Grace Episcopal Church
Book Bites: Advent Devotional Books – Part 3
By Cheryl Arnold
Making Room in Advent: 25 Devotions for a Season of Wonder by Bette Dickinson
The season of Advent is quickly approaching. It is the beginning of a new liturgical year and is a four-week period when we anticipate celebrating the birth of Christ while also looking forward to His glorious return. These weeks are often quite full with Christmas shopping, concerts, parties, family gatherings, and sometimes travel, so one way to keep focused on Christ during this season is to read an Advent devotional book.
New this year and published by InterVarsity Press, Making Room in Advent contains 25
devotions that explore the theme of making room while going through the entire birth narrative in Luke 1 and 2. Each daily entry features an original painting by Dickinson with a prompt for prayerful contemplation, a scripture passage, a written reflection, an application question, and a breath prayer.
Dickinson, who has a Masters of Divinity and serves with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Spiritual Formation, suggests entering into each devotional entry by prayerfully contemplating the painting (a practice called Visio Divina), reading the scripture passage slowly several times (a practice called Lectio Divina), returning to the painting for fresh insights, then reading the reflection, pondering the application question, and praying the breath prayer throughout the day. She says that in doing so, you will be making room for God to show up in your own story so that you can experience rest, refreshment, and transformation.
The paintings are in shades of deep blue and white and illustrate the scripture passage for the day. Each painting includes the stump of the Jesse tree in the lower left corner. Dickinson was inspired to do this after reflecting on Isaiah 11:1-4,10. She explains, “The people of Israel were meant to be a thriving tree reflecting God’s love to the nations, but they withered when they failed to live into this call. They were not characterized by God’s righteousness and justice. And so, they were taken into exile and endured so much damage that only a stump remained.” She goes on to say that God in his faithfulness would not abandon this stump. “Out of the withering stump of Jesse, Jesus would grow into a fruitful tree that gives life to the world.” She wants her readers to use these stump images to consider what God might be bringing to life in them.
I do wish this book was larger than 5X7 inches since the artwork and font size are scaled down, yet the book’s slim and compact size makes it easy to tuck in a bag and take with to read away from home, whether in a coffee shop, at work, or on a trip. I am looking forward to reading more of it and exploring this theme of making room throughout this Advent season.
For more Advent devotional suggestions for adults and families with children, you can look back to last year’s Grace To You newsletters using the following links.