Advent books 2018 (part one — kid’s books coming next) ON SALE NOW

It’s hard to believe how the Advent season is nearly upon us. We’ve got almost two weeks, though, so we can still solve your problems by getting the right resources for your needs in plenty of time. We describe some shipping options at the order form page, but US mail is working just fine. Just follow the link, below to place orders, easily.

All books listed are 20% off, too. We’re glad to be able to offer such interesting titles.

Many of the good books we’ve listed the last few years here or here or, for children’s books, here, are still in stock or readily available. Check out those lists if you’re a book-lover who loves the Advent season. We think they are helpful and good to know about.  If you agree, we’d appreciate your willingness to do business with us.

Here are some that are mostly quite new, all on sale and ready to ship. (We will list some children’s books soon in our next BookNotes newsletter.)

Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) $30.00 This is without a doubt the most talked about book about Advent in our memory, and for good reason. This sturdy 400+ page paperback volume is laden with Mrs. Rutledge’s legendary, richly theological, provocative (but always orthodox), meaty but persuasive sermons. There are some essays here, some Bible studies, other writings and sermons galore, for every special day of the season (and then some. As a serious Episcopalian, she’s included some special days I’ve never even heard of!) A few of the sermons are recent, some older, typed up from her old manuscripts — a labor of love! Those of us who have heard the Reverend Rutledge preach know how good she is. Those of us who have heard her lecture or met her in person know how gracious and interesting she is. Those who have read her books – from the extraordinary The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ to her excellent collections of sermons (one on preaching the Old Testament, one of sermons on Romans, one that is a general collection, one a study of Tolkien, one on the last words of Christ) – all know how wise and interesting and informative and valuable they are.

As we noted when we first announced this new book earlier this fall, there are just pages of endorsing blurbs, good quotes from across the theological spectrum, but mostly from those I trust the most. From Michael Gorman and Richard Hays to Wesley Hill and James K.A. Smith, there are so many who insist this book is well worth having.

Marilyn McEntyre (a woman who steward words as well as anyone) writes that Rutledge’s Advent is, “Invigorating – edgy, intelligent, unflinching, and joyful in all it reclaims. A timely, lively prophetic word.”

Allow me this bluntness: if you care about the theological tenor of our churches, if you like serious theological books at all, if you care about the holiday’s integrity and wish for something more than sentiment this season, you should buy this book.

The Art of Advent: A Painting a Day from Advent to Epiphany Jane Williams (SPCK) $15.00  My, my, this may be our favorite Advent book this year!  We had many customers who loved her publisher’s similar The Art of Lent which we heartily recommended last Spring. This one, like that one, is a square-sized, small paperback, about 150 pages, making it a truly delightful gem to carry in a purse or backpack or to give as a simple gift.  But, yet, it is rich, with full-color artwork for each day of Advent. The art is reproduced nicely, the paper is glossy but still lighter weight. It is such a great little volume to hold and glance through.

Importantly, though, these are rich, insightful meditations, nicely written, Biblically-based, each using a painting or artwork as a springboard to reflect on living well and out of Advent hope. Ms. Williams has written several other thoughtful books and is Assistant Dean and Lecturer in Systematic Theology at St. Mellitus College in the UK. The Advent of Art is The Archbishop of York’s Advent book for 2018.

By the way, there are plenty of masterpieces shown here. There are those great artworks that you might expect for a holiday book – from da Vinci’s The Virgin and the Child with Saint Anne to medieval classics like Francesca’s odd The Nativity and (thanks be to God) the spectacular Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

Because Williams is attuned to the themes of the church season, there are pictures and themes that some may find jarring – Herodias Bosch on hell, unexpected pictures on judgment, visual (and written) meditations on Noah and Jeremiah and Christ’s work, including the hope of Apocalypse. (The famous Rembrandt on the Return of the Prodigal Son that Henri Nouwen made is here, as is the haunting William Holman Hunt on Christ as the Light of the World and some others that at first glance don’t seem seasonal, but they are!)  Many of the paintings, though, (again, some Advental, some Christmassy, and some seemingly not) are most likely not immediately familiar. There are some contemporary pieces and several by non-Western artists (including Julia Stankova and Meg Roe and the marvelously colorful He Qi.) To see medieval tapestries or ancient icons next to very modern pieces is just so great. The mix of old and new is wonderful. To ponder what this theologian sees in the Biblical text inspired by these paintings is a blessing.

I would like to suggest that you might want to own this book even if you don’t use it as a daily devotional this month. It is an inexpensive way to become familiar with great paintings, to learn about certain artists, and to see how to exegete them with Biblically-trained eyes and a Christian mind. Highly recommended.

Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations David Bannon (Paraclete) $29.99 This glorious full-size hardback book (with a wonderful foreword by Philip Yancey) is the most beautiful devotional book of the season. Each meditation is paired with a moving reproduction of classic art, nicely reproduced on rich, glossy paper.  In this mature and artful presentation, it reminds us of the early (now out of print) Paraclete classic God With Us. (That is still available in the “readers edition” that omits the artwork and remains one of our best-sellers in recent years with its literary ruminations and poetry and mature reflections.) Like that one, this is a treasure to behold.

Wounded in Spirit stands out not only because of the subtly lavish design but because of its amazing content and spirit. David Bannon writes from profound personal experience, offering ways to commune with God through Scripture. He also tells some poignant stories of artists who lived through great pain. He himself has gone through some very odd stuff, and much grief. His adult daughter died of a drug overdose even as his own professional life was in difficulty.

I could review this book in great detail, but I suppose you get the picture – it is very handsome, mature, thoughtfully spiritual and honest about the great brokenness of our lives, of our society, of our times. This book will inspire in the deepest, truest sense of the word as it evokes ways to be honest about our sadness and helps us find God’s comfort (and joy) in this season. That is uses artwork to help us get there is such a blessing as sometimes words just fail. This book is a gift for the hurting, but a gift for any of us who feel what we feel these days.

Because this book deserves to be known and taken seriously, allow me to excerpt a quote from the good Christian Century review written by Elizabeth Palmer:

Bannon… has lived through the realities of failure and grief. In this book, he intersperses carefully curated photos of Christian art with his own reflections on the artists—their lives, their tragedies, and their persistent hopes. Bannon also evokes an honest grappling with grief by including brief quotations from a variety of thinkers: Carl Jung, Annie Dillard, Terence Fretheim, Isabel Allende, Elie Wiesel, Julian of Norwich, Simone Weil, N.T. Wright, and Søren Kierkegaard make appearances. Particularly evocative are the excerpts from Friedrich Rückert’s poems, which Bannon translates here into English for the first time: “Do not wrap yourself around the night, / bathe it in eternal light. / My tent is dark, the lamp is cold, / bless the light, the Joy of the World!”


Blue Christmas: Devotions of Light in a Season of Darkness Todd Outcalt (Upper Room Books) $9.99  This little paperback is so good and so useful. As it says on the back of the Wounded in Spirit volume, “Christmas is difficult for many of us. While others are expressing joy, we’re re-living painful memories and reminders of loss.”

I suppose you know that some churches have “Blue Christmas” services.  It makes perfect sense – not only because of the need to help those who are “blue” but because the season itself, liturgically speaking, is a bit somber. Advent is a time of waiting, of longing, of unfulfilled desire, of anticipation for God’s healing.

The upcoming holiday season will magnify loneliness, anxiety, and grief. Outcalt, an experienced United Methodist pastor, explains that “many feel lost, even abandoned and more alone than ever.”

Many Advent devotionals speak about darkness and light. Blue Christmas applies those familiar metaphors to those who really are full of hurt and fear and disappointment. He offers Scripture and prayers, meditations and concrete action steps to walk through the darkness during this time of year.  It includes questions for personal reflection (or group discussion) and a worship service plan for congregational use. Pastors – you need to have this on hand to share with those God brings across your path this month.

Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional Paul David Tripp (Crossway) $17.99 Crossway released this in a sturdy hardback, with some slight aesthetic touches of colored ink at spots, I suppose, so that it can be used with delight over and over. It’s that kind of book, written by a gospel-drenched, clearly Christ-focused pastor and counselor. You may know his yearlong devotional New Morning Mercies or his many self-help books that help us appropriate the gospel into our own struggling lives, marriages, parenting, and such. Come Let Us Adore Him came out last year, but many missed hearing about it so we wanted to highlight it again. As one reviewer says, it does well what we should want in such a book – it offers solid theology that yields to profound devotion and doxology. (By the way, there is at the end of each daily reading a suggestion for further study and some guidance for parents of younger children.)

Home for Christmas: Tales of Hope & Second Changes Justine Coleman (Abingdon) $16.99  Wow. This unique book is a very fine, short, stand-alone study with four good chapters – maybe you could use it as a family, or in a small group, but it’s good for individual reading, too. There is also a DVD ($39.99) for a Sunday school class or Adult Education forum (and, of course, a Leader’s Guide ($12.99) for those leading conversations about the DVD curriculum) and a youth edition book ($9.99.)This is really an amazing study and we simply do not know anything else like it.

