Preparing for Advent, the Preparation for Christmas
Favorite Resources for Advent
By Cynthia Coe
For those of us working in the Church, one of the busiest times of the year fast approaches. We busy ourselves with planning Christmas pageants, special Christmas Eve services, and special fundraising drives or “secret Santa” projects. In the wider culture, most everyone begins Christmas shopping and family dinner and celebration planning.
Yet we say that Advent is a penitential season, much like Lent. We say it’s a time of prayer and of special holiness, a time to “get right with God” before celebrating anything at all.
The ancient practice of observing Advent as a time of penitence is at odds with the modern culture of ramping up our shopping and party planning, generally running from before Halloween through the New Year. Is there still a place for a true observance of Advent?
We don’t have to be spoil sports on this. Christmas really can be a lot of fun and a time of joy. Yet in our culture, all the office parties, children’s pageants, gift giving and even dealing with the sheer volume of traffic around our normal shopping venues can get to be too much. Could the observance of a more holy Advent, just for a few minutes a day, help us cope?
In this culture of over-commercialization, frenetic spending and eating, and the inevitable let-down after all the fanfare ends, a little bit of quiet time and a detour around all the hoopla might be just what our parishioners need…or even want. The best gift we might give those we serve might be tools to find just a few minutes a day of peacefulness, quiet, a deep breath, and a little time to ponder what really matters in life.
Here are some little devotional books for use during the Advent season:
Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas (Franciscan Media, 2008). This little book is a terrific introduction to Richard Rohr’s theology, as well as a delight to those who are already fans. At $3 for a paperback copy, this little gem is affordable for teacher gifts or other tokens of appreciation and support.
Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Liguori, 2004). This compilation of excerpts from Henri Nouwen’s work is a wonderful introduction to his books, as well as a nice collection of short devotionals – each with a scripture passage, prayer, and suggested action item. About $12 in paperback only.
Advent with Evelyn Underhill (Morehouse, 2006). The ultimate pre-Christmas gift for mystics. It can mystically appear on your e-reader for about $10. Hallelujah!
Ann Nichols, The Faith of St. Nick (Barbour Publishing, 2012). This book is great for family devotionals or a short bedtime story with children during Advent. These devotionals are focused on the “real” St. Nicholas and provide inspiration, thoughtfulness, and some early church history on a child’s level. At $4 for a paperback copy, this is a bargain and appropriate for gifts to families.
Need a children’s chapel program for Advent? Yes, this is a shameless plug, but the children’s chapel version of the Abundant Life Garden Project® resources are my favorites among the resources I’ve written. Available for free download at www.episcopalrelief.org/children. Click on the icon for “Children’s Chapel.”
Blessings for the pre-Advent season, Cindy