Hello, my friends! The season of Advent is nearly upon us and so I wanted to pass along a few recommendations that have been meaningful for our family. I thought we could take a bit of time today to talk about how we are all actually practicing Advent from a practical standpoint. That way, if you are wanting to participate but unsure what to do or how to do it, this might be a good starting point for all of us.

I didn’t grow up with the Church calendar. Truthfully, I hadn’t heard of most of the practices of the Church universal until I was well into adulthood. I’ve been observing the church calendar for more than 15 years now and it has brought such richness and meaning to my life and out of my life. Since then, I’ve tried a few different resources, learned from people much wiser than I am and generally tried to figure out this hybrid thing I have going on – happy-clappy-Jesus-kid anti-establishment woman that loves contemplative practices and liturgy and the Church. It’s an odd combination, I know, but it’s become an important part of my life.


If you’re new to the practice of Advent or wish to participate, I would love to hear what resources you’re using or recommend. This is just what I have found so far that works for me but I know there is a wealth of resources available.

One of my most-read Advent essays remains this one: Advent is for the Ones who Know Longing

Advent simply means “coming” – so for me, it is about the waiting. When people talk about “living in the tension” I think of Advent. It’s the time when we prepare to celebrate his birth and we also acknowledge that we are waiting here still for every tear to be wiped away. I think of the waiting for the Christ child, yes, and I think of the still-waiting for all things to be made right, for our longing for Shalom.

Would we be so filled with joy at his arrival if we weren’t so filled with longing already?

If Christmas is for the joy, then Advent is for the longing. (Read the whole post by clicking here.)

For free, you can use my Advent series of devotionals as a family – it includes scripture for the Sunday family table readings.


Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here! :: Why Advent Matters

First Sunday: Hope

Second Sunday: Peace

Third Sunday: Joy

Fourth Sunday: Love

Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle

And a few other resources from others I like to recommend are:

In addition to spending a lot of time in Isaiah and the Gospels, for my own reading in the mornings, I’ve always turned to Luci Shaw’s book for Advent and Christmas poetry called Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation or her co-written devotional with Madeleine L’Engle called Wintersong: Christmas Readings along with my daily time with Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.

I have also read and loved Enuma Okoro’s Silence and Other Surprising Invitations from Advent.

For our family, it’s impossible to think of Advent without Ann Voskamp. Her work in this season has been deeply meaningful for us personally. This year, as a family we’ll be using her new gorgeous interactive devotional called “The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent.” I have it set up in our kitchen already and the kids can’t wait until Sunday for us to begin the devotionals, opening the little boxes, handing the ornaments, all of it. If you have kids, this might be your best bet.

If you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, needing a bit of purposeful peace this season, my pal Tara Owens is running an “online spiritual retreat” of sorts called “When the Heart Waits: Accepting the Invitations of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.” It is a six-week online experience with scripture, readings, reflection, spiritual exercises, and a few surprises. Click the link for all the info. Tara is a spiritual director, too, so perhaps that might be a good Christmas gift to give to yourself.

Tsh Oxendreider has come out with “A Simple Advent Guide: Readings, Reflections, and Music Based on the Book of Common Prayer” that has really caught my eye. I love Tsh’s playlists at the best of time and her approach to this season with an eye on simplicity might be just what we all need.

If you like to do devotional colouring while listening to music or praying, I thought I’d mention this colouring book for Advent. Me and the big kids used it last Christmas a bit while watching Christmas movies and everyone loved it.

Sacred Ordinary Days has a TON of resources including podcasts, playlists, books, and more. You could get a bit overwhelmed I know but this is helpful to pin and return to again and again.

I was so blessed and challenged by this essay called A Feminist Advent” by Laura Jean Truman. I highly recommend giving it a read this season to fall in love all over again with Mary’s Magnificat.

I have found such beauty in this print at this season – it’s called Mary Consoles Eve. Look at their feet! Makes me want to weep.

Several churches participate in the Advent Conspiracy which I have done in the past. It joins social justice together with Advent. I love the themes of Advent Conspiracy and still reference it often as I walk through the Christmas season: Worship Fully. Spend Less. Give More. Love All.

Make your own Advent wreath. There are so many tutorials on Pinterest but this one seemed simple and do-able.

Participate in the Instagram photo-a-day challenge with #AdventPhoto2017.


And before we head off into the season, please let me also point you towards this: A Prayer for the Broken-Hearted at Christmas. I wrote this last year and I hope it is meaningful for those of you who are struggling, lonely, and heart-weary during this season. I’m thinking of you in particular this year.

