There are so many great new Advent devotionals, I can’t tell you about them all now — and, there are a number of equally wonderful, useful ones from other years about which I have to remind you. As a retailer, I just can’t bring myself to write about Christmas resources earlier in the fall — something in my bones still wants to resist consumerism and what Jamie Smith calls “secular liturgies” that press seasonal buying while the leaves are still changing. So I apologize if this seems tardy. We can ship things out right away, so don’t delay: now is the perfect time to order some resources to help you navigate the upcoming crazy and wonderful and complicated weeks.
So here are a few brand new titles, and a few older ones, too, a few with DVDs for home or study group use. Once we all really get in the mood — this coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, after all, so you might have a wreath at church or in your home — I’ll list a few more. And I’ll soon do a list of holiday books for kids. All will help you live your life in the way you most deeply desire, I’m almost sure of it.
ALL WILL BE 20% OFF of the regular price shown. We sure would appreciate it if you’d send an order our way (the link at the bottom goes to our secure order form page or you could pick up the phone old-school and give us a call.) Supporting family-owned and indie businesses is, for many of us, a Christian practice of faithful economic life, and we’d be delighted to fill your order with a prayer and a grateful ho-ho-ho.
God With Us: Reader’s Edition edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete) $18.99 You may know that this splendid, beautifully done, best selling hardback is out of print and exceptionally rare to find, even used. Happily, the publisher recently reissued a very lovely paperback version, which they call the Readers Edition. The artful, literary text is the same, and although it doesn’t have the glossy paper or the full color artwork in such lavish amounts, it is one of the nicest paperback books this season. The cover is lovely, with French folds, and the page layout is attractive. There is a 4 page section in the center with some full-color art. Contributors include poets and writers, mystics and preachers, artful and thoughtful companions for the journey: Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson and Luci Shaw.
Time to Get Ready: An Advent, Christmas Reader to Wake Your Soul Mark A. Villano (Paraclete Press) $16.99 Many of us are deeply grateful for the lovely and artful books produced by this publisher that grew out of a deeply spiritual, monastic community, and this new book is a good example of the books they do so well. It is a handsome paperback, nicely designed, offering thoughtful writing that is moving — one reviewer says it “breathes silence and grace” with an upbeat, contemporary feel. The author has done Roman Catholic campus ministry and is a bit of a film buff, so there’s classic liturgical insight, deep spirituality, a bit about peace and justice and a bunch of pop culture references, helping us wake up, get ready. This has good Bible teaching, pointing always to the life-changing mystery of Christ, inviting us to both an inward journey of spiritual intimacy and what we might call an outward expression, learning to be alive to God’s work in the world. Ronald Rolheiser (I hope you know his The Holy Longing!) writes
Readers will not be disappointed with Time to Get Ready. Villano’s book will appeal to a wide audience: young people, and the more mature, those who are new in their faith, and those who have journeyed longer. Use it as a retreat, and be prepared to ‘wake your soul.’
Advent Presence: Kissed by the Past, Beckoned by the Future Melford “Bud” Holland (Morehouse Publishing) $14.00 Bud is a beloved Pennsylvania Episcopal priest, storyteller and photographer. The reviews of this have been lovely — from excellent writers, too, such as Barbara Cawthorn Crafton (who says it is “much more fulsome than those one usually finds in books intended for daily devotional reading” and Greg Garrett who says “I will come back to this book year after year.” It is written with great, quiet imagination, offering a place to open up and perhaps experience what he means by being “kissed by the past, beckoned by the future.”
Sent: Delivering the Gift of Hope at Christmas Jorge Acevedo and others (Abingdon Press) $14.99 regular book/ $39.95 DVD Acevedo is the dynamic lead pastor at Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida. I’ve read a few of this other writings, one on vital congregations, and contributions to a book on youth ministry. He is a passionate, vibrant, solid leader of a multi-ethnic church (and several women and men who work with him have contributed here.) This is a great theme — God sent Christ at Christmas and Christ sends us. This is upbeat, missional, absolutely Christ-focused stuff, a dynamic 5-week Advent journey with Jesus. There is the stand alone book, but also a DVD study ($39.95) with each session running about 10 minutes, leaving plenty of time for discussion. There is a useful leaders guide ($11.99) and a short daily devotional book ($9.99.)
