TWELVE NEW ADVENT RESOURCES AND SOME OLDER CLASSICS (and an offer for some bargain pricing on expedited shipping, good until Novermber 30th.)
I know these Advent recommendations are a bit late coming for some of you so here’s what we’ll do. For an order from this list placed here through our website (or by phone or email) this week only, we’ll upgrade your shipping to “Priority Mail” charging you just $5.00, no matter the size of the package. We’ll cover the rest to get a shipment of Advent resources to you in just a few days. (Sorry, this is just good for our US customers since international shipping is more complicated.)
We will describe some children’s Advent and Christmas books in another BookNotes soon.
Know anybody you can send this to? We’d sure appreciate it — I know a few of these worth books are titles that most likely aren’t on folks radar, that aren’t terribly well known. I’ll bet you know somebody who would appreciate the news. And the discounts. Thanks for helping us get the word out.
TWELVE BRAND NEW ADVENT RESOURCES
Advent Is God With Us: An Advent Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Robin Wilson (Abingdon) $9.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $7.99 We highlight this resource each year, an annually done, nice Bible study book for Adult classes, small groups, preachers needing study insights to the Lectionary texts for the season or anyone who wants to do a bit more than a quick Advent devotional reading. This booklet offers five thorough studies, this year mostly on Isaiah and Matthew (the readings for Year A.)
Robin Wilson is the senior pastor of a large United Methodist church in Alabama, has served on the Board of Upper Room Ministries and she is a graduate of Duke Divinity School.
Advent for Everyone – Matthew: A Daily Devotional N.T. Wright (WJK) $16.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.80 I suppose you know the compact New Testament for Everyone commentaries by Wright. This devotional is very much like those, but not reprinted from them. That is, this is fresh, new material. Always clear, insightful, useful, often with a helpful illustration or story to make the point. An added bonus is Wright’s own “Kingdom” translation of the Greek text. And so, these brief reflections are ideal for anyone who wants to work through the Year A gospel passages or who wants a Biblically-focused study. Good for personal use or for a small group or Adult class.
Rejoice! Advent in All of Scriptures Chris Wright & John Stott (IVP-UK) $12.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $9.60 How great to import this from England via IVP here in the states – what a gem of a little book. I hope you know John Stott, one of the leading evangelical voices in the entire world in the last decades years of the 20th century and into the early 2000s. He was kind and rigorous, orthodox and justice-minded, thoughtful and wise, missional before the phrase was used. Some of my favorite writers to this day see Stott as a mentor and his books as among their most sturdy influences.
In this new book, Old Testament scholar and International Ministry Director of Langham Partnership (one of the global organizations Stott founded) Chris Wright offers a Biblical meditation jump-started by a quote or quip or excerpt from a John Stott book. There are 25 Advent readings, drawn from throughout the Bible, each linked to a Stott quote or story. This is more than just a tribute to John Stott, more than a Christ Wright devotional (although either would make the price of the book a good investment for your study) but the synergy here is notable, good, inspired. Do you see your life somehow part of the big Biblical story? This book will help you see the big picture of the drama of Scripture as it unfolds and it will help you understand Christmas in its full-orbed Kingdom context, and it will remind you (or introduce you) to the wit and wisdom of the late John Stott, the sort of leader that gave evangelicalism a good name.
The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught up in the Story of Jesus Daniel Darling (Moody Press) $13.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $11.19 Listen to me here: I bet you, like Beth and I, have sat through bunches of sermons on various characters of the Bible story. It is a fairly easy sermon series to do, it seems, a common trope. That’s not to say the sermons we’ve heard or the books we’ve read about these personalities and their episodes in the Christmas accounts are simplistic, but they can be a bit sentimental or miss the mark of the huge, redemptive story breaking in on human history in the birth of the Christ child. As we often note, too often our Bible study and churchy sermonizing is not gospel centered but mere moralism. We ought to be brave or just or kind or have a lot of faith. We should do this or that. Too often we miss what God is doing in the story, how we are invited in to God’s own gracious working out of God’s own plan.
