Stephen Cottrell has written some fantastic books in recent years -
The Things He Carried: A Journey to the Cross
The Nail: Being Part of the Passion
Christ in the Wilderness: Reflecting on the Paintings of Stanley Spencer
The Things He Said: The Story of the First Easter
All written for Lent and Easter.
Walking Backwards to Christmas is his first book for Advent and Christmas.
It's brilliant. In resembles The Nail as it offers a series of monologues from different characters in the story. However rather than telling the story from beginning to end, he tells it from the end to the beginning, beginning with Anna in the temple (Luke 2), and the journeying backwards through Rachel (a mother who has lost a child to Herod's massacre), Herod, Casper, David (a shepherd), Martha (innkeeper), Joseph, Elizabeth, Mary and back further to Isaiah and finally Moses. Cottrell's inspiration comes from a painting by Albert Herbert, pictured on the front cover called Nativity With the Burning Bush.
Cottrell's imaginative imagining of each character's feelings and choices pushes the traditional story in new directions. Particularly powerful are the chapters on Anna, Rachel, Martha, Elizabeth and Mary - the grief and pain, the conviction and faith.
I used edited selections for our Carols by Candlelight service. It's probably too late to read this book now in Advent, but would make a great read for the 12 days of Christmas, or to wait until next year.