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!