Daniel Darling is a brilliant young scholar and activist of sorts, active promoting (mostly within his conservative Southern Baptist circles) a fuller vision of a Christian social ethic beyond the typical conservative family values. His groundbreaking book The Dignity Revolution makes the case that humans made in the image of God carry innate dignity which serves as the foundation for standing up for the fair treatment of immigrants and prisoners and the elderly and the disabled – sort of a consistent pro-life ethic applied to racism and poverty and such. (Oh, if more anti-abortion folks were more adept and making this case – if they even believe it, which some do, I’m sure.) Darling gets that God’s Kingdom is multi-dimensional and that our work in the world is for the common good; let justice roll down! He knows the full gospel and knows well the ethical implications that flow from it. (Beth and I so enjoyed hearing him lecture and chatting with him and, yep, selling books to him, at the recent Christian Legal Society annual conference in Chicago.) So our hats are tipped to this good, very well read, young dude.
And my hat is tipped again for how he has redeemed this tired trope of looking at each of the Bible characters in the Christmas narratives. As a good writer, he brings fresh energy and colorful insight to the lives of Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and more. You’ll lean about the innkeeper and the angels, the shepherds and wise men, and, yes, Herod. I loved the chapter on Simeon and Anna – what pathos this story carries, and how wonderfully it reminds us of the ancient promises. In fact, speaking of which, there is a chapter here called “The Surprising People in Jesus’ Family.” I’ve preached on the genealogy texts and it’s a blast to uncover this good stuff. Kudos to DD for bringing the Word even in what is at first glance a boring list of begetting.
Like many recent Moody Press books there are a few nice design touches – some red ink, some graphics that enhance the text. There are good reflection questions (that could be used in a family with kids, I’d think) and a suggested Christmas recording. Many of these songs, by the way, are excellent choices, and not always your well-known carols. You can find the songs on Google, I’m sure, and have some fun as you read after you read each interesting chapter in The Characters of Christmas.
Hey, just so you know: Darling may be a Southern Baptist fella, but guess what author he cites, I think more than any other in his fascinating footnotes that includes everyone from J. Vernon McGee to Frederick Buechner, from Tim Keller to Martin Luther? Who? Fleming Rutledge and her essential book Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ. Just saying. We highly recommend The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught up in the Story of Jesus by Daniel Darling.
Keep Watch With Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers compiled by Claire Brown & Michael McRay (Abingdon Press) $16.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59 What a book! Even the beautiful cover, if pondered, is a bit jarring. What a broken world we live in, and yet there’s that star, that glimmer of hope over the barbed wire. Given that the angels announcing the weighty, holy, glory of God come to Earth on that first Christmas sang about “peace on Earth” one would think that peacemaking might be more connected to Christmas than merely a ubiquitous sentiment on greeting cards or yard decorations. Good will often abounds in this time of year, but, really, how might this holy season invite us to more risky and bold actions for peace and justice and social righteousness? This little one-of-a-kind devotional will inspire you to think about this very thing.
Each entry in this Keep Watch with Me Advent devotional offers a story of a mostly unknown (but occasionally well-recognized) peacemaker or justice leader. One is written by a gifted prisoner. Others are involved in various significant social ministries. You may have heard of (and will certainly enjoy) reflections by Nontombi Naomi Tutu and Shane Claiborne, Irish mystic and peacemaker Padraig O Tuama, Middle Eastern evangelical activist Sami Awad, Tennessee-based Becca Stevens to Belfast born/North Carolinian film critic Gareth Higgins, and bunches of other eloquent, unsung activists with stories to tell around Advent texts and prayers, connected to their deep passions for peacemaking, reconciliation, and justice.