The Season of the Nativity: Confessions and Practices of an Advent, Christmas & Epiphany Extremist Sybil MacBeth (Paraclete Press) $17.99 Here is what a wrote last year: Wow, what’s not to like about this – written, as it is, by a self-professed season “extremist.” Ha! I love that! (And, as a good liturgical aficionado would, this resource includes ample stuff for Epiphany!) The spiffy ad copy on the back – with a design that looks warm and contemporary – says “Christmas sparkles brighter – when you celebrate the season in all of its fullness.” Okay, there’s an allusion to Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany – but it means more, I think. Ms MacBeth, you see, is the author of the very popular Praying in Color (and the pocket edition, and the kid’s edition) that invites us to doodle and design and be creative in our playfully serious coloring our prayers. From ideas about colored pencils to other creative options, that book, like this one, is fabulous for those who can’t just sit still and read and meditate. When this invites us to celebrate in “fullness” it means to suggest a multi-dimensional, holistic kind of engagement. And – kudos to the Sisters of Paraclete Press – the design of this colorful book is as lovely as the idea. It really is vibrant, colorful, and winsome.
Listen to what Lauren Winner writes about it. (She was, by the way, an early booster of MacBeth’s earlier projects.)
This gorgeous book is going to remain at my reading chair, dog-eared and bookmarked, all through the Yuletide season. It will also be under the tree of just about everyone on my gift list. We will all have more interesting winters, and greater intimacy with Jesus, because of it.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas Ann Voskamp (Tyndale) $24.99 The last two years we raved about a very handsome hardback devotional by Ann Voskamp, the amazingly good writer of the very popular One Thousand Gifts. It was called The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Love Story of Christmas There is a fabulous DVD curriculum to use with it, which explores the great, rich tradition of “The Jesse Tree.” We were fond of that book and DVD, too, but can hardly express how this material has generated yet another Advent book by Ms Voskamp — a full-color, over-sized hardback with good, glossy pages, which beautifully helps families explore moving scenes from the Bible that lead us, step by step, through the history of redemption and towards the birth of Christ and the Advent of His Kingdom. Vivid, contemporary illustrations enhance the Scripture readings and questions and activities; links for downloadable ornaments are included that help communicate the stages of salvation history, starting with the Garden of Eden. On the back cover of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift they invite us to “Celebrate the best love story of all time with your family!” Indeed, this helps your family retrace the linage of Jesus and fall in love with the story of God, unfolded bit by bit, with breath-taking, contemporary artwork and these great downloadable ornaments.
This is a beautiful book you will want to own and keep, because, we hope, it is one you will cherish. It is our pleasure to tell you about it.
Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany compiled by Sarah Arthur (Paraclete Press) $18.99 Dare I tip my hand and say that I intend to use this often this season? It really is an extraordinary book, a literary and spiritual feast full of fiction, poetry, and excerpts of great literature. The book is elegantly designed with French folded covers, and an equally beautifully tone. Perhaps you know Arthur’s previous one like this, At the Still Point which was for use in Ordinary Time. This includes a daily prayer which is most often a poem (including some surprising choices) and then a Psalm, Scripture readings, and then some daily offerings of poems and short excerpts of fiction. If you believe in the holy coming to us in the guise of literature, this is for you.
As poet Luci Shaw writes of it, “Sarah Arthur illuminates our whole year with the gift of flaming words. A treasure of enlightenment.” Just a thought: even if you aren’t interested in Oscar Hijuelos or MacDonald’s Gifts of the Christ Child or Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Gerard Manley Hopkins or Fred Buechner or Christiana Rossetti, you surely know some lit-lovers, English majors, or aspiring poets who don’t want a more customary Advent devotional. This would make a beautiful, appreciated gift.
By the way, odd as it is, we just got in Sarah Arthur’s brand new release, a Lenten companion to At the Still Point and Light Upon Light. It is called Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide (Paraclete; $18.99.)
