By Ann Jonas
Some very fine new Advent books have recently been published. These four are among the best to offer daily reading and reflection for a spiritual Advent season.
“Messages of Hope for Advent and Christmas 2019: 3-Minute Devotions” by Michael White and Tom Corcoran; Ave Maria Press; August 2019; 64 pp; $1.95
This small booklet offers even the busiest people some spiritual fare, beginning with Dec. 1, the first Sunday of Advent through Friday, Jan. 3. All the weekdays have a very short Scripture passage, thoughtful reflection, and suggested practical action. On Saturdays, the daily devotion is simply a psalm, and on Sundays, just a reflection and suggested action. Father White and Corcoran, who wrote the popular “Rebuilt” series, both serve the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland. Their new book is a nice little resource for Advent, especially for people who want a quick devotional.
“Expectant: Advent Meditations” by Anne E. Kitch; Church Publishing; June 2019; 58 pp; $7.95
The Rev. Anne Kitch is a priest in the Episcopal Church and publishes daily meditations on her blog. Her Advent meditations begin with the first Sunday of Advent and end with Christmas Day. Each weekday begins with a short passage from the Psalms; Sundays start with a very brief prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. The reflection for each day focuses on noticing the beauty of everyday life. Rev. Kitch’s very personal and wise thoughts will inspire readers to be more aware and reflective during Advent.
“Keep Watch with Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers” by Claire Brown and Michael T. McRay; Abingdon Press; October 2019; 176 pp; $16.99
The authors of this book, Rev. Brown, an Episcopal priest, and McRay, a writer and global empathy nonprofit worker, invite readers to “see differently.” Their book came about when they realized there was a lack of spiritual resources available for people to start and sustain social action. This daily reader begins on Dec. 1 and ends on Christmas Day and contains reflections from 25 different contributors who are described by the authors as “peacemakers for peacemakers,” and who are clergy, laity, activists and authors from around the world. Each day starts with a short Scripture passage and then leads to a thoughtful composition that offers vision and hope. A short prayer and a recommended, appropriate action, along with a short bio of the writer, complete each day. This book is an interesting and enriching Advent read.
“The Wondrous Mystery: An Upper Room Advent Reader” compiled by Benjamin Howard; Upper Room Books; September 2019; 72 pp; $9.99
From 1986 to 2017, The Upper Room published “Weavings,” an award-winning Christian journal that promoted informed spiritual growth. This new Advent book is a collection of meditations from this journal, written by noted authors including Father Henri Nouwen, Barbara Brown Taylor, Sue Monk Kidd and Wendell Berry. The book is arranged in four chapters that all suggest paradoxes: “Light and Darkness,” “Peace and Strife,” “Solitude and Community,” and “Simplicity and Complexity” for the four weeks of Advent, along with a chapter each for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There is a Scripture recommendation for each day of the week, an engaging meditation, a brief reflection which is in the form of a question or two, and a very short prayer. The book gets its name from St. John Chrysostom’s sermon on Christmas morning when he exclaims, “Behold a new and wondrous mystery!” Howard invites readers to contemplate the “paradoxes that make up the Advent season.”
Ann Jonas is the general book buyer for the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph and St. John’s University in Collegeville.
Feature photo: A sculpture showing an expectant Mary with Joseph traveling to Bethlehem is seen in a Missouri church during the season of Advent the time of anticipation and hope before Christmas. Advent began Nov. 29 this year. (CNS photo/Lisa A. Johnston)