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.

MY FULL ADVENT SERIES

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,

S.

 

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