We featured In Days to Come, George Donigian’s Advent book, at last week’s book event. Usually Donigian works behind the counter and listens to people, but he stood with the mic. And it was a good event, though Donigian and the crowd tried to sing a song that he described in the book. Singing as a group was fun because nobody became a critic, but none of us should quit our regular jobs.
Ms. Anne asked him three questions.
“So the book is titled In Days to Come: From Advent to Epiphany. What is the focus?”
“The book offers six weeks of meditations that begin four weeks before Christmas and continue through Epiphany, which we sometimes call 12th Night. That’s why people sing ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas.’ We probably should have sung that as a group instead of ‘Children, Go Where I Send Thee.’ [laughter]
“My family celebrated two Christmases every year when I was a child. December 25 we called American Christmas. January 6 is the Armenian Christmas, a celebration from the old country and an older church calendar. So we had the big Christmas gifts and such in December and then in January we celebrated in a more quiet way the love of God made known in Jesus Christ. It seems to me that we need time now to let the spirituality of Christmas seep into our lives.”
“The book jumps from one subject to another. What was your purpose or your plan?”
“I actually began with a group of ancient prayers known as the O Antiphons, which were first prayed during Advent around the year 525. An antiphon is simply a name for a call-and-response prayer. As I read the prayers over and over, some themes seemed to jump out for me and they became the weekly focus.
“The book also works like an Advent calendar that marks the days to Christmas. With an Advent calendar, you open a window or turn over a block and you get a surprise. The calendar might show a candle or a wreath or a camel. It might show carolers or a guitar or a candy cane. The book does the same thing, and I hope that the range of meditations surprises people. One meditation deals with a counting song and another meditation focuses on an editor. There’s a nativity set. One of my favorite meditations is titled “Prudence” and I begin with a reference to a Beatles’ song and then to a character in a novel before looking at what prudence means for us now. Still another meditation deals with reading.
“I had fun writing this book, putting together the different parts, and I think that it will help shape Christmas for the readers. I think readers will be pleased. My editor was surprised by some of the references to Armenian culture and history. “Why didn’t I learn this in school?” she asked. I suspect I could give a lecture that you wouldn’t want to hear.
“I liked the comment of Dr. Safiyah Fosua, an early reader who said ‘I have often felt like Advent devotionals fall flat by spilling us into the Christmas cradle and leaving us there to fend for ourselves. George Donigian has given us an opportunity to follow the season to its logical conclusion—the Epiphany revelation of Christ’s coming.'”
“Last question for you,” said Ms. Anne. “You’ve written several books, including the one I liked, Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray, and one for the season of Lent. What’s next?”
“Last month I did some video work for an e-course based on the book. Maybe I’ll do more videos. I do have a face for radio and a voice for still photos. [laughter] In reality I continue to consult with some authors and edit some projects. I’m still a church pastor and I am working on a project for the judicatory. Then there’s the coffee shop. I expect to return to the writing of a novel that remains in embryonic form. Life is full, and I am thankful.”