Best Advent Resources 2015

Advent
Here are some ways you can mark Advent and prepare thoughtfully for Christmas – including Advent Courses, Books, Advent Calendars, Children’s books and Christmas music. 

Honest-Longings

ADVENT E-COURSE: Honest Longings – November 29 2015 – January 10 2016

A couple of years ago, I was feeling a yearning to sit quietly amidst all the rush of advent glitter and jingly songs. I signed up for an e-course/online retreat run by my dear friend Tara Owens, who is a certified spiritual director. It was an amazing experience: for the first time in years I felt spiritually prepared for the season. Truly, this course was the spiritual highlight of my year.

It has three levels of involvement, depending on your budget. If you can, DO IT! For Advent and Christmas, November 29 2015 – January 10 2016. For more details, click here.

ADVENT BOOKS:

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  • Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas – John Blase. I read this last year for Advent, and for me it really did recapture the awe of that first Christmas. It is a retelling of Luke 1-2, by John Blase, poet and blogger, (who has guest-posted here earlier this year). It has 12 sections, each starting with a Bible reading from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, then telling the story creatively from a particular person’s point of view (e.g. Elizabeth, Mary etc), and ending with a handwritten prayer or reflection. The result is something remarkable, and he really helped me to see afresh a story that can become tired upon repetition, making the characters seem very contemporary. He is such a gifted writer that these short meditations have stayed with me, even a year on, and reading it really did feel like the wonder of Christmas was made more tangible. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £6.23, Amazon.com $9.47

meaning is in the waiting

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  • Journey to the Manger – Paula Gooder. This is a book designed for Advent, like a commentary, but with a devotional slant to it. Eight chapters, so it’s better to see it as a book you read over the 4 weeks of Advent (or over the twelve days of Christmas) than a daily devotional. It covers the nativity and Christmas story from lots of different angles, and has Paula Gooder’s trade-mark intelligent, clear, thoughtful analysis – a real joy to read. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £9.09,  Wordery (UK) £9.07, Amazon.com $13.06

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  • Waiting on the Word – Malcolm Guite. This is a genius idea – a poem for every day of Advent and Christmas, with Guite’s own commentary. The range of poems is good (Christina Rosetti, Edmund Spenser, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Luci Shaw), and includes a few of his beautiful sonnets. The commentary is as much literary analysis as it is theological reflection, and what I most love about Guite’s commentary is the sense of excitement about poetry coupled with an encouragement to marvel in God more. Highly recommended. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £10.99, Wordery (UK) £8.68, Amazon.com $15.99

haphazard by starlight

  • haphazard by starlight – Janet Morley. A wonderful collection of classic poems, some Christian, some not, to lead you through the season of Advent through to Epiphany, with a literary commentary on the poem, and a short question to encourage you to think about how it affects you. This is literary and academic, but short, and gently spiritual. It is a wonderful collection of poems, and I really appreciated her guided tour – a great way of doing Advent for poetry-lovers. (This is similar to Guite, but slightly more literary/academic and slightly more questioning/downbeat than Guite’s.) Get it from Amazon.co.uk £9.99, Wordery (UK) £7.57, Amazon.com $14.99

real god real world

The one true light

  • The One True Light – Tim Chester. I haven’t yet read this book. The author is from a roughly conservative evangelical stable, so  if you’re interested in a devotional/sermon-style that works through short verses John’s gospel, with an extract from a hymn or a prayer at the end, this might be for you.  Get it from Amazon.co.uk £4.99, (not available from Amazon.com or Wordery)

 

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

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  • Refuge – Anne Booth. A beautiful picture book telling the nativity story, but with half an eye on the current refugee crisis. £5 from the sale of each book is donated to the War Child charity for refugees (they make no profit). Get it from Wordery (UK) £7.98, Amazon.com $13.12 (Not available from amazon.co.uk)

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mary joslin nicholas

  • Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of Santa Claus – Mary Joslin. This tells the possible history behind the legend of St Nicholas – a holy bishop who gave money to poor girls who had no dowry (the book omits to mention that they might have been forced into slavery or prostitution). Bishop Nicholas saw their stockings drying by the fire and dropped gold coins into them. Beautifully illustrated, this is now sadly out of print, but you can still grab it for £0.75 plus P&P if you’re quick, from Amazon.co.uk sellers, or second-hand from Amazon.com.