I love this book and ask, and hope, that you consider it. Maybe you could gift it to a rising activist, or an old-timer who needs a reminder to keep at it. Why not buy a couple of Keep Watch With Me and share them?
As Brian McLaren writes of it
I can’t imagine a more meaningful, interesting, spiritually enriching, and relevant Advent resource than this. Amazing people with amazing insights for a season of wonder and welcome.
Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent Amy-Jill Levine (Abingdon Press) book – $16.99; DVD – $39.99; Leader’s Guide – $14.99 OUR SALE PRICES: book = $13.59; DVD = $31.99; Leader’s Guide = $11.99 I hope you know the popular Professor Levine (New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School.) She has brought her Jewish faith and her academic scholarship of first century Judaism to the study of Jesus and the gospel in books like The Misunderstood Jew, Short Stories by Jesus, The Annotated Jewish New Testament and last Spring’s Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week.) This new one by Amy-Jill Levine has been our biggest selling new Advent book these last few weeks as many are intrigued with her new look at the history of the birth of Christ, tracing the Christmas narrative through the stories of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and other standard seasonal texts. Of course, everyone knows these gospel texts have obvious and profound connections to Old Testament texts; as one Lutheran scholar put it, “There’s no one I’d rather have guide me through Advent and the first chapters of Matthew and Luke than Amy-Jill Levine.” There are four good chapters to the book, four lively sessions in the DVD. The four-week Leader’s Guide includes session plans, activities, and discussion questions, as well as multiple format options.
Watch this short video trailer to hear her say why she (as an outsider to the Christian faith) loves Christmas and how she’ll guide us — with laughter, a little bit of Hebrew, and a little bit of Greek — to get more out of these beloved stories.
Christmas in the Four Gospel Homes: An Advent Study Cynthia M. Campbell (WJK) $13.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.40 Okay, this is a creatively conceived, lovely little book. Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to decorate your home for the holidays inspired by each of the four gospels? What would “Mark’s house” or “John’s house” or “Matthew’s house” look like if decorated for Christmas? In other words, how might a house look for Christmas, this book asks, if it is based on what each gospel says about it? There are beautiful illustrations from architect Kevin Burns, even. Nice idea, huh?
Dr. Cynthia Campbell is the former President of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and is pastor of Highland Presbyterian in Louisville. She has contributed to the preaching guide Feasting on the World and the worship planning resource Connections. How nice to have a book that celebrates and explores the unique tellings of the Christmas story from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – and connected to this somewhat sensual and visual construction.
Freedom Is Coming: From Advent to Epiphany with the Prophet Isaiah Nick Baines (SPCK) $15.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00 It seems to me one can hardly understand the fullest meaning of Jesus’ incarnation and the Christmas season without spending quality time with Isaiah. This is a good serious of what Paula Gooder says are “deep but accessible reflections.” The Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) says Baines “brings out both challenge and hope from living Advent side by side with the story of God’s people in Isaiah. A great book.”
There are six weeks of daily reflections, well written, important, I think. One Cambridge Anglican Dean says Freedom is Coming “dispels illusions without leaving us disillusioned.” What a blessing to have a resource like this, walking us through the complexities of the extraordinary Isaiah.
Wake Up to Advent! Archbishop John Mugabi Sentamu (SPCK) $15.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00 We are grateful we can important books from this good UK publisher through our friends at InterVarsity Press; this one is the Advent book selected for a big read by the Archbishop of York (England) and we think it looks amazing. The brilliant Oliver O’Donovan wrote the foreword and Sir Philip Mawer says it is “the perfect antidote to the stress and commercialism of our preparations for Christmas.”
Archbishop Sentamu reminds us of the Apostle Paul’s works in Romans,
This is the hour of crisis: it is high time for you to wake out of sleep, for deliverance is nearer to us now than it was when we first believed.
