I know it's old hat to say “keep Christ in Christmas,” yada yada, but I find that this time of year I need a daily reminder that the month of December is about more than just decking the halls. Here are five daily devotional suggestions I like for the holiday season.
1) Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime. At $2.99, this is a bargain for those who have a Kindle and don't need the bells & whistles of glossy pages and ribbon markers in their devotionals. Author Mark Roberts, the director of Laity Lodge, speaks from his personal experience as an evangelical who has come to understand that practices like having an Advent wreath and candles actually help to increase the spirituality of the season. (To that end, one of the coolest aspect of the book is that he briefly outlines what all the candles in the Advent wreath symbolize.)
2) God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas. These daily devotions from Dietrich Bonhoeffer guide readers through all the weeks of Lent, from waiting and mystery to redemption, incarnations, and joy. The hardcover is $9.92 on Amazon (though The Thoughtful Christian is running a special on it for $7.20 right now), and the Kindle version is — get this — $6.66. I'm sure Bonhoeffer would find that amusing. I edited this compilation from a number of Bonhoeffer's letters, sermons, and books, and it was a pleasure to work on. A companion devotional of Bonhoeffer's thoughts for Lent and Easter was just released too.
3) Daily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word, Year C. Since I'm tooting my horn already, here's another project I helped with. Cost: Amazon is offering this nice gift edition (soft & Bible-like faux leather cover, ribbon marker, great layout) for $16.50, but you can get it even cheaper ($11.25) at The Thoughtful Christian. This book is perfect if you're an Episcopalian, Lutheran, or Presbyterian who uses the lectionary. It takes some of the best snippets from the monumental Feasting on the Word series and puts them in day-today devotional format, beginning with the start of the Church this weekend and continuing for a full year. The format works a week ahead so that through that week of Advent (or whatever other seasons), you're learning about and reflecting on the coming Sunday's lectionary readings. I'll be giving copies of this book to my friends who are priests and pastors this year.
4) Celebrating the Light: Reflections for the Sundays of Advent. I haven't read this one yet, but I bought it for the Kindle because a) it's by Julie Goss Clawson, who wrote the excellent book The Hunger Games and the Gospel, and b) it was only $1.99. My inner midwestern child loves a bargain. The book description says: “Celebrating the Light includes five separate meditative themes for the season of Advent. Some of them follow traditional themes for each Sunday of Advent, others focus of lesser known traditions or creative approaches. They are offered for use in private and corporate worship settings in hope that they will bless readers as they actively wait in hopeful anticipation for the Advent of our Lord.”
5) Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. This book is, hands down, my favorite Advent devotional, the one I return to year after year. Featuring excerpts from Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Annie Dillard, Dorothy Day, Madeleine L'Engle, John Donne, and even Sylvai Plath, it takes a decidely literary approach to the holiday season. (Today's selection, for example, is from Kathleen Norris on Annunciation. You really can't beat that.) Available at Amazon for just under $10.
The image of Christmas candles is used with permission of Shutterstock.com.