Advent begins in a few days! I wanted to share a quick list of devotional books we've enjoyed over the past few years. You'll notice that we definitely lean toward art/literature/liturgy in our devotional material. Also, we've used each of these books (some every year) except for the Jesus Storybook Bible because we totally missed that beautiful train when our kids were little. (Definitely adding to my wish list for visits from, God wiling, future grandchildren.) I include it here, because pretty much everyone I know with little ones loves this book, and this year there's a free reading guide for Advent.
I added a book or two, along with a quick bullet list of what I love about each book below.
(Also, p.s. there are all kinds of affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!)
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe
- my all-time favorite Advent devotional, now and forever, amen
- 1 or 2 gorgeous, full-color art plates (both classic and contemporary) for each day of Advent and Christmastide
- devotional introductions and reflections on the weekly Scipture readings and prayers include authors like Eugene Peterson, Scott Cairns, Luci Shaw, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus and Kathleen Norris
- a beautiful addition to your Advent & Christmas decorations (We put this book on an easel next to our nativity along with some Bibles for people to pick up and read when they have quiet moments.)
- A collection of 40 essays includes some of the most thoughtful Christian writers and theologians in the last century: C. S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Philip Yancey, Madeleine L'Engle, Henri Nouwen, Annie Dillard, Kathleen Norris, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day and more
- You can benefit by reading one essay for each of the 40 days of Advent and Christmas or pick a couple to deeply meditate over and over. Each essay is brief enough to read in less than 15 minutes but weighty enough to think about for days or weeks.
- very simple and brief (yet substantive!) entry for each day of Advent and Christmas (brief excerpt, one Scripture verse, prayer and recommended activity per day)
- G. K. Chesterton has been called a Christmas Elf with his great love (and prolific writing) of the season. Each tiny excerpt if chock full of wit and wisdom
- each entry includes an idea for simple, meditative application (Our family morphed the books ideas into our own back when we first used the book in 2011. You can see our daily "make or do" list here: Advent Activities to coordinate with the Chesterton reader )
A Season of Little Sacraments: Christmas Commotion, Advent Grace by Susan H. Swetnam
- This is the best guide I've ever reading that integrates the Advent devotional themes of waiting, quiet, and confession with the sorts of activities that we need to do in order to celebrate Christmas well. Think: choosing gifts, planning a Christmas party, last-minute shopping, and trimming the tree becoming "little sacraments".
- Or, as the book cover describes: "For readers who want to experience a truly sacred Advent without fleeing completely from contemporary society."
- Swetnam's writing style is conversational while still inspirational. Throughout the book she describes her particular journey as a young widow, and how she's learned to bring that suffering into her Advent practices.
- Her first Advent practice each year? MAKING A PLAYLIST! I didn't need to read further to know I'd love this author.
The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming by Wendy M. Wright
- This is my first year with The Vigil, but I've very much enjoyed Wendy Wright's correlating devotional The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter and Pentecost
- I'm always grateful for devotionals that cover the whole arc of a liturgical cycle. We gain so much when we walk with Christ through the biblical narratives of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (same with Lent, Easter and Pentecost)
- I appreciate Wright's devotional voice. In the narrative she interjects from her own life she manages to speak with both warmth and soundness without tipping over into sentimentality or coldness. I appreciate the balance, and find it lacking from many female devotional writers.
- I appreciate Wright's applications of classic music and literature into the weekly Advent reflections.
Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross
- one of the best devotionals we've seen that covers the entire year
- the authors simple, but meaningful introductions for each liturgical season are especially helpful for those who are new to following the Church calendar
- the New Living Translation and a devotional that follows the full liturgical calendar,
- the devotional includes writings from saints on every continent and within every century, gorgeous, theologically-rich artwork from historic and contemporary artists and a space for your own written reflections
- The readings are the same from the complete Mosaic Bible, but the small booklet is great for carrying in a purse or sharing with a friend or family member.
- The booklet is only $1.99 and includes the same full color artwork as the Mosaic Bible. Wonderful resource for a family, small group, Sunday School class, or an entire church community.
- This could even make a beautiful Christmas card or gift (if you send them out early enough as it stops with Christmas Day.)
- On the downside: the print is really small, so it could be hard to use for a certain population (ahem)
Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany compiled by Sarah Arthur
- A prayer, Psalm, Scripture readings, poetry and fiction selections for each week of Advent, Christmastide and Epiphany, with additional selections for the holy days of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Epiphany.
- Poetry and fictions selections include both classic and contemporary writers: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens, O. Henry, Susanna Childress, Scott Cairns, T. S. Eliot, William Shakespeare, G. K. Chesterton, Tania Runyan, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Gregory Wolfe and more!
- This is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to develop more fully in the practice of spiritual reading.
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones (here's a daily reading plan for Advent using the Jesus Storybook Bible)
- Every person I know who owns this book loves it (and many adults admit they love it for themselves as much as for their children).
- While it is a storybook that covers the whole Bible, some very helpful people have selected readings to cover each day of Advent. (For example, here: Advent Readings with the Jesus Storybook Bible via Home With the Boys)
- UPDATE: The publishers and author have created a lovely Advent reading companion for the Storybook Bible, and it's FREE! You can download it here.
Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home (Advent and Christmas) edited by Jessica Snell
- a simply-gathered collection of ideas for living out the liturgical year with your family, and is especially geared toward families with young children
- ideas are holistic and tactile (e.g., Scripture readings, recipes, history of certain traditions, activity ideas, etc.)
- a go-to book if your family is new to celebrating the liturgical seasons