Advent begins on Sunday, if you can believe it.

This season of getting ready for Christmas doesn’t have to be co-opted by Amazon and the mall. To help minimize the consumer insanity, may I suggest a few resources for thoughtful living during the coming weeks?

First, a Jesse Tree Devotional.

The Jesse Tree is a way to prepare for the coming of Christ. That word coming? In Latin, it’s adventus, where we get our word Advent. ¬†Through the weeks of Advent, the Jesse Tree helps us tell the stories of faith, so we can see the whole Story that culminates in the birth of that baby in Bethlehem all those centuries ago.

Last year 40 artists of all ages from our church contributed art for the Jesse Tree ornaments. I wrote the devotions. For each day of Advent and Christmas (because Christmas is a season, not a day), there is a story from Scripture, a prayer, a question for reflection or discussion, and an activity (though I highly recommend only doing one or two of the activities each week so as not to make yourself crazy).

Made by and for our church community, it’s a family-friendly little booklet, a gift from our community to you and yours. (And yes, it’s free. A gift always is.) In order to make a Jesse Tree, you’ll also want the ornament template.

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Second, a book of meditations compiled by Christine Sine.

Each year, Christine asks a number of writers and bloggers to reflect on an Advent theme on her blog, Godspace. She’s collected many of these pieces (including two of mine) into a lovely book called Waiting for the Light. In addition to a meditation for each day of Advent and Christmas, the book also includes a liturgy for each week of Advent and for the Christmas season.

A print version of Waiting for the Light is available through Mustard Seed Associates for $18 (including shipping). You can also get a Kindle version or a PDF version for $10 each. All proceeds go to support MSA’s mission work.

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Finally, an article by Rodney Clapp that I’ve returned to almost every Advent for 15 years.

Published in Christianity Today in October 1996, “Why the Devil Takes Visa” provides a helpful look at the history of American consumerism and offers several case studies of ways that Christians have attempted to live in this cultural milieu without being absorbed by it.

If you only read one thing this Advent, please read this. It’s thoughtful, thought-provoking, and more than worth every minute you’ll spend.

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My whole goal during Advent is to keep the craziness away so that I can focus on getting ready for Jesus. This is why I offer only three resources: because I don’t want overwhelm you any more than I want to be overwhelmed myself.

May God bless you with silence and wonder and joy as you prepare for the coming of Christ.

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