Using that as a springboard he call us to Wake up, Clean up, Feed up, and Grow up. This is lively and invigorating, written by a Ugandan-born, evangelically-minded, Anglican bishop serving as Metropolitan of York and a Primate, making him the second most senior clerical position in the Church of England (after that of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.) So nice to have such an important little book available on this side of the pond.
Repeat the Sounding Joy: A Daily Advent Devotional on Luke 1 – 2 Christopher Ash (The Good Book Company) $12.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39 Are you looking for a classic, no-nonsense but warm-hearted explication of the Luke texts for the season? Christopher Ash is a fine thinker and writer, a straight-arrow Reformed theologian in the heritage, perhaps, of the Puritans or the Banner of Truth Trust. Blurbs on the back cover include great endorsements such as one by speaker and author Kathleen Nielson who says Repeat the Sounding Joy is “profound and wonderfully Word-filled.” Sam Allberry (of Ravi Zacharias Ministries) notes that it shows us “the refreshing, startling realities that lie behind our Christmas festivities.”
There are 24 reflections, each with hymn or carol lyrics to ponder, a closing prayer and a lined page for journaling. Ashe himself is a writer-in-residence at Tyndale House in Cambridge.
7 Days of Christmas: A Season of Generosity Jen Hatmaker (Abingdon Press) $21.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $17.59 What a great gift book, a square sized, smallish hardback, nicely packaged with glossy paper and color drawings and sketches, making this a great gift to share with anyone who may feel stressed during the holiday. Perhaps you know Ms. Hatmaker’s first book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess which was her story of cutting out excess and inviting us follow her guidance into seven categories/areas of life where we need relief and liberation. Following those same seven categories – kitchen, fashion, stuff, streaming, tossing, spending, stressing – in which we’ve practiced idolatrous and unhealthy behaviors causing distortion and anxiety, Hatmaker here shares simple ideas for replacing excess in each arena this Christmas.
7 Days of Christmas… is witty and lively, funny, even, as she tries to help us find relief from the constant pressure to “manufacture joy.” You may know and value the big picture study The Advent Conspiracy which we still recommend (both DVD and book!) This new one, though, is a simple, gifty version. We heartily recommend it. She says it is for:
“…every jingle-bell sweater-wearing, Michelin-rated casserole-making wife, mother, sister and friend” or those who who may be “hitting your limits on more than just your plastic.”
The Wondrous Mystery: An Upper Room Advent Reader (Upper Room Books) $9.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $7.99 Even before the current church emphasis on spiritual practices and contemplative/monastic spirituality, Upper Room Books, from Nashville, has long published gentle and touching reflections, often rooted in a mature awareness of the issues of our interior lives. Perhaps you know of their beautiful journal Weavings which for years has published literarily rich and thoughtful spiritual reflections and essays. This wondrous (if brief) and inexpensive new seasonal collection brings together for the first time some of the best and most beloved pieces from Weavings published about Advent during the last 30 years by exceptional authors such as Barbara Brown Taylor, Henri Nouwen, Sue Monk Kidd, Wendy Wright, John Mogabgab, even Wendell Berry. What a delight to see in book form some of this pieces that were only seen by those who subscribed to Weavings.
Each entry has a brief reading, a reflection question and a short prayer. This is affordable and brief but my, my – so good. I’m sure many are going to appreciate and hold the messages in their hearts.
A FEW MUST-READ, RECENT CLASSICS – FAVORITES FROM PREVIOUS BOOKNOTES WHICH WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) $30.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00 Last year I raved and raved about this, insisting that I have never, ever, read anything like it. (I have promoted it at events off site as well, holding it and waving it and trying to persuade folks that it is worth every penny.) Those who know Rev. Rutledge’s many books of sermons or her great book on Tolkien (The Battle for Middle Earth) or her magisterial tome The Crucifixion, know that she is one of the most important theological voices – a working preacher, actually – alive today. I am not exaggerating her importance (or her eloquence.) She is a friend and hero to us; anyone that knows her knows of her sharp mind, her Christ-centered demeanor, and her sermons and lectures on the gospel, always informed by care study of the Biblical texts and mature theology about which is punctilious without being anything close to being fundamentalist. This book collects a lifetime’s worth of sermons for Advent (and Christmas and Epiphany, too and a few others.)
