Joy to the World
by Kathleen Basi
published 2010  by Liguori Publications

reviewed by Ellen Gable Hrkach

In the first few pages of Joy to the World, author Kathleen Basi writes, “In this atmosphere filled with distractions, the idea of Advent as a season in its own right has been overwhelmed.”  This is a wonderful and informative Advent preparation book.

Back in the 1960's when I was a small child in New Jersey, it was unheard of for anyone to even consider putting up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving.  My parents decorated the tree when my siblings and I went to bed on Christmas Eve and the tree stayed up until the Feast of the Epiphany.

Our society has such an impatience for the arrival of Christmas that many stores and families begin celebrating in mid-November.  By the time Christmas actually arrives, they are tired of celebrating and the tree and decorations are often taken down the day after Christmas. Kathleen Basi suggests that we need to “reclaim Advent” and use it as a time of preparation for Christmas as Advent was meant to do:  “...that season of holy hush, of waiting, of light and anticipation, that season that helps make Christmas so special...”

The first chapter is entitled “The Case for Advent.” Basi contends that Advent gives us a chance to meditate on Hope, Expectation, Preparation and Light.

In the second chapter, “The Advent Reclamation Project,” she suggests that there are three parts to the Advent Reclamation: morning ritual (Advent calendar); evening with an Advent wreath and Jesse tree and the “Good deeds manger” for any time.  The motto for Advent should be: “Be ready; be present; be waiting.”

The next three chapters explain how to implement these three areas: including one of the four areas of activity each day in the Advent calendar: service; spiritual growth; homebody; pure fun. She also gives a brief explanation and description of the Advent Calendar, Jesse Tree and “Good deeds manger.”

I love the idea of a Good Deeds Manger.  Basi suggests that a family obtains a box and some straw, chopped paper or Easter grass.  When a good deed or something kind is done by the children, straw is added. When something mean is done, it is taken away.  The idea is to have lots of straw for the baby Jesus.

In the final chapters and appendix, Basi includes other possibilities for Advent preparation: fasting, daily mini retreats and weekday Mass.  The appendix also contains information on the Feast days of December saints, as well as scripture readings and symbols for the Jesse Tree.

Each chapter has some form of meditation for children, either a scripture reflection or another age-appropriate reflection.

Basi admits that “none of the ideas in this book are new...what is new is the way we combine the traditions into a single month long liturgy of preparation.”

While it’s important to begin these traditions in early childhood, it’s never too late to implement many of the activities Basi suggests.

I highly recommend this wonderful book which is ideal for preparing both children and adults during Advent.

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Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach