Since Advent is my favorite season of the year, I always look for new books on the market. Here are several good books for this year. You can click on the title to read more about the book.
Look!: A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas by Laura Alary (Paraclete Press)
Look back, look around, look ahead…LOOK is a terrific circumnavigation and exploration of the season of Advent for children (and adults.) With a child as our guide and narrator, we travel to ancient Jerusalem, to church, to home, and to the neighborhood to get a panoramic view of the rich paradoxes and themes of Advent. With the simple storytelling of a child and colorful, inviting illustrations, author Laura Alary masterfully and gently connects the Biblical story, the church’s story, and our personal story with the ongoing story of God in our midst.
Look introduces some creative and wonderful Advent activities to do at home; but this is not just a cheery “let’s get ready for Christmas and Jesus’s birthday” book. This book honors a child’s ability to be a young theologian, to pay attention to not only what is right in front of them but to spin 360 degrees to look at the way God moves in the world—past, present, and future.
All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by Gayle Boss
All Creation Waits is visually and verbally beautiful. This is a daily reader but unlike most Advent meditation books, the focus is not on us. The focus is on twenty-four different animals and how they prepare for and survive the dark, cold, and foodless months of winter. Wonderful woodcut portraits of each animal accompany the writing.
Author Gayle Boss makes the connection between our practices in Advent and the behavior of creatures in the wild. Here are a few sentences from the introduction:
[Advent] is Christian tradition at its best, moving in step with creation. When the sun’s light and heat wane, the natural world lets lushness fall away. It strips down. All energy is directed to the essentials that ensure survival. Engaging in Advent’s stripping practices—fasting, giving away, praying—we tune into the rhythms humming in the cells of all creatures living in the northern hemisphere. We tune into our own essential rhythms.
Parents can read aloud the daily entries and learn along with their children about the Painted Turtle, the Chickadee, the Common Loon, the Honey Bee and the winter habits of twenty other miraculous creatures in this cyclical and mysterious world. Who knew that that 20,000 female Honey Bees shiver in the hive to keep the Queen and the honey warm? An e-version is also available from Paraclete Press.
Coloring Advent: An Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Bethlehem by Christopher D. Rodkey, Jesse & Natalie Turri (CBP)
Coloring Advent is not just a coloring book. It is a terse and sophisticated daily journey through Advent. With unexpected words and characters, the author and illustrators give us a fresh take on the Advent and Christmas story. Nathan, Baruch, Ethan, and Malachi make appearances in the text—not the usual seasonal suspects. The two-page Crib Notes from Bethlehem: A Theological Introduction is worth the price of the book.
God First Enters the World, the title of the first coloring page, introduces God as cloud: When the fullness of time arrives, God enters the world as a cloud descending upon the flesh of a woman, so that we might receive the same Holy Spirit and the entire world will call upon our Universal Parent. The cloud imagery recurs throughout the book in word and image and shakes up my tired, worn-out metaphors for God. Cloud makes me think “covering, protection, infinity, presence, blanket, enfolding….”
The coloring pages themselves are interesting but not overcrowded with designs. I would probably use some of the space to add words or write responses to the mini reflections of author Christopher Rodkey. Daily pages follow the nativity story from Advent to the Epiphany on January 6. Below are some samples.
Mandalas, Candles, and Prayer: A Simply Centered Advent by Sharon Seyfarth Garner (Upper Room Books)
Mandalas, Candles, and Prayer offers a soup-to-nuts Advent experience combining a weekly ritual of lighting the Advent wreath and a daily practice of contemplative coloring. Each week author Sharon Seyforth Garner provides seven copies of a simple but lovely circular coloring template to use with a new way to pray. The four different forms of prayer are: praying for others, examining the day, mining a passage of Scripture, and finding focus in stillness. Each is a rich way to concentrate on the Advent themes of hope, love, joy, and peace. Sharon gives clear instructions on how to use the mandalas with the prayer forms.
These coloring pages and prayer practices are a great way to prepare for Christmas, but they also provide sturdy tools for the journey with God the other eleven months of the year.