Here we are, already in the full swing of Advent: seeking moments of clarity as we wait for Jesus to come. It’s a time for watching, waiting, preparing, and reflecting. It is also one of my favorite times of year, as we seek in the church, to be wholly unlike the world in full chaos around us. (Though, I am fully aware of the chaos that must have surrounded Mary and Joseph in the manger, the shepherds in the fields, and the angels singing from on high!)
I want to share some of my favorite Advent and Christmas resources. Some are more geared toward church leaders, but others are for anyone wanting to observe the seasons of Advent and Christmas. I hope you might find something useful!
- Following the Star at d365.org. On the chance that you don’t already know about this site… This website offers daily devotionals all 365 days of the year, but they change it up for Advent. The devotions (which consist of an intro, scripture, reflection, prayer, and benediction) are written primarily for youth and young adults, but may offer thoughts that are useful for adults of all ages. There is even background music that plays while you read the devotion for the day! I like to read and reflect on the devotion, and then minimize the screen to keep the music playing in the background while I work!
- Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems. This book contains beautiful, inspiring, and thought-provoking poetry. There are poems for both Advent and Christmas. I find these poems useful for personal devotion, as well as for introductions to meetings and for certain classes. The poems beg us to think on a deeper level about what it means to be “Bethlehem-bound.”
- Faces at the Manger by J. Barrie Shepherd. I was first introduced to this book by my pastor in high school and college, The Rev. Dr. B. Gordon Edwards, and it has been a favorite since. The book is an “Advent-Christmas Sampler of Poems, Prayers, and Meditations.” Many of the poems are written from the perspective of people who were part of the first Christmas, and I love how Shepherd stretches our imaginations and pulls us into the story. My favorites are “Joseph: Foster Parent” and “The Innkeeper’s Defense.”
- Cloth for the Cradle: Worship Resources and readings for Advent, Christmas & Epiphany from the Iona Community and Wild Goose Worship Group. This is not only a great resource for creative and innovative worship, but it’s also useful for devotions, classes, and youth groups. There are litanies, prayers, meditations, scripts, and more. I find these to be contemplative and thought-provoking as well. If you are looking for a script or really simple drama, you might find one here. But be warned: these are not your typical nativity dramas; they are “outside of the box,” considering details that aren’t laid out in the biblical story.
- Creative Communications for the Parish at creativecommunications.com. In all honestly, I really love this site. If you work with children, youth, or adults, you might find something helpful here. They’ve got so many Advent resources, you might spend a lot of time looking! The Advent calendars for children are colorful, creative, engaging, and educational. They also provide some great ideas for families to observe Advent. Just go, type in a search, and enjoy! (And before too long, head back and begin your searches for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter!)
- Children’s Online Advent Calendar from Congregational Ministries Publishing of the PC(USA) at webelieve.pcusa.org. A supplemental resource for the “We Believe” children’s curriculum, this interactive online calendar is pretty cool. It offers something new every day with the click of a button. Some days are simple, while others offer more time-consuming projects (like visiting a pet store). I appreciate the variety: scripture, online activities, tidbits of information, and activities to do with your family or in your community.
- WHOSE Birthday Is It, Anyway? at simplelivingworks.wordpress.com. This is another one where you just might get lost, but it’s got a number of great links and resources: how to make an Advent wreath, graphics, ideas for alternate giving, stories, prayers, ideas for kids, etc. Browse the links, click on the ones that look interesting, and see if you can’t find something to help you observe Advent in a meaningful way!
- Gobsmacked: Daily Devotions for Advent by Thom Shuman. I have found Shuman’s blog for worship resources creative and inspiring, and this book is no different. Each devotion from the first Sunday of Advent through Christmas Day includes a scripture, story, and prayer. Shuman covers many of the “typical” Advent themes (peace, presence, fear, forgiveness, praise, silence, grace, surprise, etc.) through personal stories and poems that invite us to consider how Advent changes our daily lives.
- Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Paintings by Alison Jay. This is a picture book, and the artwork is stunning. [Disclaimer: I love picture books and believe they are not just for children!] This is my newest children’s book, and I plan to use it this year on Christmas Eve. It is a story about how “the world was about to change forever.” The animals of the world are all getting ready for something big to happen. Many of the different names for Jesus are called out before the animals see God’s great gift lying on a bed of straw.
- Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki and illustrated by Ivan Gantschev. This is another beautiful picture book, both in the words and illustrations. It’s one of my favorites to use with children on Christmas Eve because it includes Santa, but only as he explains that “Christmas hasn’t got anything to do with me” and tells the story of the first Christmas. It brings together all that we tell children about Christmas and helps define the real meaning of the season while also including the joy and love that Santa brings this time of year.
That’s my list, for now. What are YOUR favorite resources for observing Advent and Christmas?