22 November 2022

Preparing hearts and minds for Christmas

Major Philippa Smale

A photo of the O Come, O Come, Emmanuel book cover, featuring two lit white candles and a graphic of musical notes

Major Philippa Smale reviews O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, a collection of devotional readings for Advent.

'We are bombarded with messages about Christmas that have little to do with the birth of a baby thousands of years ago.’

I think we can all identify with that statement, made by Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant (THQ) in his contribution to this Shield Books publication.

We find cards, wrapping paper and other seasonal trappings in the shops earlier and earlier each year. But as we approach the season of Advent – a time when, as Christians, we are invited to prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas – it is lovely and encouraging to find a book that is all about the Christ-child’s story, as told in the many carols that poets and songwriters have penned through the centuries.

We find ourselves reading about the carol written by a 4th-century Roman poet, ‘Of the Father’s Heart Begotten’, and about ‘Carol of the Drum’, also known as ‘The Little Drummer Boy’; we find ourselves appreciating the beautiful poetry of Christina Rossetti’s ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ and responding to the plea for peace in ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’; and perhaps we will find our own personal favourites or carols that are new to us.

It’s fascinating to see the variety of carols chosen by the contributors. And it’s an added bonus to be given a brief insight into the lives of the various people who have shared their thoughts and impressions about the carols that have a special meaning for them.

For example, Lieutenant Nazia Yousaf (Stockport Heaton Norris) writes about the carol of the book’s title. ‘Emmanuel’ was a word from God that gave her hope and strength during her time of training during the pandemic. She says: ‘What a blessing to know Emmanuel – God with us.’

Lieut-Colonel Dean chooses Joy Webb’s ‘The Surprise’, a carol that had a profound effect on him when he was a teenager in Harare, Zimbabwe. He finishes his reflection by saying: ‘The familiarity of the Christmas story can dull our sense of wonder. Every Advent, let the surprise catch your heart once more, making the old story new.’

  • This review was originally published in Salvationist magazine on 13 November 2021.

Written by

The Salvation Army red shield

Major Philippa Smale


Buy the book

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is available from sps-shop.com now.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Discover more

A Christmas feast – in bite-sized chunks

Major Mal Davies reviews Sacred Risk by General Shaw Clifton (Retired).

Review | Christmas
18 Nov 2022

Resources to help you spread joy and peace this Christmas

An overview of the Advent and Christmas resources available on salvationist.org.uk to support local ministry.

Feature | Christmas
3 Nov 2022

Design a Christmas card and win an Entertainer voucher

Amy Buddle explains how you can enter this year’s Christmas card competition.

Feature | Christmas
9 Nov 2022

Have an accessible Christmas: Enabled members share tips

Lyn Woods catches up with Enabled members to find out how Christmas celebrations and activities can be inclusive for everyone.

Feature | Christmas
15 Nov 2022

Related tags