Lighting candles as we watch and wait together,



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  • Karen Peterson Parnell

    I have done the Richard Rohr devotional Preparing for Chistmas for two years and am beginning it again. It really helps to keep me focused on Jesus and what he is doing in the world, so that I know what I am waiting for.

    • Love Richard Rohr – will have to check that out!

  • Jen

    Sarah, do you have any recommendations for younger kids? We have four and the oldest is in kindergarten. I am venturing to do something small and simple.but meaningful for the first time this year.

    • When mine were that age, we just lit the candle on Sunday night and read a bible verse and talked about the candle. I used to give them a particular candle to announce – one was “hope” and one was “joy,” another was “peace” and the youngest was “love.” Then they got to announce that candle when it was lit every week, too, and it helped them to remember it. It was very low-key and relaxed until they were older. We wanted it to be fun, not a chore or a place for stress or perfection. We literally just read one bible verse, and the tinies would say “Jesus came to give us hope! peace! joy! love!” as each candle was lit. Done. I’m sure some would consider it sacrilegious but whatever. 😉

      • Emilie Bishop

        My only is the same age as your Maggie, and that’s basically what we do too. Our church’s children’s ministry team puts together a simple family devotional that includes a verse or two and a song. This week we had my classically-trained husband singing with tone-deaf me while our son blew into a wooden flute to “accompany” us. Pretty much perfect.

      • Steph

        As the mother of a toddler, I really appreciate this idea. Thank you! I’d also like to add that we’re big fans of the band Rain for Roots. Their Advent album, Waiting Songs, will be on heavy rotation in our house (and cars) come Sunday.

        • MeeU2

          Thank you for the Rain for Roots recommendation. I just found out it is included with Amazon Prime streaming and have added it so the kids and I can listen to this.

      • Jen

        Love this! Thank you!

  • Lindsay

    I love all things Advent! I’ve heard good things about Phyllis Tickle’s Christmastide and Biola’s The Advent Project devotional: http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/. The past two years I’ve used She Reads Truth’s Advent studies.

    • Emilie Bishop

      We try to pray Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours as much as possible, and she has one that just has Advent through Epiphany so it’s less intimidating. Also one like that for Lent. It’s the same readings as the complete books.

      • Lindsay

        Yes! I’ve seen the Divine Hours book for fall/winter. Thanks for the reminder, Emilie!

  • Patricia Fearing

    Sarah, your recommendations are so rich and diverse! It’s so nice to have people like you who constantly fill cups with new resources. If you haven’t checked them out yet, there’s a group of women (feminism at its finest!) who started an organization called Sanctified Art. They create artistic resources for the different seasons of the Church year and, boy, are they challenging, empowering, meditative and downright beautiful! They are at sanctifiedart.org. Thank you again for sharing so much for this season. It truly is the time when I remember that God fulfills God’s promises. Sweet shalom to you and yours.

    • Lindsay

      Thank you for suggesting Sanctified Art! I just bought their Let There Be Color Advent devotional. It’s beautiful! I can’t wait to use it this season.

  • hannah eskridge

    Thanks for these resources! As a family we use the advent wreath and candles to mark the weeks. We also create an advent kindness calendar with little acts of kindness we do each day. Some involve more time (bake cookies for the fire station) and others are more awareness (smile at everyone you see today). The kids help pick what they are so some are the same every year and some different. For my own time, I also love the Rohr book and Pray as you Go app has an advent retreat.

  • Kristin Wolff Engel

    I love Godly Play stories! I fashioned my own story pieces for their Advent script and use it at home with my young kids. So meaningful! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zgbJIEkZYvQ

  • Thanks for these recommendations! I appreciate you taking the time to put this together!

    Each year I reread Watch for the Light. It stirs my soul every time!

  • Lynette

    Advent has been such a special time for our family. Throughout the month, we gather each evening, sing this song (below) as we light the weekly candles, read from the Jesus Storybook Bible, sing a carol, say a prayer together, then fight over who gets to blow the candle(s) out. (Real life). Chasing toddlers and close calls with candles are often included.

    I came across this simple sing many years ago, and we sing it each evening as we light the candles. http://morningglorybooks.com/Page15.html

  • Made New

    this is such a great resource! The print of Mary and Eve makes me feel so many things. I love it! I am very new to observing this Christian calendar and this is only my second year observing advent, of even knowing what advent is. It has enriched my life so much and I am so thankful that I found out about it now. Thanks for sharing all these resources!

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  • Hi, I mentioned your post today on my #LMMLinkup: Advent Resources post. I hope you can join us with your resources and link up with us each week. http://maryanderingcreatively.com/lmmlinkup-advent-resources/

  • Jordan Taylor

    Great resources. I looove Advent. This year I’m using Sacred Holidays study + Emily Freeman’s Quiet Collection for Christmas!