Selecting Advent devotionals for one’s personal devotions, or for small faith communities or to give as a special gift is always a lot of fun this time of year. Many books that have come out in other years are among our very favorites, so we’d invite you to look back over these great lists from other years, HERE (2011), HERE (2010) and HERE (2009). We wrote about The Advent Conspiracy book and DVD (and other resources about consumerism) HERE.
There are such great resources are on these lists! See the lush and artful
God With Us, edited by Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete; $29.99) and the diverse, classic readings in Watch for the Light (Orbis; $16.00) which are our two best sellers in recent years. Check out my comments on the geographically contextualized reflections Songs in Waiting: A Celebration of Middle Eastern Canticles by Paul-Gordon Chandler (Morehouse; $20.00) and you really should know of my good Pittsburgh friend Dave Carver’s collection of Christmas Eve stories called I Will Hold My Candle and Other Stories for Christmas ($15.00.) We have most of the others listed in stock, still, too, and if we have them, they will be offered at this year’s 20% BookNotes discount.
Here are some that are new this year. We are pleased to suggest these sorts of resources and trust that you and yours are getting ready to make space for some intentional reading this time of year. Get a mug of something hot. Light a candle. Get still.
Order now and we’ll ship these out promptly and, unless you are one of our friends overseas on in Alaska, you’ll have ’em in a few. Happy Advent. Happy reading.
We show the regular retail prices, but will deduct the 20% discount when you order.
The Gospel of Christmas: Reflections for Advent Patty
Kirk (IVP) $15.00 I don’t know exactly why, but many folks buy and read short
stories this time of year. Maybe because we long for fiction, but don’t
have time for big novels. Maybe because we want the discipline of
inviting new worlds into being — we hunger for hope, and conjure it up in
stories. There are seasonal classics, you know (O. Henry, Van Dyke, Dickens,
and the like.) Well, add this one to the list.
This may be the
best new Christmas book of 2012 — a collection of stories designed to
“help us get in touch with our muted hopes and fears and remind us that
they are met and given their resolution in the coming of Christ.” All
our lives prepare us, she says, for this seasonal anticipation, and
these thoughtful, intimate stories really do allow for extraordinary
ruminations. You want to slow down and ponder big stuff this year? You
want artfully told, easy to read, seriously entertaining fiction? This
good book will be good news for you. Our friend Margo Starbuck, herself
a gal who can turn a phrase, says “Patty Kirk can write. That she
writes about Advent is a gift to the rest of us. In her words you will
discover a blessedly new kind of Advent.” Another fine writer notes
that, “like Christmas itself, The Gospel of Christmas is
filled with wonder and delight as well as longing and sorrow.” Patty
Kirk, by the way, has written a memoir about her growing up in the
south, learning to cook (Starting from Scratch) and another called
Confessions of an Amateur Believer. We’ve promoted them both, and were
thrilled when we heard she had an Advent resource coming for our reading
pleasure. For what it is worth, there is a short half page
introduction to each story which allusively points us toward the point of each, which helps us see that these can be entered into devotionally and
perhaps in book clubs or Bible study groups for good conversation. I think there would be
plenty to discuss, with friends or family, and they would work well being read out loud. Very highly recommended
Singing Mary’s Song: An Advent Message of Hope and Deliverance John A. Stroman (Upper Room) $14.00 This is a handsome paperback, with some nice b/w artwork — I really like the look and feel of Upper Room books! This includes daily readings (and discussions questions, a prayer and exercise) for each day as well as a four week facilitators guide in the back for those that are gathering week by week to discuss it. So it is a daily personal devotional and a good small group book. I wish space permitted me quoting even the brief introduction which highlights the radical implications of Mary’s famous lines from Luke 1 (and is very well done.) Stroman is a teacher, writer and an United Methodist pastor who for 40 years taught in Ghana, West Africa. He knows much about the world, its sufferings and joys, and has accumulated a lifetime of stories and hopes and dreams that are shared in this careful phrase by phrase rumination on the Magnificat. This is surely one of the best new studies of the year, tender and deeply spiritual, but not backing away from the radical “upside down” Kingdom that calls us to makes room for the poor and the marginalized. We would do well to ponder the social implications of the gospel, and Mary’s prayer is a good way into it all. This is certainly a proper liturgical time to consider this, here, now, as we await the coming of Christ.
Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Enuma Okaro (Upper Room) $16.00 Again, there are some nice design touches here (with Ms Okaro’s scirbbled cursive writing out the chapter titles, not unlike on the cover of her wonderful memoir Reluctant Pilgrim.) More significant is the contribution this makes to Advent literature: a very honest and gentle reflection on Zechariah and Elizabeth. Their story is filled with deep sorrow and heartfelt longing and Okaro acknowledges that. There are short readings here, one for each day of the season, but these could be pondered any time, inviting us to attend to “the wounds we endure and the blessings we receive; the grief we bear and the joys we are given.” You know this is a tough time of year for many. Maybe it is for you, too. These poignant meditations help us process all that, inviting us to learn from these characters in the Bible that we often skip over. I love this as she wisely guides us thought our own waiting, our own longing, our own need for community. As Lauren Winner writes on the back cover, “How can we find silence and anticipation in the midst of all the shopping, all the Bing Crosby? In Silence, Enuma Okoro supplies a welcome answer.” Prayerful read this, share it with others, and embrace your waiting, your hungering for God.
