Five Books for Your Winter

When love grows cold, it is important to reference our faith community when it comes to our spiritual life, for we can never comprehend all the good things of God completely on our own. But community changes. Community shakes up. Sometimes, community passes away! Therefore it is even more important to reference the story we have been born into, the narrative that precedes us and shapes the arena of our present choices; the constants that serve as both anchor and North Star for the seas we navigate.

Here are five books I recommend for the Christmas and winter season. The holidays can be a pile-up of to-do’s, but as long as we jealously guard blocks of time for the personal root system of our lives, we can work on our needy branches with calm confidence. These books are for your root system.

“Fifty percent of reality is invisible,” I commented to a Cairo acquaintance recently. “No!” he replied without hesitation. “It is more than fifty percent. Much more!”

The Angels and Their Mission imparts a confidence, wonder, and reverence to that invisible side. Without glamour or melodrama, the author gently but throughly explores the angels’ role from the beginning of creation until now under one unified theme: they aid us (and they aid nations) in our rescue from this fallen world. They are not the way of escape, but they lead us to that way. The author also explores the mystery of the fallen angels, yet without this tragic element upstaging the joy he builds upon over the course of the book.

Danielou shows how the arrival of the Word in a manger and the ascension of the Word into heaven was as much a mystery to the angels as it is to us, a mystery only Christ Himself can reveal. The book begins in the fog of the primordial age and ends in the glory of the return of the One through whom God said, “Let there be light.”

Angels are like a gift in a box you cannot quite unwrap. This book works with you to peel a few corners of the paper off until you gain a peek at the diadem inside.

* I am indebted to my niece Kaitlyn Alldredge for discovering this book. For she asked me one day, “Uncle Kurt, are guardian angels real? Do you believe in them?” She inspired me to search until I had found a good book on the matter.

The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the True Star of Bethlehem is a profound book for several reasons. It is a kaleidoscope of astronomy, ancient cultures, and prophetic literature. The author is a scholar in Greek and Hebrew who fully learned astrophysics until he could go to bat with the best of the literature in that field. His intellectual rigor in the testing of his theory has earned him the respect of those who are traditionally siloed off from one another in their respective fields, thereby preventing them from approaching the question of the Star of Bethlehem from the position of an integrated whole.

But Nicholl does just that. He breaks content out of each silo — including a reverential knowledge of the Scriptures — and pours it all into one spellbinding contribution to the quest for knowing “What exactly was the Christmas star?”

And once you have read this book (or in some sections waded or skimmed because of the depth of the discussion) what you will be left with is not a smug sense of pride that you have “solved the mystery.” No, the fruit of this book will not be pride. It will be humility.

Rather than folding your arms, you may very well be tempted to open them up to God in awe, wonder, and worship. For that is, ultimately, the calling of the true intellectual: to show us where we’ve been and where we’re headed by revealing what IS. [The word “intellectual” has within it the Greek word telos, which speaks of the envisioned, perfected, completion of a thing. Consider this in the word “telescope.”]

If Nicholl has indeed discovered the true story of the Star of Bethlehem, he does so in a manner that may leave us in wild surmise as we consider the infant in the manger surrounded by farm animals, shepherds, and magi: “What Child is this, that all of heaven collaborated to communicate His birth?”

C.S. Lewis personally endorsed On the Incarnation as “a masterpiece.” It is a series of brief meditations on what it means for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us. It explores how this event changes the moral chemistry of a person; his affections, desires, and envisioned end. The writer was present at the Council of Nicaea as an assistant to the spiritual leader of Alexandria. Athanasius is the earliest known person to list the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (the “Injeel,” as some call it).

Why is this a classic? Because it is written in both simplicity and depth, apportioned into five-minute meditations. You might even call them “blog post” length! It is written as an impartation of faith, hope, and love, through an exploration of the truth.

Disclaimer: Not withstanding how short each meditation is, you have to remember that Athanasius was not writing in the digital age. He was not writing to a generation of short attention span, such that he tries to grab your interest with a cliffhanger on the first page. Rather, he wrote in an age when people took time to reflect on what was written (or, often, what was read aloud to them, since most people were illiterate at that time). You have to remember that Athanasius was not writing to the Amazon algorithm for “bestsellers.”

No, rather, he was writing to explain a mystery to a hostile and unbelieving world. After writing this book, no less than four Roman emperors opposed him, and five times he was sent into exile.

This is another reason it is a classic: the man suffered dearly for what he believed. You cannot trust an armchair quarterback to coach you, but you can trust a person who has been with you in the stadium of struggle. Athanasius is one such writer. He will impart confidence, wonder, and worship before the essential event of human history.

I have written a tale about an amimal who remembers the Garden of Eden. The Jaguar Oracle series is for readers who need fresh courage, a fresh compass, and fresh clues for navigating the complexities of life they face. It is an imaginary tale about close friends and a supreme purpose, a tale where animals, plants, the heavens, the sea, and people each have a voice. Perhaps you will find your voice written there too. You can find the link to them here.

© Kurt Mähler

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