This photo of my youngest is one of my very favorites—his joy over the lighting of the Advent candle is infectious! It’s not Advent yet, but soon, soon.
This coming Sunday, November 20, is the final Sunday of the church year, on which we celebrate Christ the King, eternal Lord of all. It is a day of looking forward to the return of our King at the end of history and a hopeful reminder (especially in this election year when far too many of us have staked our hopes on temporal government) that Christ is, even now, Lord of heaven and earth.
The following Sunday, November 27, is the first Sunday of Advent and of a new church year, and so we go back to the beginning of the Gospels and await the coming of Immanuel, God-with-us. But we wait as people who know the end of the story. We wait with the words of John in Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Though I love all the church’s seasons, Advent is perhaps my favorite. I have more resources for it than for all the other seasons combined! I share with you a few in the hope that they will help make your Advent preparations more mindful and more meaningful.
First, a bit of embarrassed self-promotion: my book on the church year, The Circle of Seasons is now available on Kindle. I also have a dwindling number of paperback copies available; just shoot me an email if you want one. They’re $12 each (including shipping to a U.S. address).
Second, my friend Kris Camealy has written a book of Advent devotions, Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting, which are rich in Scripture and speak again and again that ancient cry of the church, “Come, Lord Jesus,” calling us to wait with hopeful, joyful expectation of God’s tabernacling with us.
Third, Malcolm Guite’s Waiting on the Word was my companion through Advent and Christmas last year—a poem a day to keep beauty and truth and the wonder of Incarnation before my eyes. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Fourth, a Jesse Tree devotional, written by yours truly and illustrated by 40 different artists, ages 3 to 83, from my church, Bethany Presbyterian, in Seattle. There’s a devotion for each day of Advent and Christmas. It’s free through December 1.
Fifth, if you’re looking for good books to read with your littles (or not-so littles) this season, to help all of you prepare your hearts for Christmas, here’s are a few of our family’s favorites (as in, we read them every year):
The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Berger (the illustrations are rich and full of Christian symbols)
Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, illus. Barbara Cooney (Cooney’s simple four-color illustrations are a perfect complement to the simple, sweet rhyme by the author of Goodnight Moon; )
One Winter’s Night by John Herman, illus. Leo and Diane Dillon (a sweet story about a lost cow finding shelter in the same barn as Mary and Joseph; one of the few with a Holy Family that doesn’t look Anglo.)
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illus. Mark Buehner (one of my very favorites; don’t miss this!)
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illus. P.J. Lynch (another of my very, very favorites; a desert island Christmas book for sure!)
The Witness by Robert Westall, illus. Sophy Williams (a retelling of the Christmas story from the point of view of a barn cat, it definitely takes some liberties with the Biblical text, particularly the character of Joseph, but we enjoy it anyway.)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (laugh out loud funny—especially if you’ve never read it before!)
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham, illus. Richard Jesse Watson (the whole Biblical story from Creation through Fall to Redemption, and the illustrations [like the one above, of the angel guarding Eden] are gorgeous!)
A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy (I adore this story of hope and restoration)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illus. P.J. Lynch (there are other good illustrated versions, but we love Lynch’s)
And finally, if you only read one Advent meditation this season, let it be this beautiful post by Lanier Ivester, a paean of praise sparked by the flight of sandhill cranes. I’ve read it every year for the past four years (and even posted it with Lanier’s permission on my blog last year because I love it that much) and every time, it quickens my heart with joy and longing, thickens my throat with tears even as I whisper a broken, heartfelt, Come, Lord Jesus. Come.
A blessed Advent to you all. May you pause in the midst of the holiday preparations to watch the beauty and glory of ordinary life unfold—this life that God the Son came to share, to save, and to redeem.