ALTERNATIVE ADVENT CALENDARS

Cara Strickland - Advent Devotional Art Calendar

Cara Strickland – Advent Devotional Art Calendar

  • My friend Cara has designed a beautiful Advent Devotional Art Calendar, which is the first time I’ve seen anything like this, and I think it sounds amazing. Based in US, so order now if you’re in the UK.
  • The Real Advent Calendar – this may just be in the UK, but I love this chocolate advent calendar that also focuses on the nativity, rather than assorted Disney characters. All the chocolate is Fair Trade and it supports good charities. Buy from Eden.co.uk for quick delivery, or Tesco, both £3.99.

WEBSITES

  • Two Nativity Plays essential for any church leader at Christmas – one by my friend Ros Clarke and one by Miranda comedy writer James Cary.
  • The Vicar’s Wife introduced me to a nice idea for families for Advent, as an advent calendar alternative: The Jesse Tree.
  • James Cooper has a SERIOUSLY amazing website for all things Christmas (he has all of those advent facts and more). If you need any background on any of the traditions for Christmas, his is the one-stop-shop for it all – WhyChristmas.com

MUSIC:

I love listening to Christmas music in all December. (This is a bit of a Thing with me: in December I only listen to Christmas music.) These are some of my favourites:

Traditional Carols:

  • Merry Christmas – Vienna Boys Choir – If you would like carols, but feel like a European twist, this is an enchanting album. The sound is sweet – which is not to say ‘cute’, but ‘delicious’, and there is a mixture of German and English classic carols. One of my favourites. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £12.95 or Amazon.com $6.35


Classical:

  • Christmas with the Tallis Scholars – This is two CDs – the second sounds like traditional Latin monk chanting, and can be useful for meditation or relaxation, the first is a lovely collection of haunting traditional and early carols and motets, sung unaccompanied by a small choir. It is best heard accompanied by a roaring fire, to feel the primal power of those haunting chants and wandering harmonies. I love this period of music, and used to sing in a madrigal choir, so this is special to me. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £13.18 or Amazon.com $21.35
  • Handel’s Messiah There’s nothing like having the Hallelujah chorus on full blast in the car to make you feel uplifted and excited for Christmas. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £5.99 or Amazon.com $16.01
  • In Terra Pax (City of London Choir) Lovely collection of more unusual Christmas music – British composers mainly from the 20th Century (Holst, Vaughan williams, Rutter) etc. This is a big choir with an orchestra, so it has a rich and full sound, and the soloists were all good. If you like your advent music to have a twinge of discordance, even while the lyrics proclaim the comfort of Christmas, this is the one for you. Get it from  Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £8.03 or Amazon.com $11.39

 

Other:

  • Sweet Bells – Kate Rusby. Kate Rusby is an incredibly talented English folk singer, and this is full of good English cheer and wassailing. Her voice is just captivating, and her arrangements of these traditional folk songs and carols are fabulous. It’s a really cosy album. She has another Christmas album, While Mortals Sleep, which is also excellent, but Sweet Bells is probably the one to get if you just get one. See it on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. 
  • Christmas in DiverseCity – Toby Mac – Apparently this dude used to be in DCTalk. I’m not sure how you’d describe this music – electro pop? (I feel old). This has a great, upbeat, contemporary twist on traditional Christmas Carols, and some great collaborations, including Owl City, whilst still feeling worshipful. See it on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. 

Enjoy!

This post contains affiliate links for Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Wordery.com which means if you click on the link and then buy anything at all, you will donate a few pennies to me, at no extra cost to you.

 

Over to you: 

  • What do you like to listen to/read in Advent?