Anticipate: An Advent Experience (Beacon Hill Press) $9.99 They didn’t announce that this is about the “Jesse Tree” on the cover, perhaps because some faith traditions don’t know what that is. We are fans of the JT Advent custom, and we’ve wished for a good book about it using this idea of decorating a symbolic tree full of Older Testament symbols that point to Christ’s coming. I have said it before, and I will say it again: Beacon Hill is doing remarkable work, with hip designs and solid, if a bit edgy content. They are a publisher we respect, introducing us to a batch of young writers and missional activists. Kudos to them.
The tone of this new book is hands-on and full of graphic representations of key parts of the history of redemption; it is an upbeat invitation to experience and savor your anticipation of God’s coming by making these decorations each day. This four week devotional is good for families or small groups or Bible studies or church classes. It uses Old Testament prophecies to guide you as you learn to live into the story of God. Through the practice of doing a Jesse Tree, you can experience the twenty-five Biblical symbols of Christmas as your own journey unfolds. Very cool.
Exploring Advent with Luke: Four Questions for Spiritual Growth Timothy Clayton (Ave Maria Press) $13.95 Alan Jones, the Episcopal Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, says this work is a true celebration — he calls it “a generous book” and that may give you a hint of its tone of open-hearted spirituality. It is rather contemplative, following through the gospel of Luke, inviting a particular question each week: “Do I Dare Open Myself to God?”, “Is There Room in My Life for God?”, “Does God Really Want Me?”, and “Where is God Leading Me?” I like the last chapter, to be used for the season of the Twelve Days of Christmas, called “Keeping the Story Alive.” Draws on excellent Bible scholarship (Raymond Brown, Joel Green, etc.) and inspiring authors (Bonhoeffer) and poets (Donne, and others) making this truly a beautifully written guide designed for deeper, slow, consideration.
C Is For Christmas: The History, Personalities, and Meaning of Christ’s Birth David and Warren Wiersbe (Baker) $12.99 This is literally an A to Z Guide and I think it is fabulous. Do you have need of unusual facts about holiday customs? Do you have a program to do, a class to spice up, and story time that needs some details? This is nearly devotional, more than a simple encyclopedia, and would be a fine book to have laying around the house — the bedside (or bathroom, dare I say?) Read some at dinner each night, or dip in after you light your Advent candles… There are more than 200 pages here of fine Biblical and theological explication, on topics from Advent to Zechariah and plenty in between. Most letters have maybe three or four entries; for instance, under I we get Immanuel, Incarnation, Inn, and Innocents; under G we find genealogy, gifts, glory, God, grace, greetings; S has Shepherds, Simeon, Songs, and Star. Very informative and faith-enhancing.
Prayers for Advent and Christmas edited by David Mosser (Abingdon) $12.00 This is a recent entry in the “Just In Time!” series (we carry them all) for pastors and worship leaders. This one obviously offers appropriate liturgical resources for planning prayer services, Sunday worship, or all sorts of worship experiences where prayers are used. I read through some of these Invocations, Call to Worships, Prayers of Confession, Words of Assurance, Pastoral Prayers, Offering Prayers, and Benedictions, and — surprise! — some deeply moved me and helped in my own prayer life,
such as it is. In other words, these are designed for corporate worship, but anybody could read them, pray them, use them. There are resources here for the four Sundays of Advent, two services for Christmas Eve, one set of options for Christmas Day, for a Sunday after Christmas, and for Epiphany.
25 Days of Advent Ken Boa with John Alan Turner (Zondervan) $2.99 This is one of these small, pocket-sized, inexpensive books that are fabulous to use, great to give away, nice to share any time this season. Boa is the president of Reflections Ministries (we love his work, carry most of his many books) and think this is fantastic. Each day it offers (in the NIV text) several Scripture passages, a short meditation and a robust prayer. This is solid stuff, inviting us to focus on the person, work, and sacrifice of Jesus, seeing that this is central to the entire Biblical story. Very nicely done.
Who Is This Child? From Common Babe to King of Kings John Ortberg (Zondervan) $2.99 Again, this is a fantastic give-away, a perfect stocking stuffer, a lovely little pocket-sized set of two short essays. The first is a short piece on Mary (“The Mother”) followed by a longer piece on Jesus (“The Child.”) This is excerpted from the fabulous recent hardback book by Ortberg, Who Is This Man? which, by the way, has been made into a DVD curriculum too, which we also stock. We really respect Ortberg as a thinker, a pastor, and a communicator; this booklet is clear, engaging, drawing on the best sources (in this excerpt he cites Nic Woltersdorff on justice and Frederick Dale Bruner’s spectacular commentary on Matthew, just for instance.) He tells great stories, offers a lovely introduction to Jesus in a way that modern folks can really appreciate. This booklet is a great example of Ortberg’s very good work.
CD Christmas in Brass Gabriel V Brass Ensemble (Gloria Dei Artes Foundation) $16.95 We love seasonal music for Advent and Christmas, and my own tastes are really (really!) diverse. In the store we tend to play quieter, instrumental stuff (even though we stock all the CCM type vocal Christmas releases, many pop artists, the new Sufjan Stevens, and more.) I figured this was a really nice one to mention, done with the Extol Handbell Choir, too, and David Chalmers, organist. These are mostly all religious songs, a few from Russian litanies or pieces like O Magnum Mysterium. Many are familiar carols. The arrangements are just what I wanted, not too loud or showy. Very, very nice.
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