Book Bites: Advent Devotional Books – Part 1
By Cheryl Arnold
We will soon enter the season of Advent, and it is so much more than a countdown to Christmas. It is the beginning of a new liturgical year and is a four-week period of anticipating both the birth of Christ and His glorious return. If you are looking for an Advent devotional book to read, here are bite-sized reviews of the three I have read during the past three years.
Shadow & Light: A Journey into Advent by Tsh Oxenreider
Last year I loved journeying through Advent with this book! Oxenreider (her first name really is spelled Tsh) begins by explaining the basics of Advent for those who are new to Advent or want to know more about it. The next section of the book has daily devotionals for each of the four weeks of Advent with the themes of expectation, preparation, anticipation, and gratitude. Each daily devotional begins with the lighting of an advent candle and includes a meditation, a psalm or gospel reading, a question for contemplation, a song selection, and a classic artwork selection. The last section of the book has a set of alternative readings taken entirely from the gospels, and these can be used on their own or paired with the psalms that are used for most of the days leading up to Christmas week. I found that the music and art selections enhanced the daily scripture readings and meditations, especially when I looked up details about the meaning behind each work of art. The song selections include traditional hymns and carols as well as contemporary songs by Andrew Peterson, John Arndt and David Gungor of The Brilliance, Ordinary Time, and others. With the candles, music and art, this book becomes a multisensory Advent devotional which is suitable for adult readers at all stages of faith as well as families with older children.
Advent for Everyone: Luke by N.T. Wright
This daily devotional begins on the first Sunday in Advent and runs through the Saturday after the fourth Sunday in Advent. Each day includes a scripture reading from Luke, followed by three or four pages of devotional commentary and two questions for reflection or discussion. The themes for the four weeks are encouragement, renewal, justice, and celebration. Wright, an Anglican theologian and author, has also written Advent books for Matthew and Mark, so you can use his Advent devotionals for each year of the lectionary cycle. His devotional commentaries are firmly rooted in Scripture and are highly recommended.
Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge
An Anglican seminary professor told me to “run, don’t wait” to buy this Advent book by Fleming Rutledge, an Episcopal priest and teacher of preachers. This is not a traditional Advent devotional book; rather, it is a collection of her sermons spanning both pre-Advent and Advent. In introducing her book, she says, “Advent most closely mirrors the daily lives of Christians and of the church, asks the most important ethical questions, presents the most accurate picture of the human condition, and above all, orients us to the future of the God who will come again. The material collected in this book is intended as witness to those claims.” Her pre-Advent sermon themes, taken from the lectionary readings, include waiting, the enemy, justice, final judgment, and the coming of the Lord. Her Advent themes are darkness, light, bearing witness, and King of the Last Things. Since the book is not set up as a daily devotional, Rutledge recommends reading the sermons that interest you or that you might find useful in your spiritual journey. You will not find any hint of sweet sentimentality here. She boldly confronts the darkness of doubts and suffering in our own lives and in the world, and she then offers hope in a God who acts and is making all things new. You may disagree with some of her sermon illustrations taken from politics and the news and even find some of them disturbing, but during a very difficult season of life I found myself challenged to develop a deeper understanding of these themes while coming away with a renewed sense of hope in God.