A Resource Guide to Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany for Anglicans ...and other Christians
[Holly Fish @citrusholly, iPhone image, November 2016]
The best way to make Advent a drag is to follow it up with a one-day Christmas. The church calendar wisely insists on making space to anticipate and prepare for Christ’s birth, instead of indulging early. But then we feast for twelve straight days! Any renewed emphasis on Advent should be matched by truly extravagant plans for celebrating the Lord God’s presence in the flesh. Many of the resources here will help you do that. And Epiphany should have its own kind of celebration, for it commemorates that the Jewish Messiah, the Glory of Israel, is also the Light to the Gentiles. Our status as sons and daughters of the covenant is on account of adoption. We have been made part God’s chosen people, but weren’t born into it. It is a truth to be remembered with humility and praise.
For Advent this year our family is planning each Sunday to read Look! in the afternoon, after church. Each night we’ll light the Advent candles and read that week’s collect (found in the Book of Common Prayer) during dinner. We bought 16” candles for our advent wreath this year, so we can light them most evenings and not (as every year before) run out of candle with days left to go. Family friends of ours like to limit artificial light in the evenings. We can’t afford many candles, but we’ll look for chances to notice the darkness.
As many days as possible, Cody and Mary will read the day’s poem from Malcolm Guite’s Waiting on the Word, the 7 and 5 year old boys will do an activity sheet from What We Do in Advent, and, when we’re looking for something a bit more (crafts and recipes!), we’ll draw on some of the activities found in Slow + Sacred Advent. Finally, we’ll say the “O Antiphons” together beginning on the evening of December 17th.
We hope you’ll look through some of these resources, create a plan for the coming weeks, and allow the Church’s time to order your life around the saving life of Christ. And tell us us about your own ideas and the resources you love!
Mary and Cody
Let Us Keep the Feast. Jessica Snell, Doulos Resources (978-1-937063-65-8)
Valuable summary descriptions of various traditions, new and old, for those wanting to piece together their own Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany observance. Not a calendar or exhaustive list of resources; a broad, over-view source for ideas—with sections “Around the World,” “In the Kitchen,” “For the Very Young,” “Things to Make,” “Beyond the Home,” “Seasonal Scripture Readings,” “Suggestions for Memorization,” “Songs of the Season,” “Seasonal Reading,” and “Prayers.” A great place to go to understand the themes and emphases that should predominate in the successive periods of the liturgical year.
Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas. Laura Alary, Paraclete Press (978-1-61261-866-1)
Written with simple, but thoughtful words. Aimed to preschool to elementary age, but is profound in its depth, making it a great choice even for adults. Its description of Advent work and rhythms will guide families to fill the waiting time with prayers, service, and anticipation of God’s presence. Four brief sections (Look Back; Look Around; Look Ahead; Christmas) could serve as a loose structure to each of the four weeks of Advent. A book to be read and reread slowly.
Slow + Sacred Advent. Jennifer Naraki (ebook, $19)
A comprehensive plan for those who want lots of great ideas organized for the whole Advent season. Symbols for each week, responsive readings, carols/hymns, inward reflections, outward actions, handcraft activities, recipes, catechism, copywork, art and prayers are sprinkled throughout the four weeks. Very thoughtfully and beautifully compiled.
A Simple Advent Guide: Readings, Reflections, and Music Based on the Book of Common Prayer. Tsh Oxenreider (ebook, $6)
Bare-bones devotional with three parts for each day of Advent—a single scripture reading from the Daily Office, printed within the ebook; the question, “Where did I see God today?” (the Examen); and a link to an Advent song on Spotify. A straightforward way to be present in Advent daily, preparing for Christ’s presence, without getting overwhelmed or feeling like you’re falling behind.
The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. Dean Meador Lambert, Abingdon Press (978-1-4267-1210-4)
25 short devotions, with an ink drawing, hymn suggestions, a symbol, prayer, and memory verse for each day. Each day has a page for children and a page for adults. Can be used with or without an actual Jesse Tree.
Waiting on the Word: A Poem a day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Malcolm Guite, Canterbury Press (978-1-84825-800-6)
Poems new and old collected by the inimitable poet/rock guitarist/priest, followed by a brief interpretation, for every day from December 1-January 6.
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. Plough Publishing House (978-0-87486-917-0)
45 deep, multiple-page reflections for each day, November 24-January 7, by notable Christian thinkers across the traditions. Great for teenagers and adults.
Workbook for Children
What We Do in Advent: An Anglican Kids’ Activity Book. Anne E. Kitch, Church Publishing (978-0-8192-2195-7)
38 single-page activity sheets that will help elementary-age children think about the coming of the Savior each individual day of Advent and celebrate all twelve days of Christmas. Includes mention of each of the major saints’ days within December.
Craft Book for Children
Before and After Christmas: Activities and Ideas for Advent and Epiphany. Debbie Trafton O’Neal, (978-0-8066-2534-1)
Lots of fun craft ideas, like a gingerbread stable. Especially helpful for making the twelve days of Christmas special for little kids. Some of the stories are a bit silly, though, like the legend of the lightning bug.
Waiting Songs, by Rain for Roots
Truly songs for Advent, which are beautifully written and performed. Some adults might find it a bit repetitive, but nonetheless a staple choice for any family.
Advent Series, by Liturgical Folk
Written and performed by Ryan Flanigan & Friends. This group out of Dallas seeks to write "Sacred Folk music for the sake of the world." You can listen to their first Advent installment on Facebook, and follow them on Instagram for further updates.
Sing the Bible Family Christmas, by Randall Goodgame and Slugs & Bugs
About half of the songs work as Advent songs, since they quote prophecies of the Christ to come. Lovely music that we’ll listen to long into Epiphany.
On a Cold Winter's Day: Early Christmas Music and Carols from the British Isles, by Quadriga Consort
Most of these are winter songs, and not about Christ’s birth. Free to stream if you have Amazon Prime Music.
*And remember, lots of “Christmas” music isn’t actually about Christmas, not even the secularized one. That's a good thing for us Adventers! Many of the songs are about life in winter with loved ones. In our mind, if they don’t sing about Christ having come (think “Jingle Bells” or “Let it Snow…”), no need to avoid them during Advent. They can help make Advent a time of joyful waiting.
Online Advent Resources
Includes pages on Rediscovering Advent, The Saints of Advent, Hymns of Advent, A Devotion for the Last Days of Advent. But also things here for all seasons of the liturgical year.
Advent song playlist and brief resource list.
Exhaustive, but also can be exhausting.
Focus is on worshiping fully, spending less, giving more, loving all.