Advent (& Christmas) Reading

The shelves are heavy laden with volumes, large and small, on Christmas. There are a growing number on Advent, too. But each year I tend to return to a simple collection of tried and true words to accompany me through Advent, toward Christmas.

first christmas
The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Birth by Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan

My own participation (and celebration) of Christmas was deepened when I better understood what the Gospels actually said about the coming of Jesus. Borg and Crossan helped me see the revolutionary nature of the incarnation, to better understand the kind of salvation that the people in Bethlehem hungered for and why the announcement of this birth was good news. You don’t have to agree with every conclusion of these scholars in order to glean a deeper appreciation for the coming of Christ.

widening light
A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation edited by Luci Shaw

The language of poetry comes closest to articulating the deep mystery of the incarnation, Christ taking on skin and walking among us. In this collection, Luci Shaw has gathered wonderful friends to break open metaphors and offer fresh images to help us dive deeper into the truths of this season. I return to this book every Advent. (My personal favorite is After Annunciation by Madeleine L’Engle.)


in joyful hope
In Joyful Hope: Mediations for Advent by Henri Nouwen

I believe this is the first Advent meditation I ever purchased. I remember stumbling upon it while I worked at a United Methodist Church and reading it every morning at my desk before the day began. Nouwen keeps it simple, focused and rich. His words are a wonderful introduction to the themes of the season.


preparing for christmas
Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Richard Rohr

I love how Rohr brings us into Advent and helps us create space for Christmas to come. I find his meditations gentle, expansive and ever-new (even though I’ve read this book for years).


winter song2
WinterSong: Christmas Readings by Madeleine L’Engle & Luci Shaw

The friendship between Luci Shaw and Madeleine L’Engle has always both delighted and fascinated me. So this volume, with readings from both friends, feels like an invitation to sit with them in front of the fireplace and contemplate the glorious impossible, as L’Engle was fond of saying. These women can write – be it prose or poetry – to the heart of this season.


advent of justice
The Advent of Justice: A Book of Meditations by Sylvia Keesmaat and others

This year I am trying a new daily Advent reader. I’ve read the work of Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat before in their stellar Colossians Remixed. Given that I’ve been articulating Advent in terms of justice and salvation myself the past few years, this looked like the perfect fit for me this time around. I have it sitting on my counter, alongside the Advent candles, ready to begin reading this coming Sunday…


touching wonder
Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas by John Blase

This is a last minute addition to the list – and I’m so thankful to Sandy Hay for mentioning it! John Blasé is a favorite modern-day poet, writer and person, really. I downloaded and started reading his meditations this morning and they ring with truth and fresh surprises. Add this to your list, too.



I’d love to hear other recommendations. Do you have a well-worn Advent volume you revisit year after year?

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7 thoughts on “Advent (& Christmas) Reading”

  1. sandy hay
     ·  Reply

    I have read WinterSong for years. Madeleine is my go to author. This year I’m also reading Touching Wonder by John Blasé,The Mood of Christmas and Other celebrations by Howard Thurman and Advent and Christmas by Henri Nouwen. And of course Widening the Light with Red Couch Bookclub 🙂 These are all by my advent wreath too.

  2. Kelley Nikondeha
     ·  Reply

    Sandy – thanks for the recommendations. I am so fond of the poetry of John Blase – and instantly fell in love with his book. I started reading the excerpt provided in the amazon preview, but then decided to just download it! Blessings to you on the eve of Advent.

  3. Tanya Marlow
     ·  Reply

    I can definitely recommend Paula Gooder’s books, The Meaning is in the Waiting (Advent) and Journey to the Manger (Christmas themes). Halfway between a theological commentary and a devotional- she says a lot in few words. She’s my favourite New Testament theologian- definitely recommend

  4. Tanya Marlow
     ·  Reply

    Meant to say – thanks for all the recommendations – they all sound great. Both you and Addie have recommended Luci Shaw, so that’s going on my list. This is the link for The Meaning is in the Waiting

    Journey to the Manger sounds a little like your first book – puts the nativity in context.

    You might also like Waiting on the Word – Malcolm Guite – collected poems with a literary and theological commentary

    • Kelley Nikondeha
       ·  Reply

      Thanks for some great recommendations! And absolutely yes on Luci Shaw, Addie and I would not steer you wrong…

      • Tanya Marlow
         ·  Reply

        I got A Widening Light and – you’re right! – it was wonderful. Next year I shall try and remember to stop by this page again, because there are so many on here that sound so good. And hopefully my Advent book will be ready by next year!

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