This book collects the most robust, sturdy, solid, important, lively, eloquent, seasonal sermons I’ve ever heard. As with some of her other sermon collections, she brings in allusions to film, articles in national newspapers or magazines, and current events (often in New York City where most of these sermons were preached) and the arts. There is a fabulous frontispiece in Advent explaining the Blake drawing on the cover which is, in fact, the basis for the sermon in this collection called “What’s In Those Lamps?” Again, this book is, doubtlessly, the most important such collection in print.
I know I’m prone to enthusiasm whenever I find a book or author I like. But trust me here: there is no book written that I know of in our lifetime that even approximates such a profound and Biblical study of the season of Advent and its requisite longings, hard looks, somber tones. With blurbs on the back from Richard Hays and Wesley Hill and Alan Jacobs and Marilyn McEntyre who call it everything from edgy to unflinching to eloquent to sober, you know it is to be taken seriously.
Dr. Hays says the writing in Advent
“bursts upon us with the same elemental force as the preaching of John the Baptist… do not drift anesthetized through another season of Advent: read this book.”
Last December we decided to read a number of these sermons out loud during an Adult Education Sunday school class in our fairly ordinary PCUSA church and, engaging as the sermons are, I wondered if it would work. I feared the good folks in my Sunday school class might not be up for such intense preaching, let alone just reading them out loud and studying them. Alas, our fears were misguided – the class was a big hit. The sermons that we selected from the beginning of this almost 400-page book were very well received and the conversation was edifying and fruitful. Especially for those of us who don’t do Advent well – Rutledge is an Episcopalian and rigorous about the liturgical season among those who at least have heard of it – Advent is a godsend. Unlike many pop books, it is one you should own and keep. We cannot exclaim enough how important and beautiful and useful this exceptional volume is.
The Art of Advent: A Painting a Day from Advent to Epiphany Jane Williams (SPCK) $15.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00 This was our biggest selling Advent devotional book last season (as the Lenten companion, The Art of Lent by Sister Wendy Beckett, was our biggest selling Lenten devotional last Easter time as well.) We are so glad to announce it again as it is just a fabulous little book –a full color painting reproduced for each day of Advent with a lovely devotional on the facing page. This is compact sized and quite affordable and the paintings are diverse. That is, they are not all obviously about the nativity, but Williams sees into the artwork, knows something about the painters, and weaves a bit of art history and aesthetic insight into an interesting and uplifting Advent devotion. What tremendous and invigorating and classy little readings these are — very highly recommended. There are nearly 40 famous and lesser-known masterpieces here, and it will, they hope, “lead you into a deeply prayerful response to all that these paintings convey to the discerning eye. What a great gift this is, too – sturdy paper, full color, sophisticated but not too heady or too expensive. Get a few and give ‘em out. You won’t regret it. I explained a bit more about it last year in our Advent list, which you can visit here.
Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany compiled by Sarah Arthur (Paraclete) $18.99 OUR SALE PRICE $15.19 This is a prayer book comprised of excerpts of great literature, poets, playwrights (old and new) aligned with Biblical texts. What a feast! (You may know of her others in this series, similar literary devotional guides. The one for Lent and Easter is called Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide and the marvelous one for Ordinary Time is At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time. We are happy to carry several other Sarah Arthur books, from her tremendous co-written memoir about community and discipleship (The Year of Small Things) to her spiritual biography of Madeleine L’Engle, A Light So Lovely. She’s a great writer and wise compiler of the good, good stuff.
Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $13.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.40 Although this came out three years ago, we continue to promote it. Walt Brueggemann, one of the great Bible scholars and church activists of our day preaches with evocative insight and writes stuff like this:
“Advent is not the kind of ‘preparation’ that involves shopping and parties and cards. Such illusions of abundance disguises the true cravings of our weary souls. Advent is preparation for the demands of newness that will break the tired patterns of fear in our lives.”
Some of these are drawn from the two volumes of his collected sermons but most are newly published. Remarkable.
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Plough Publishing) $24.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20 Over the years this has been one of our consistent best sellers and a handsome hand-sized hardback book people delight in, treasure, recommend. (They then buy the Lenten/Easter companion volume Bread and Wine.) It includes short readings from great writers from throughout church history from Thomas Aquinas to Annie Dillard, John Donne to Martin Luther, Thomas Merton to Evelyn Underhill. Where can you find, I often ask, eloquent portions of writers as good but as diverse as Guardini, L’Engle, Kierkegaard, Oscar Romero, and Philip Yancey? Beautiful stuff.
Bright Evening Star: Mystery of the Incarnation Madeleine L’Engle (Convergent) $15.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00 This first was released in 1997 by the publishing imprint developed by Harold and Luci Shaw and it was beloved by many. After oddly being unavailable for a long while it was reissued a year ago with a great new cover and a lovely new foreword by thoughtful memoirist Addie Zierman. For those that enjoy Madeleine’s previous memoirs or nonfiction reflections such as The Rock That is Higher or Icons and Golden Calves (both also recently reissued) Bright Evening Star offers stories and ruminations and theological reflections by a great poet and writer. Includes a “reader’s guide” making it ideal for a holiday book club.
Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ Timothy Keller (Penguin) $15.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00 I suppose you know how we esteem the great and insightful books by Tim Keller; we stock them all. As you may know he was a serious pastor in lower Manhattan, doing a church plant that has attracted thousands of (often young, often successful, often sophisticated) seekers with a need for the gospel and a desire to learn about how their vocations and callings in the world are related to their faith. (He has retired as pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian and heads up a supportive church planting network called City to City, so remains exceptionally active and influential.) This book is an intellectually provocative and thoughtful exploration of the nativity story, including some of what Keller calls “the hard edges of the story.” It is enjoyable and interesting, a bit more mature than some inspirational devotionals might be; it might even be considered a work of cultural apologetics. This small paperback includes 8 chapters so it isn’t really an Advent devotional, but for those that want solid, contemporary, compelling sermons on the historical reliability and theological importance of this wonderful season, Hidden Christmas helps us uncover the “true meaning” – the very good news of hope and salvation. Not to be missed.
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas: Reader’s Edition edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press) $18.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19 If you’ve read BookNotes for years (as some stalwart friends have) you may recall may several rave reviews of this masterpiece of a book, truly one of the great Advent book releases of the last 30 years! It was firstly released as a hardcover with full color art but (as we’ve explained the last few years) the copyright for the art ran out and the little publisher had little choice but to re-issue the book without most of the artwork and lavish design) but it now available as a very handsome paperback with classy French folded covers, but not as much artwork. There are a few plates and some nice design touches making this “reader’s edition” a truly magnificent paperback. The first edition hardbacks are out of print ad unavailable.
God With Us includes an ecumenical array of thoughtful writers – Eugene Peterson, Beth Bevis, Emilie Griffin, Richard Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris and poets Scott Cairns and Luci Shaw. There’s eloquent, rich, moving insights here about the incarnation and the deeper meaning of the season and this book is a gem.
Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations David Bannon (Paraclete) $29.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99 Allow me, if you will, to simply reprint what I wrote last year about this book that had just come out last season.
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 most of 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 greater 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!”
