Today SPCK have published my second book of prayers and meditations – Barefoot Ways. I gather it’s already in the shops and know its available from the SPCK website, Church House Bookshop, Amazon and so on.
I paste below the introduction to the book – and will follow this blog up immediately with the introduction and meditation for Christmas Eve. Here is the introduction to the book:
In the northern hemisphere, December and January are the darkest months of the year. Yet they host four Christian festivals of light: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany and Candlemas. Like all good festivals, these are not over in a day, but are short seasons which, in the case of Advent and Epiphany, can helpfully be subdivided.
In this collection offer a meditation, poem or prayer for each day of the two month period. The style of the pieces reflects the poem-prayers gathered in ‘Barefoot Prayers: A Mediation a Day for Lent and Easter’. That collection was subdivided into even weeks. The Advent-Candlemas cycle doesn’t map onto the calendar in the same way, and so the subdivisions are necessarily uneven.
Advent is divided into three periods. The introductory few days explore the fundamental Christian idea that God calls out to ordinary people who are part of the real world, and who sooner or later come to realise that they are sinners in need of a friend. The second sub-division explores the spirituality of time. There are good theological reasons for this – the Advent season reminds us that time belongs to God, but there are practical reasons too. For many of us this can be such a busy time that the things that take time and require patience can all too easily be squeezed out in the rush. There then follows a sub-seasons of eight days based on an ancient liturgical practice, which I explain in the introduction to that section.
Christmas is just around the corner, but before it comes Christmas Eve. In have taken the view that this is a unique day, and so give it a whole subsection of its own. The twelve days of Christmas follow – and what days they are, moving quickly on for the humble joy of the word made flesh to the remembrance of the martyrdom of Stephen the deacon and the massacre of all the young boys in the Bethlehem district at the hands of the murderous Herod. The celebration of the turn of the year has become such an important secular festival that it is, I feel more important to explore its spirituality than to refer to the ecclesiastical calendar on those days.
Epiphany is a longer, less intense season than Christmas, and one which gives more scope to the creative imagination to make a new map. So I have divided it into three sub-seasons, the first focus is on ‘Seeing’ – an obvious Epiphany theme, but then suggest the theme of ‘Caring’ followed by ‘Flourishing’. My intention here is to offer a simple narrative shape to a form of Christian development which begins with seeing, leads on to caring and ends in flourishing.
Candlemas brings the collection to a close, but that beautiful celebration is also disturbing. And so just as we end any naïve optimism an=bout pleasantly flourishing is removed and we are left, not enjoying the wonder of a church filled with candles but nursing the wound in our hearts caused by old Simeon’s words to the young mother, Mary. And so it is that we come not to closure, but to a reorientation to the mysteries that will unfold at Easter.
 SPCK 2013