Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent
Written by Amy-Jill Levine

“These Gospels seek to tell us, we readers then and now, about the good news of Jesus both to the story of Israel and to the gentile world, about the clash of imperial and heavenly values, about a world for which many of us hope but not enough have the chance to find. To express such important, such sublime, messages, they write to spark our imaginations, to get us to see otherwise” (p. 12).

In Advent 2020, Presbyterians across the country are invited to join a denomination-wide book study on Amy-Jill Levine’s Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent.

Guided by Levine’s knowledge of the New Testament, strong storytelling skills and deep love of the gospels, Presbyterians will journey through Advent reflecting on the birth of Jesus as it is told in the first two chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

A free, downloadable group study guide, made by The Presbyterian Church in Canada, will be available in the fall. Taking into considering the rapid digital shift that has occurred in ministry in 2020, the study guide has been created with the specific dynamics of online group facilitation in mind; however, it is also an excellent resource for in-person groups.

Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent

Light of the World traces the Christmas narrative through the stories of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the journey to Bethlehem and the visit from the Magi. Lingering in the often-overlooked details of these biblical characters and the situations they find themselves in, Levine explores the historical context, the literary and aesthetic implications, and the significance of the nativity story for readers then and now. Contemporary readers will learn how these texts would have been read by those in the time they were written, and also how Matthew and Luke’s accounts of the nativity continue to be good news for us today.

Don’t let the title fool you; this book is not just for beginners!

The book provides a rich and challenging learning experience for people from different stages in their Christian journey. As Levine draws us deep into the Nativity stories of Matthew and Luke, you’ll find yourself pondering allusions to Jewish texts and Roman history that you hadn’t noticed before, making connections to other stories in the gospels, and exploring themes that are as relevant today as they were when Jesus was born: birth and death, youth and aging, taxation and immigration, revelation and hope.

Light of the World: A Beginner's Guide to Advent

Stay Updated on Presbyterians Read Advent 2020

Presbyterian Study Guide

The four-part Presbyterian study guide—which will be ready in the fall—is designed to work for discussion groups meeting online or in-person. For each week of Advent, the guide contains prayers, an overview of the theme, biblical reflection prompts and a weekly spiritual practice. The spiritual practice prompts will help you create intentional time for personal reflection on what you have read or can be adapted to be completed within your small group.

How to Take Part

Start gathering interest in your congregation to journey together through the book. There are three ways people can participate in Presbyterians Read:

  1. Solo—Get a copy of Light of the World and read a chapter per each week during Advent;
  2. Small Group—Start or join a small group of people to work through the study guides by meeting (online or in-person) to discuss what has been read once a week;
  3. Facebook Group—Join the discussion with other Presbyterians in our Facebook study group. All are welcome to join. The group is private and only the members in the group can see who’s in the group and what they post. Join the group here .

About Amy-Jill Levine

Amy-Jill Levine is the University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies and the Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences. An internationally renowned scholar and teacher, she is the author of numerous books including The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus and The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Bible and the Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us. She is also the co-editor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament. Professor Levine has led over 500 programs for churches, clergy groups and seminaries.

Ordering the Book

Light of the World is available as an eBook through Amazon and in print through multiple online and local book retailers.
Discounted copies are also available from Parasource Marketing & Distribution until early November.

We are open to suggestions about other materials that may be helpful to you or your congregation as we engage in this book study. If you have any ideas or questions about Presbyterians Read, please email Emily Hill, Education Coordinator for Canadian Ministries, at call or 1-800-619-7301, ext. 271.

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