Christmas is a time of hope – birth over death, light over darkness. It is also potentially a time of reflection. Yes, the season can be hectic (less so this year) but, combined with the new year, it is often a time of taking stock, assessing, and making resolutions.

To that end, I wanted to share with you two book reviews from Christian authors who give suggestions on how to improve our lives and how we deal with others. Confession: I’ve not read the books – they sound great but my reading list is full – but years ago I learned to enjoy supplementing my own reading with insightful reviews from other readers, granting me access to books I could not get to. So, if you’ll permit that, let me share what attracted me.

The first review examines a book about writing charitably (Charitable Writing: Cultivating Virtue Through Our Words). I thought immediately of the massive amount we write on Facebook, Twitter and the like. The reviewer shares how the book advocates for “loving argument” where we reframe argument as a kind of banquet, rather than the battle metaphors we use. It’s not about destroying or arming yourself but of feasting – listening to others, pitching in, give and take, where we all potentially gain from the shared conversation. Yeah, I know – it sounds exactly like social media to me too. More seriously, thinking about argument as a banquet is a fantastic idea!

Another concept the reviewer highlighted is “humble listening” which means practicing loving our neighbour in reading and writing. This practice is done by listening carefully and being generous in our responses and portrayals of other writers. What would Twitter or Facebook look like if we all practiced this and changed our patterns of what we “liked” or reposted. Instead of amplifying and rewarding posts that slam or put down an opposing view, imagine rewarding those that worked to carefully consider an opposing view or that captured the complex nuances of a situation. Social media companies are under fire (rightfully so) but perhaps part of the responsibility lies with us. Maybe online kindness is a gift we can give to each other all year long.

The second book review looks at a work about a “tech-wise life.” The book (My Tech-Wise Life) is by Amy and Andy Crouch. It is a sequel to Andy’s 2017 book, The Tech-Wise Family, this time written by daughter Amy with dad responding at the end of chapters. The Crouchs call for, among other things, taking rests from technology including at least one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year. If the earlier book spoke about online kindness to others, maybe technology sabbaths is a kindness we can give ourselves.

Protestants and Catholics celebrate Christmas on December 25th but Orthodox Christians will celebrate it on January 7th. The manger scene is from Luke’s gospel, which particularly emphasizes Jesus’ advocacy for the downtrodden. The humble manger birth communicates in the gospel’s opening lines that this king is for the oppressed. 

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