MORE GREAT ADVENT BOOKS for ADULTS & CHILDREN – all 20% off of the regular price shown. ORDER NOW.

Thanks to those who expressed appreciation for the Advent
list we put together a week or so ago; Hearts & Minds friends sharing these
suggested resources with others helps us get the word out about great books, and,
yes, it helps us garner some orders, orders that are much-needed on this end.

Here are some other resources that we think will help you
strengthen your faith, discover a sense of sanity, a deeper understanding of
and commitment to the Story of God of which we are a part this great, if
complicated, time of year.  That is
what we all want, right? It is what you
want for yourself and those you love, I’m sure.  You know, I hope, that books can help nudge us in the right
direction, provide insight and encouragement, inform us and bring pleasure as reading them strengthens our resolve.  These
are tools of the trade, blessings in small packages. We’d be foolish not to
pass ’em out this time of year.  I
mean it sincerely when I say we are here to help.

You can easily order by clicking on the link found below.

the-meaning-is-in-the-waiting-the-spirit-of-advent-53.jpgThe Meaning is in the Waiting: The Spirit of Advent Paula
Gooder (Paraclete Press) $15.99 This came out years ago in the UK from
Canterbury Press and was wisely picked up a while back by the good folks at
Paraclete Press. This edition has
a spectacular foreword by Lauren Winner – reminiscent of her beautifully astute
introduction to Bobby Gross’s Living the
Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God.
(I get out that book and
read Lauren’s intro every year this time of year.)  In this one, she expresses her desire to have the church
year – which orients us towards God’s time, focused on God’s redemptive work in
Christ – shape her sense of time more than, say, the academic year (which
starts in September) or the government year (tax day!)  Oh, to have our very sense of time and
the calendars we inhabit be formed by the person of Christ.

In The Meaning is in
the Waiting
Gooder helps us learn the spiritual practice of waiting, even making
the case that it is vital to our wellbeing. She helps us (as she has in other
lovely, poetic books) see God in the ordinary.  She deftly explores the real-world people who are the
described in the Biblical stories for this time of year, Abraham and Sarah, the
Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist, and Mary.  And then there is this:  Winner writes, “In this winsome yet provocative Advent
devotional I began to sense something I had not understood before, in any of my
other Advent observances – it is not just we who wait. God is waiting, too. “The
Lord waits, that He may be gracious unto you,’ says Isaiah, one of the prophets
who interests Paula Gooder most. 
God waits on us, for our attention, for our visits home; God waits for
our vision and our ear.” This is a rich, thoughtful little book and I commend
it to you.

Walking-Backwards-to-Christmas.jpgWalking Backwards to Christmas Stephen Cottrell
(Westminster/John Knox) $14.00 this is a fun and interesting little book, with
two very distinctive features. 
Firstly, as the title suggests, it walks us through the Christmas season
stories backwards.  That is, it starts with the end of
the story, so to speak, with Jesus being presented at the temple to Anna and
Simeon, and moves backward through Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, the wise
men’s visits, Jesus’ birth in the stable, Mary’s pregnancy, and finally to the
much-earlier hopes and dreams of Isaiah and even Moses!  Yes, the first chapter is Moses!

A second feature will make this most helpful for some that
need creative resources this time of year. Each chapter is written as a
first-person monologue, so it tells the story through the eyes of these
well-known figures.  Other imagined
characters show up, too – the innkeepers wife, for instance. Cottrell is a fine
writer (his creative retelling of the characters of the Easter narrative is
called The Nail.) A few of these
pieces could even be read out loud as they are lively and dramatic.  A few are more subtle; Isaiah is moody
and mostly about his interior life and visions, understandably. Paul Strobe
(who wrote Walking with Jesus through the
Old Testament
) says that “Cottrell truly ‘gets inside’ the characters,
including their sorrow and anger and uncertainty as well as their hope and

Five Questions of Christmas- Unlocking the Mystery.jpgFive Questions of Christmas: Unlocking the Mystery Rob Burkhart
(Abingdon) $16.99 At first I thought this was a fine but perhaps unremarkable
set of meditations on the Bible stories and their application to today.  I suspect these could have been a good
sermon series — inviting us to ask how we can find truth and meaning, wonder why
there is such suffering, pointing us to trust the unseen, design and embody a
future hope in the here and now. 
And then I realized that between each of the five meditations is a set
piece, a very well-written narrative about Burkhart’s own holiday experiences.  These vignettes, each dated, reveal some truly
extraordinary stuff — Christmases full of great tragedy and unforgettable
experiences from his own life; they frame the Biblical messages, and add
real-world grit, insisting that we embody the evangelical promises in the real
world of beauty and sorrow.  Burkhart has an MDiv from Fuller and has been a leader within the Assemblies of God for more than 30
years. This is nicely written, but carries a not-so-subtle subtext: in this
world as we know it, sometimes asking the questions is as important as
declaring answers. This really is an interesting, good book.