Advent of Justice: A Book of Meditations Brian J. Walsh, J. Richard Middleton, Mark Vander Vennen, Sylvia Keesmaat (Wipf & Stock) $12.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39 I hope you recall that I did a serious BookNotes review telling about one of the most important books of 2019, a major study of the book of Romans called Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire/Demanding Justice by Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh. (Read that BookNotes review here.) (They will be visiting our store and speaking about the book this coming March so stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted.) Sylvia, as we explained in that review, is not only an ecological activist and homesteader, but continues to teach New Testament in Toronto. (She has a PhD earned years ago under N.T. Wright.) She’s an important figure in Pauline studies — especially exploring echos of Old Testament writings found in the New. I say all this to remind you — as we do almost every year — that the book she edited, Advent of Justice: A Book of Meditations, is a remarkable bit of Biblical study informed by nothing short of brilliant understanding of the relationships between Old and New Testament texts.
Here is some of what I wrote about Advent of Justice a few years ago when it was re-issued.
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 collection of four 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 and such. 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. Advent of Justice 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 construed Christmas 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 pieces many times, and get something new with each reading. Brian Walsh brings the big picture gospel to bear, as always, and Richard 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.
This thin book is not light-weight, and for those not used to Old Testament prophetic literature, or for Advent being a time to inhabit the broad Biblical drama, this may even be just a bit challenging. Not surprisingly, it has some themes of social criticism, a faithful emphasis on justice and the common good, even as the 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 to help us through this season. They invite 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 and long more urgently for the coming of justice.
By the way, if you’ve read and appreciated Keesmaat & Walsh’s Romans Disarmed or their previous Colossians Remixed you’ll love this little Advent devotional. And if you’ve read Advent of Justice as some have, you really should explore their more extended work, and the work of the author authors, all good friends, people we highly recommend. Cheers.
Coloring Advent: An Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Bethlehem Christopher D. Rodkey and Jesse & Natalie Turri (CBP) $12.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39 We have happily explained this the last few years and I’d invite you to revisit my discussion of it in a previous BookNotes announcement here. (My BookNotes review of the previous one, Coloring Lent, my be more explanatory, so enjoy that, here.) It’s super fun for a few reasons: first, Chris cooked this up while serving his church right up the street from us, so it’s truly a Dallastown book! Yay. He is an outside-of-the-box, philosophically oriented theological teacher (besides his duties as pastor of the UCC church here in town.) Chris has a few books published on indie-presses and was the editor of the immensely prestigious The Palgrave Handbook of Radical Theology (which is a momentous scholarly volume with all sorts of essays by major players in this odd stream of modern theology.) It sells for $250.00 (shame on you Palgrave!) but if you know any libraries or serious scholars, give us a shout; it’s quite a volume. But I digress, seriously.
Because, no matter that Pastor Chris has these bone fide scholarly chops, this is, yes, a coloring book. Coloring Advent follows the lectionary readings for this season of the liturgical calendar and has some provocative and thoughtful touches (Easter eggs, if you will) not to mention some fabulously interesting footnotes. There is – and this is absolutely true – nothing like it at all in print. Chris, by the way, also did one for Lent called Coloring Lent and yet another called Coloring Women with each coloring book drawing a woman of the Bible, including lesser known ones. His progressive theology and scholarly framework informs even how he did these coloring books!
As we said in previous reviews, though, delightfully curious as they may be, informed with ecumenical scholarship and duly noted Bible texts and Feast Days in the footnotes, it is, at the end of the day, a simple tool to help you slow down, relax, be attentive to the Advent texts, and engage – as in physically interact with – the God given passages from Holy Scripture. Highly recommended.
So there ya go, some brand new Advent reads and some from previous years. Great books to have, to use, and to give. All are 20% off the retail price. We can take credit cards safely at our secure order form page by clicking on the link below. Or, as we say there, we can just send a bill for you, too, if you’d rather send pay by check later. We’re happy to help and we are at your service. Thanks for caring about our recommendations and for your interest in these kinds of quality books.
May these help you and yours on your Advent journey and Christian celebrations this season.
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