Names for the Messiah: An Advent Study by Walter Brueggemann
In this slim volume, which began life as an online resource, Brueggemann offers four studies for the four weeks of Advent designed for individual or group use. Each chapter is based on one of the four royal titles accorded to the child whose birth is announced in Isaiah9:6; Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. It’s uses as a resource for Christmas preaching, or as a way of informing what we say at any time of year is, however, clear.
Brueggemann is of course one of the world’s leading Old Testament scholars and he draws on his extensive knowledge to set this verse in the context of Hebrew Scripture and understanding, carefully explaining the connotations of each royal title. He then moves on to discuss how these royal qualities can be seen to be embodied in Jesus and yet at the same time are not yet fully realised in our world. Prayers and questions for discussion and reflection are provided for each chapter and there is space for responses to be noted down.
Brueggemann’s scholarly insights are illuminating and he acknowledges difficulties of interpretation, such as how a Christian may struggle to understand the Son of God as Everlasting Father. The choice of language however might not be readily accessible to someone who is not particularly academic. If this book is used for group study, members would benefit from a well-prepared leader and it might not be advisable simply to hand out a copy of the book to read. The discussion sections, on the other hand, pose some genuinely interesting questions which are likely to provoke valuable debate and reflection and a good balance is struck between the personal and the societal.
For the preacher the book would form a strong and stimulating basis for an advent sermon series, throwing refreshing new light onto words which may have become over-familiar. It is also an easily accessible source of reference for unpacking the meaning of these royal titles in both their Old Testament and New Testament contexts.
Review by Jenny Gilbertson, Reader in the Diocese of Chester
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