The God of All Flesh And Other Essays Walter Brueggemann.jpgThe God of All Flesh And Other Essays Walter Brueggemann
(Cascade) $22.00  This is brand
new, another profound collection of essays by the premier Old Testament scholar
and passionate preacher.  It
includes 9 serious chapters, all previously published in mostly obscure
sources, so this brings them to a wider readership. The theme is described on
the back quite nicely:

Biblical faith is passionately and relentlessly material in
its accent. This claim is rooted in the conviction that the creator God loves
and cares for the creation and summons creation to be in sync with the will of
the creator God. This collection of essays is focused on the bodily life of the
world as it ordered in all of its problematic political and economic forms. The
phrase of the title, “all flesh,” in the flood narrative of Genesis 9, refers
to all living creatures who are in covenant with God — human beings, animals,
birds, and fish – as recipients of God’s grace, as dependent upon God’s
generosity, and as destined for praise and obedience to God.

As you may guess, this accent about the materiality of the
Christian faith and true Biblical religion is an alternative to any sort of
piety that wishes to transcend or escape the world and the matters of politics
and economics. Brueggy writes, “Such a temptation is a serious misreading of
the Bible and a serious misjudgment about the nature of human existence.”

While this isn’t an Advent book as such, it certainly seems
apropos as we move into this season of incarnation.  We stock all of his provocative, dense books, and are proud
to celebrate the release of this brand new one.

The First Days of Jesus- The Story of the Incarnation .jpgThe First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation Andreas
J. Kostenberger & Alexander E. Stewart (Crossway) $17.99  This is a rare and important kind of
book – exceptionally erudite, written by two of the best conservative Biblical
scholars working today, offered in a way that is readable and truly
interesting. It is not an Advent devotional, but it is perfect for serious
reading this time of year. For Sunday school teachers, campus ministers or
preachers needing to come up (once again!) with meaningful seasonal sermons or
classes, getting this essential doctrine right is of exceptional urgency. The First Days… is a remarkable book,
meaty but fascinating, with lots of close Biblical study and scholarly insight
about historical and contextual matters – from the birth narratives and on to
the earliest days of Jesus as recorded in Matthew, Luke, and John.  Paul Maier notes that it “is a welcome
antidote to the cheap sensationalism in recent books on Jesus that try to
demolish every reason for regarding Christmas as “the most wonderful time of
the year.”  Kudos.

Belief Matters- Incarnation- The Surprising Overlap of Heaven & Earth .jpgBelief Matters: Incarnation: The Surprising Overlap of Heaven &
William H. Willimon (Abingdon) $13.99  We’ve announced this one before (as well as the others in
the ongoing series, such as the smart and useful one by our friend and local
pastor, Kenneth Loyer, called Holy Communion,
and the latest, by the always upbeat and interesting Jason Byasee, The Trinity.)  In each case, these short books are designed to be quick
reads for ordinary folks who want a helpful guide to key theological topics
(and why they matter.)  Willimon is
the senior editor of the project, and he inaugurated the series with this one
on the notion of the incarnation. 
I loved it, and found it helpful, provocative, and inspiring. A perfect
time of year for this quick, important read, although the point will last you a lifetime.  Chapter four is called “Life in Light of the Incarnation” which is a good reminder of the catch-phrase of the series: Belief Matters.  It really does.

CD  Waiting Songs Rain for Roots.jpgCD  Waiting Songs Rain for Roots  $15.99

I hope you recall that we’ve
exclaimed our appreciation for this quartet of folk-singing moms and their
commitment to doing very cool acoustic singer-song-writer styled songs for
children. The first two releases (Big Stories for Little Ones and The Kingdom of Heaven is Like This) I’ve
sometimes described as “Indelible Grace” for children; indeed, several of these women
have been involved in those theologically mature, rootsy hymn projects. (As an aside: one of the women, Katy Bowser, also has two CDs
which we proudly stock under the name Coal Train Railroad which introduce kids to
jazz.) These are amazing young women, good artists, seriously thoughtful Christian parents and educators.

This new Advent project is
exactly what it says: it is not a Christmas carol release, but an album about longing, waiting, the promises
of God, the hope of the covenant, expectation. Indeed, they’ve got the logo that proclaims “Almost, Not Yet / Already, Soon.” Drawing on themes familiar to
those who love Sally Lloyd-roots for rain.jpgJones’ Jesus
Storybook Bible,
this approach to the significance of this season allows
them to create a truly rare record: serious kids’ stuff that isn’t dumbed down,
and a holiday album of Advent songs, not Christmas ones. Already soon? Christian Waiting Songs, indeed.
Here is a link to see a bit more about the album, and a free listen to
their version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  The other songs are originals, and only one feels like a silly child’s song — most are great songs for anyone who likes the softer folk-rock style. A few of the songs are simply stunning.

today – even if you don’t have young children!

kirstoph-and-the-first-christmas-tree-a-legend-14.jpgKristoph and the First Christmas Tree Claudia Cangilla McAdam
(Paraclete Press) $16.99 Oh my, what a vivid story!  This is a bright, dramatic, conventionally illustrated
children’s picture book with text that is both glorious and shocking.  Why isn’t this story told among
us?  Is it even true?  The book begins saying it happened on
December 24, 722 in Germany.