Home for Christmas is extraordinary for a number of reasons.  Maybe you’d get a hint of its vital substance to learn that the beloved Catholic urban ministry priest, Gregory Boyle, has a foreword.   In fact, much of Home for Christmas and the “second chance” stories come from Boyle’s Homeboy Industries. (There is a “for further study” list in the back for after-the-holidays reading and he names Boyle’s Tattoos of the Heart and his more recent Barking with the Choir; anybody who recommends those is worth reading, right?)

We all have longings for home, desires for a more profound, lasting experience of hope, love, joy, and peace. If you let these formerly incarcerated or gang-affiliated men and women tell their stories, these themes just might come alive in fresh ways for many of us. This is fresh, inspiring, raw, and real, and shows how “the light of Christmas shines brightly even in hard times.” That sounds like a cliché, but in Coleman’s hands, as he opens up the Bible in conversation with these brave men and women of the streets, it is anything but.

Coleman is a black pastor of a United Methodist church in Chapel Hill NC. He studied theology at Duke and the back cover has a rave endorsement from his former professor Stanley Hauerwas, who says that “this is a hopeful book that makes hope possible.”

A Vintage Christmas: A Collection of Stories and Poems (Thomas Nelson) $17.99 We are always on the lookout for holiday anthologies that include must-read seasonal pieces and a few surprising or lesser known works. This is a trim sized hardback that feels nice in the hand and looks nice. It includes stories and sketches and poems by Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, L.M. Montgomery, Christina Rossetti, Anne Bronte, Samuel Coleridge, and more. Do you know the letter Mark Twain wrote from Santa to his three-year old daughter? The poems range from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Christmas Bells” to the amazing “Ring Out Wild Bells” (from In Memoriam) by Tennyson to a Joyce Kilmer (you know her poem about trees) one called “Wartime Christmas.”

Advent for Everyone: Luke N.T. Wright (WJK) $16.00 Who wouldn’t want to hear what Tom Wright offers as a daily devotional through the Gospel of Luke? The wider church uses Luke in this year’s lectionary (Year C) so this is perfect. (By the way, last year Tom released a similar daily devotional, also called Advent for Everyone, that studied the Epistles. We highly recommend that, too!) Here he shares incisive Bible commentary for each day through the Saturday after the Fourth Sunday in Advent and offers a thought-provoking question for either personal or small group question. You get his original translation of the text, too, as you’d find in his “For Everyone” commentaries.


Advent: The Gift of New Hope Christopher L. Webber (Abingdon) $9.99  This is the 2018 edition of the “Scriptures for the Church Seasons” study which is a five-week Advent study based on the Revised Common Lectionary. This is designed for small group use and there are leader helps included in each chapter. It interacts with the given Year C Old Testament, Gospel and Epistle texts. Nothing like it in print.

Webber (who graduated from Princeton University and General Theological Seminary, has written several other books, including the very creative Dear Friends: The Letters of St. Paul to the Christians in America.)

Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ Timothy Keller (Penguin) $15.00 This was out in hardback last year and we are very glad that it is now available in a trim sized, less costly paperback. You could buy a bunch, and maybe you should!  What solid, no-nonsense, serious-minded, warm-hearted, Scripture study this is!  Of course, Keller is known as a thoughtful and engaging pastor of a large, culturally-aware and socially-involved PCA church in New York. (I know, he is too conservative for some, and too liberal for others, too intellectual for many. Trust me, this is a great book for any thoughtful reader of any persuasion!)

Since the Reverend Keller left the church last year he is busy writing (his new, short book on Jonah is brilliant!) and leading a network of edgy but orthodox church planters wanting to advance the gospel and seek the common good for their cities and locales. Keller has a way to help us clearly understand and more intellectually explain the core truths of the Christian faith and the vast implications (personally and socially) of focusing on first things first, the gospel work of the servant King who was born as a babe. For any who wonder about the historicity of these first century accounts or the spiritual relevance, give this a try. Given the darkness of our world, a little clarity about truth and a lot about the Light sure is helpful. Very highly recommended.

Bright Evening Star: Mystery of the Incarnation Madeleine L’Engle (Convergent) $15.00  Oh my, if Tim Keller is a bit left brainy, this is smart, but rather right-brained, if you will, as you might expect from an artist and creative fiction and non-fiction writer. It is said that this lovely, literary work by a master spiritual writer “contemplates the mystery and the majesty of the Incarnation.” Bright Evening Star, just now out in a new paperback edition, is a deeply personal narrative by a dear woman and thoughtful scholar and beloved novelist pointing us towards the still-point of the holiday, which she calls “a time of awed silence.”

L’Engle writes:

            “Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the starts held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song and the angels clapped their hands for joy?”

This brand new edition with great cover design that matches the other recent reissues includes a valuable foreword by memoirist Addie Zierman who says Madeleine’s book offers words that “feel like a sharp inhale of hope to me now” and a new reader’s guide.


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