A Very Different Christmas: What Are You Hoping for This Year? Rico Tice and Nate Locke (The Good Book Company) $4.99 I love this British publisher, evangelically-minded Anglicans, mostly, I gather, who do very lively outreach tools — pamphlets, videos, inexpensive books, as well as serious Bible studies and books to help live out a missional Kingdom vision. This is a small book, with a really nice engraved letterpress cover, that is chatty and clever, creatively inviting seekers to a different sort of Christmas living room — one in heaven, with the Triune God giving the gifts. Becky Pippert (herself one of the finest evangelists) says it is “wonderfully compelling. You’ll love it!” Heady Reformed theologian and host of the White Horse Inn radio show, Michael Horton, calls it “a provocative invitation.” The authors say they hope that the very different presents presented in this fable can “transform the way you look at Christmas, your life, your hopes, your future.” What a cool little book to give away, or to read together as a family.
Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season Heidi Haverkamp (WJK) $16.00 This slim hardback is a great book and would be a great gift for any family that has loved the Chronicles of Narnia. Why didn’t somebody think of this before? I can’t wait to read it myself!
As the Very Reverend Gary Hall, the Dean of the Washington National Cathedral puts it, Advent in Narnia is both “delightful and profound.” Haverkamp is a young clergywoman in the Episcopal church, and a Benedictine Oblate at the ecumenical Holy Wisdom Monastery in Wisconsin. There is mature spirituality here, theological depth, and a reminder that Christ, like Aslan, is “on the move.” What a great idea this book is!
Finding Bethlehem in the Midst of Bedlam James W. Moore (Abingdon Press) $14.99 regular book/$39.99 DVD Moore is a popular writer who has offered oodles of often very funny books, upbeat, casual, with maybe the sort of inspirational tone you’d find in Guideposts, say. I think this is a good example of how we can have some fairly serious stuff approached in a way that isn’t off-putting and is inviting for readers who aren’t too sophisticated in theology or spiritual formation. As you can guess, this is a sane call to find God not by avoiding the bedlam, the frantic schedules and hard stuff, but to find God in this messy stable of a world. The Bible story itself, Moore reminds us, isn’t a sweetness and light, and our lives are often pretty crazy, too. There is this stand alone book and there is a five session DVD, too ($39.99) and a helpful guide for facilitators ($9.99.)
The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis Diane Houdek (Franciscan Media) $12.99 Pope Francis captured the attention of the nation earlier this season when he visited Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. His love for the original Saint Francis is so evident as he offers clear, gentle words of challenge and blessing. Here we have a Scripture for each day and a selection from the pope’s writings, and then a “bringing the Word to life” suggestion for daily application. Very nice.
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas Plough Publishing $24.00 This stunning collection of some of the best spiritual writers of all time came out in 2001 from the exceptionally thoughtful, high-quality publishing house founded by a simple-living Hutterite community. The community gave up their publishing venture, the book languished, got picked up by another publisher, but now, Plough Publishing is back, and this great resource has been restored to its lovely hardback edition. Wisely selected pieces from older writers Aquinas, Luther, Donne through writers such as Hopkins, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, Lewis and Merton, and contemporaries like Kathleen Norris, Philip Yancey and Annie Dillard. What a delight to have seasonal readings from theological voices like Jurgen Moltmann, mystics like Bernard of Clairvaux, poets — from Sylvia Plath to T.S. Eliot to Jane Kenyon, contemplatives such as Henri Nouwen and storytelling writers like the late Brennan Manning. Short readings for every day from the end of November through the first week of January.
Advent of Justice Brian J. Walsh, J. Richard Middleton, Mark Vander Vennen, Sylvia Keesmaat (Wipf & Stock) $10.00
Here is what I wrote when this potent book re-appeared after a year of being out of print:
I have long said that there is no other Advent devotional like this, nothing in print that comes close. It has been out of print for a few years, and we are glad it has been re-issued, with a nicer, full-color cover. (Otherwise, the inside, the handsome fonts and nicely designed pages with a few art pieces by Willem Hart, remain.)