Bonifice and his young orphan friend Kristoph are travelling through the
German countryside and come across a pagan tribe who are about to sacrifice a
child in the snowy forest in an awful ritual to appease the spirits of their
sacred oaks.  Bonifice begs them to
set the child free, and to experience the mercies of a loving God.  There is some debate that nearly brings
to mind Elijah’s famous conflict with those who worshiped Baal, with the
chieftain and his tribe eventually allowing Bonifice to chop down a foreboding
tree, saving the child.  A miracle
(or is it?) involving an evergreen transpires, and, well, the life-saving truth
of the gospel and the legend of explaining how the tree points to the living
God is started.

The ending of Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree is
too profound to say merely that “they lived happily ever after” although it
does have a very nice ending.  What
a story, told, as one reviewer put it, “with lyrical language and old world
charm.”  The author, Claudia McAdam
has degrees in both English literature and theology.  She has included a blessing that can be recited by a family
around their own Christmas tree. How nice is that?

The Christmas Promise Alidon Mitchell & Catalina Echeverri.jpgThe Christmas Promise Alidon Mitchell & Catalina Echeverri
(The Good Books Company) $14.99 
This may be my favorite new Christmas book for kids – a solid,
whimsical, informative ride through what it means that Jesus is a King, one who reigns over all the Earth.  Even the endpapers have energetically scribbled pictures
of all manner of kings – from ancient Romans to medieval monarchs, Asian
tyrants to little old Napoleon, right through to replicas of modern-day
dictators and presidents.

But what
kind of King is promised to the Jews? How can a baby be a King?  This is an historically accurate
portrayal of the first nativity, but frames the story by the Biblical promise
that God promised a rescuing King. Oh my, this is sooo good. On the back cover it says, “Join Mary
and Joseph, a bunch of shepherds, some wise men, and lots and lots of angels as
they discover how God kept his Christmas promise.”  Fantastic!

The Nativity Julie Vivas.jpgThe Nativity Julie Vivas (Houghton Mifflin) $7.00  I mention this some years and some
people adore it.  Others (oddly — perversely,
even, I think) complain that showing the little penis of the baby Jesus is
inappropriate. (“A ploy,” one critic opined.) The artwork is a bit bizarre; the
winged angels are, while not scary, a bit odd, but the whimsy doesn’t devolve
into sentimental cute. Mary is sooo pregnant,
and it shows!  The visiting angel
wears army boots.  The characters
are not exactly white. You’ve got to see this to believe it.  We’ve been fans, even though some warn
against it.

Song of the Stars- A Christmas Story.jpgSong of the Stars: A Christmas Story board book Sally
Lloyd-Jones (Zonderkiz) $7.99  We
raved about the original full-sized version of this two years ago, and again and agin: the vivid,
full-size picture book is one of our true favorites, illustrating as it does
how the whole creation is anticipating the cosmic scope of the birth of
Jesus. The artwork is splendid, the lyrics just right.  “It’s time” the animals
proclaim!  This new board book
edition is a perfect little stocking stuffer, an inexpensive but potent gift.
We suggest that you buy more than one; you will be glad you did.

The Christmas Star board book Paloma Wensell (Liturgical Press).jpgThe Christmas Star board
book Paloma Wensell (Liturgical Press) $7.95  This is another absolutely favorite board book this year,
with charming illustrations, wonderfully done by German children’s artist Ulises
Wensell.  It, too, tells the
conventional story of Mary, Joseph, the stable, baby Jesus, etc.  What I so like about this one is the
classy sparkle integrated into many of the thick pages, first as the star, then
as the angels are portrayed, later, seeming to engulf the whole sky- glory shone all around, after all – and
then by the end, it seems to inhabit the whole page, glory indeed!  Does
this prefigure the swirling flames of Pentecost, somehow?  I think this little touch makes this
not only a visually exciting presentation, but might open the door for deeper
conversations.  Nice!

Brother Egbert's Christmas Steve Eggleton.jpgBrother Egbert’s Christmas Steve Eggleton (Lion Pres)
$17.99  This is an exceptionally
classy book, with each page illuminated as if a medieval manuscript. Every page
is beautifully colorful, telling about the work of a village man and his son
who are helping monks fix a ceiling at the monastery, making wooden carved
bosses.  Brother Egbert spends most
of his time copying pages of scrolls and manuscripts, and young Jake, the
woodcarver’s son, suggests they use Brother Egbert’s prized Christmas story
manuscript as the model for the wood carving he and his dad will make. This
book for older children has lots of color and interesting calligraphied text,
with the traditional telling of the nativity story at the center.  There’s an appendix about making your
own paint, too, just like they do at the monastery, and a guide to making a
nice capitol letter at the start of a page.



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