writers: Eugene Peterson, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Luci Shaw, Scott Cairns and Emilie Griffin.
“Like many adults, I have a difficult time relating to Christmas,” explains Pennoyer, who co-edited God with Us with Image Journal founder Gregory Wolfe. “Having lost the wonder of the childhood Christmas, I try to make up for it through our uniquely modern mix of commerce and sentimentality. For me, as for so many people, Christmas has become a parody of itself.”
While this book is only on the cusp of its release, it is the culmination of a decade-long journey for Pennoyer.
“In 1998 I spent my first Christmas alone,” says Pennoyer. “I just wanted to escape the commercialism of it all. I spent Christmas morning in a small Anglo-Catholic church in Ottawa. It was there that I experienced for the first time, a gentle introduction to the physical elements of the Christmas service — the eucharist, the processions, the sights, sounds and yes, smells. It was all very mysterious to me, but by the time I left the church, I felt like I had worshiped God with all my senses — with my whole being — for the first time in my life.”
To really discover Christmas, is to discover God, says Pennoyer. And to discover God, is to discover ourselves.
“Before this journey, my Christianity was more about moralism and judgment,” says Pennoyer. “More recently however, through Christmas and the incarnation, I’ve discovered what it means to be human. As a wise friend of mine said, Christmas isn’t just about God revealing to us who he is, but about revealing to us who we are.”
God With Us was launched in New York November 6; it will make its Canadian debut in Toronto November 13. The book launches in Vancouver November 14 at the Vancouver Art Gallery, in conjunction with a lecture by contributor Kathleen Norris, a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet.
Sponsored by Regent College, Imago, and Image journal, the lecture is titled ‘Remembering, Waiting and Hoping: The Countercultural Pursuits of Christmas.’ Norris’ talk will employ etymology, poetry and personal narrative to explore these three pursuits as a way to better appreciate both the Christmas season, and what it means to maintain a life of faith in today’s troubled and violent world.
“Remembering, waiting, and hoping are essential practices for spiritual growth and for understanding Christmas,” says Norris, “yet they are increasingly difficult to practice in a culture dedicated to forgetting, hurrying, and being cynical. The Advent and Christmas seasons are meant to help us regain our balance.”
As a special bonus for Vancouver residents, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition will be available for private viewing to all event attendees.