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13 Responses to Best Advent Resources 2015

  1. Sarah Caldwell 7th December, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

    Just found this AMAZING resource post through Addie Zierman’s blog – THANK YOU for compiling this! I love Paula Gooder’s book on Advent – looking up some of the other titles you mentioned right now. I’m also loving Wintersong by Madeleine L’Engle & Luci Shaw. Blessings to you this Advent and Christmas season!
    Sarah Caldwell recently posted…What I’m Into-October 2015 {& The Return of My Blog!}My Profile

    • Tanya 24th February, 2016 at 11:46 am #

      So sorry for my delay in replying. Yay for Addie Zierman recommending me! Wintersong is on my wishlist for next Christmas – thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Jessica 2nd December, 2015 at 1:18 am #

    Hi Tanya,
    Your list of books is wonderful. We will buy one or two of them before Christmas. You might also want to look at Closing the Book on Santa Claus by Ron Chandler. It is about a father who tries to save his daughter’s holiday celbration after it is cancelled at her school. He organizes a rally at city hall, but unexpected calamity prevails. Both of our children enjoyed it.

    • Tanya 24th February, 2016 at 11:45 am #

      So sorry for my delay in replying. Thanks so much for looking at my book resources. And thanks for the book recommendation!

  3. Ruth Hunt 20th November, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    Tanya thank you for these recommendations! I love recommendations for poetry, and I love advent, so it’s a double treat!

    • Tanya 24th February, 2016 at 11:39 am #

      So sorry for my delay in replying. How did you get on with your purchases? 🙂

      • Ruth Hunt 28th February, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

        I loved the Malcolm Guite book and Janet Moyle’s book! For Lent I’ve also bought Malcolm Guite’s The Word in the Wilderness poetry book, which is a similar set up, and absolutely wonderful!

        I also read Trystan Owain Hughes’s book. I didn’t love this books so much – it was a short passage followed by an everyday story for each day. I think perhaps without the brilliance and poetry of the other two books I might have enjoyed this more. It reminded me of the daily bible notes where you have a short reflection for each day, and which I confess I have never got on with! I think it might be a case of horses for courses!

        What I loved about both Moyles and Guite’s work was the way they opened up deep and rich themes to think about with well written commentary on the poems. I read teh poems in the morning, and they were often still stuck in my mind by the evening. They didn’t over-explain or spoon feed, but opened out a concept for you to explore.

  4. Rebecka 19th November, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    I read Touching Wonder two years ago, I think, it was beautiful! I enjoyed it very much and I think I’ll try to read it again this year.

    A friend of mine who also has ME and writes poems is doing a Poetry Advent Calendar as an event on Facebook this year and I’m looking forward to that. I recommend it to anyone who can read Swedish.

    Christmas music is one of my favourite things in the world and right now I’m finding it difficult to wait until I’m “allowed” to listen to it. 🙂 One of my favourite Christmas CDs is The Heavenly Song of Christmas by a Norwegian gospel choir called Mosaic. Some of the songs are in Norwegian and some in English and their version of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it.

    • James Cooper 22nd November, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

      Rebecka, Christmas fans (like me – I run why christmas which Tanya mentions – thanks Tanya!) like to celebrate ‘Rudolph Days’ on the 25th of each month. It’s an excuse to do Christmas things (like playing music) throughout the year!

      That Mosaic album sounds good. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. I’ve got over 200 albums and am always on the look out for some more!!!

      I can confirm that ‘Snow Angel’ but Over the Rhine is totally fab! They released another Christmas album last year ‘Blood Oranges in the Snow’ which is also wonderful and includes this song, ‘Let it Fall’ – simply stunning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3OfzB2zi08

    • Tanya 24th February, 2016 at 11:37 am #

      So sorry for my delay in replying. I love the idea of a Poetry Advent Calendar on Facebook! I can’t read Swedish,though… I’m going to have to look up this Norwegian Gospel choir! Recently I played the boy ‘incy wincy spider’ in Swedish, and it sounded so cute!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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