It’s the first day of December, and the merchants and catalogues have been glutting my inboxes with the push to buy, spend, shop, shop, shop. A whole industry is devoted to turning this season into one giant, frantic rush to mail cards, wrap presents, stuff stockings and make the rounds of parties and lights.
I cringe and look for ways to push back the frenzy, to hold off the clamor and endless lists of things to mail and buy and do. I just want to curl up by a fire and sip something warm, to hold onto words that speak of the eternal in the midst a world of plastic and neon lights. I want to steep deep in what is true and real, the miracle of a God incarnate in the fragile flesh of an infant. This is the third Advent I have held close a swaddled newborn of my own. Have observed the tenuous, utterly needy state in which a baby arrives. To consider that the supremely powerful God would come to us in such a state. In a season that feels like a such a frenzy of rush, I want to push the pause button and simply wait. Wait, wait, and wait for the coming, to think of that one great Advent, that one great coming, that will be the culmination of all our Advents, of all our waitings…
So I choose these books and these Words to anchor me during December. To build up anticipation, during the waiting…
Good News of Great Joy , a free Advent ebook and Scripture reading plan by John Piper, which includes a short devotional for each day along with a scripture passage. I actually found it because it’s a reading plan option on YouVersion, the Bible reading app I love and use frequently (especially because of the option to listen to daily scripture passage read aloud–As a mother of three young kids this feature comes in very handy!)
The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping Full Love Story of Christmas, by Ann Voscamp. A collection of advent readings meant to be read as a family each day, accompanied by a set of ornaments that corresponds to each day’s scripture and reflection. Ann’s writing is poetic and God-glorifying in every way, and I’m looking forward to digging into this, her second book.
God Is In The Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Much of this book was written during the two year period that Bonhoeffer was jailed by the Nazis. I read through this last winter and will likely reread it every December. Here are a couple favorites:
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other–things that are really of no consequence–the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.” – Bonheoffer, in a letter to a friend, Christmas 1943
“Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate runs the longing for the last Advent, when the word will be: “See, I am making all things new” (Rev.21:5) The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.” -pg 2
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Of course we’ve all heard the story or seen it played out on a stage or screen. But I’ve never read the actual tale as told by Dickens. This year I will.
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. An anthology of reading related to advent by writers including Aquinas, Lewis, L’Engle, Luther and many more. Wide variety with a few gems in there.
Song of the Stars, by Sally Lloyd-Jones. One to read to the kids, equally enjoyed by the adults in the house, by the writer who put together The Jesus Storybook Bible, a favorite in our house. Her way of telling these stories is so well-composed for children, putting complicated concepts into simple words that go deep.