It’s been a long year and it’s not over yet. I’m tired. If you’re not, I am genuinely happy for you and I rejoice for the peace that surrounds you. I am praying deeply for my own serenity as we slip into a season of busyness and activity around Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. If your community includes Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Watch Night or Blue Christmas or Solstice activities, you are also included in my awareness and thoughts.

My recommendation to you for this season is a devotional book by Luke A. Powery51mzmsj156lRise Up Shepherd! Advent Reflections on the Spirituals is a short book, rooted in the songs and experiences of African, African- America, and Black people, reflecting on the themes of anticipation, grief, hope, and joy in the season of waiting.

I rarely recommend a book that I haven’t yet finished, but I can’t bring myself to push past week three because I want the full power of Powery’s writing (no pun intended) to be with me in the right time close to Christmas. I’ve read through Week 3 and now I’m holding. When the season officially arrives, I will go back to the beginning. (If you get the book, try to savor each day, even though it is tempting to gulp it all down at once.)

Some of my favorite highlights include:

The hope for home includes the notion that we can’t get there by our power. 

God wants us to be free. 

But if we don’t love ourselves enough to pray for ourselves, we don’t have enough love to extend to another. 

This dogged faith is what is required when we wait with seemingly no end in sight, a faith that will last till the end. 

Even as freedom comes, know that when one is free, one is not just free from something but free for something. 

Each entry includes a spiritual or a hymn within the tradition of the spirituals and black church hymnody. This is followed by a devotional reflection driven by the theme of the song, a biblical passage, and a prayer. I often found myself teary-eyed and sighing deeply as I murmured the words of the prayer to myself.

To be sure, this is a great book for congregational use, particularly in a mid-week service. The heart of my recommendation, however, is that you would acquire and use this book for your own season of reflection, prayer, and hope. That’s how I will be using it and anything else will be a bonus.


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at and She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit.

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