This is a set of 4 week’s worth of daily readings, studies of lectionary texts (mostly from Isaiah coupled with seasonal NT texts) with a serious contextualized reading of these passages. Some of the Isaiah passages are familiar to us while a few may be less so. The hard-to-pronounce names of kings and prophets, nations and armies, are made more clear, brought into focus so we realize what was going on, geo-politically and religiously among the divided kingdoms. That they invite us to ponder this and to apply the lessons to our own times, indeed our own lives, is a great holiday gift. It is not sentimental and there is nothing about Christmas ornaments or hot cider or snowy Winterscapes. This is Bible study with cultural analysis. Dare I say it is an urgent antidote to some of the ways we’ve tamed the Christmas story and, well, you know… One friend who appreciated it a lot called it “Advent with a Vengeance.” Well, sort of.
I have read through these short, dense pieces many times, and get something new with each reading. Walsh brings the big picture gospel to bear, as always, and Middleton especially explains the intricacies and drama of Old Testament politics. Mark Vander Vennen – an old pal and peace activist from our days in Pittsburgh, now a wise and respected family therapist – brings his own well-trained Old Testament scholarship to the plot, with very nicely written daily meditations, journeying with us as we wait expectantly. The last week New Testament scholar (and organic farmer) Sylvia Keesmaat eloquently brings it all together. Dr. Keesmaat, by the way, served as chief editor for this whole project, and brings the touch of a scholar and creative wordsmith.
For those not used to Advent being a time to inhabit the broad Biblical drama, this may be challenging. Not surprisingly, it has some themes of social criticism, a faithful emphasis on justice and the common good, since the Scriptural texts point us towards these concerns. That Advent of Justice was firstly produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of a Canadian social justice advocacy group – the Citizens for Public Justice (formerly the Committee for Justice & Liberty) – is fitting. These authors live this stuff, and their own rich Biblical reflections have emerged out of their own engagement with issues in the public square, service to the marginalized, and taking stands for public justice and the common good.
Still, even though this is dedicated to the justice activists and citizen advocates of CPJ and brings themes of justice to the fore, it is – let me be clear – an advent Bible devotional, short readings, day by day. They invites us to read the Bible text first, spend time pondering their explication, and then to return to the Bible text again, reading and hearing it with new eyes and ears. They do this to help us have a meaningful and joyous holiday season, to wait well, to make time for God’s Word during Advent. They really do hope you have a good holiday season. May it help you wait well.
Awaiting the Already: An Advent Journey Through the Gospels Magrey R. deVega (Abingdon) $9.99 Okay, I’m not going to embellish this. The author is United Methodist pastor and Bible scholar (he has contributed to Feasting on the Gospels volume on John) and has worked on the ongoing Covenant Bible studies series. The arrangement of this little book is simple: the chapters explore Advent and Christmas in five chapters:
Mark: Slow Down, Pay Attention
Matthew: The World as it Is
Luke: The Ultimate Advent Playlist
John: The Light in the Darkness
Titus: Paul’s Christmas Letter
Bet you didn’t see that last one coming, didya?
The Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World Rick McKinley, Chris Seay and Greg Holder (Zondervan) $12.99/$29.99 book & DVD pack I mention this every year, and note that this is a stand-alone book, but it goes with a tremendous DVD curriculum, upbeat and cool, cleverly offering excellent Biblical teaching, honest stories of struggle and new ways to think about Christmas, inviting individuals (and, better, faith communities, fellowships, churches, BIble study groups) to pledge together to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all. This is how to have a Christmas worth remembering, not dreading. I have even offered this to congregations with a money back guarantee — I am so confident this will make you think, give you fresh ideas, help you take steps towards pushing back against the frantic pace and commercialization and financial stress. Can we conspire together to do the holiday in more meaningful, appropriate ways?
The irony is not lost on me, of course, to promote this anti-commercialism with such erstwhile salesmanship, but here’s a deal: if you want the DVD curriculum and one book, there’s a set that we will sell now at almost 50% off the “study pack” discounted price, making it $15.99. I believe this is so important, we’re eager to spread the word about it once again. While supplies last. Boom.
And, just for fun, to help your Advent worship, enjoy this: James Romaine, a thoughtfully Christian art historian has put together four youtube videos called Art in Advent. Each week you can experience great visual art as James guides you through some insightful Advent meditations. Here’s the “trailer” a short one on the Annunciation, with further links to the whole series. Happy viewing.
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