Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Advent Devotional Reading

I usually try to do some focused Advent devotional reading each year in addition to reading from the Scriptures. While I haven't yet decided what I'm reading this year (and I need to figure that out soon...first Advent arrives Sunday, November 30!) I thought I'd post a list of some titles that I've loved and enjoyed over the years.

Madeleine L'Engle's The Irrational Season was the book where I first really learned about Advent. As an eighteen year old who had not grown up in a liturgically rich church tradition, I was immediately taken by her descriptions of the rhythms of the church year, and fascinated by the thought of ordering time differently from the rest of the world. The book journeys through the whole church year, so not every chapter will be apt for advent, but there are several chapters that could nourish your heart between here and the new year. The first four chapters contain reflections on Advent, Christmas, Holy Innocents and Epiphany, and the final chapter of the book goes full circle back around to Advent.

WinterSong, another book by Madeleine L'Engle but co-authored by her good friend Luci Shaw, is another gem for the entire Advent and Christmas seasons. During their writing careers, Madeleine and Luci both wrote a lot (prose and poetry) about the incarnation. This book is a wonderful "sampler" of some of what they've written. Good bite-sized reflections, snippets and poems. Really lovely.

The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming by Wendy Wright. This is part of a trio of devotional/meditational books Wright has written on the church year (the other two are called The Rising and The Time Between) but in my humble opinion, this is the best one. It's certainly the one I go back to most. I appreciate Wright's thoughtful prose style and I love the fact that she steeps this book deeply in the words of the church down through the ages. You'll find many, many hymns, poems and prayers from the ancient church onward included here. Just writing about it makes me want to go back and dip into it again. I discovered one of my favorite prayers by Catherine of Siena while reading this book.

God With Us is an advent devotional book that was just published last year. I was blessed to find it in our local library and it became my main book for meditation last advent. The contributing writers are Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson (just the introduction) and Luci Shaw. Absolutely beautiful, chock full of artwork as well as devotionals and poems. It follows the lectionary and it goes all the way through the entire Christmas season (all twelve days). You can go here for a longer review I posted last year after I finished it.

Last year I also found a marvelous blog, called O Night Divine. It draws on mostly Catholic resources and is filled with creative ideas to help individuals and families make Advent more meaningful and prayerful.

Do you have a tradition of reading or meditating during Advent? Are there books, paintings, poems, or hymns that have meant a lot to you in your personal and family Advent traditions? Do share!


Janet said...

I first became aware of Advent as a season through a couple of traditions at our admittedly not-very-liturgical-at-all church.

I don't know how far back our church the tradition of building Advent wreaths goes, but once our kids were old enough to participate in the Advent night musical, there we were, and there was the big room full of greens and candles and all sorts of crafty stuff to make wreaths.

We'd build our wreaths, take them home, then light a candle every Sunday night in Advent, reading a devotional and relevant Bible passages. Even though sometimes (okay, more than sometimes) the candles backed up till Monday or Tuesday, we always somehow got them lit, and I think the kids would freak if we didn't have an Advent wreath.

Our church also compiles an Advent devotional every year (also for Lent), written by members of the church. I've written for it a couple of times, and it's always a blessing. And they send home a whole packet of Advent stuff for the kids -- calendars to open, etc. Unfortunately, usually our kids opened all the windows at once. I guess if you have to wait for your Christmas presents, you want *something* to open!

...The Advent musicals died off when our kids graduated out of the kids' program. Not that they were the heart and soul of the program (though Sabrina's singing of "Some Children See Him" last year *did* stop people in their tracks!), but all the parents involved with running the program have basically graduated, and there was no one left to do it. But the wreaths are still there, and we will build ours the Sunday after Thanksgiving... (and because it's California, the church is also bringing the In 'n' Out burger truck up to church for the occasion!)

Beth said...

Janet, thanks so much sharing about your church and family advent traditions! For a decidedly "non-liturgical" church, you all seem to do advent up right!

I love the wreath tradition. It sounds like fun to build/make a new one each year. We have one we made when we first got married that we get out each year (obviously not fresh greens!) and it's very special to us. We also do readings and prayers each evening, and often special advent singing as well. I love this time of year!

The advent musical also sounds like a great tradition (and I'll bet Sabrina did a wonderful job!) as do the devotionals.

On a completely unrelated note, I wonder if your ears were burning last night. :-) I finally got to meet John Granger, who was speaking at a church about an hour from me here. We had a wonderful time talking after his terrific talk (on the 5 Keys for serious readers of HP and the importance of literature in our lives). We got to reminicing (sp?) about the Barnes and Noble class post HBP, and of course your name came up, as well as your book!