25 Days of Christmas: Advent Books for Reflection

Jesse Doogan

Staff Writer

Jesse Doogan writes about food, faith, books, and DIY projects, and sometimes even puts these things on her blog. She works in publishing and lives near Chicago with her cat. She tweets about all these things at @jadoogan.   Blog Twitter: @jadoogan

This list of advent books is sponsored by BookClubbish.

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I always find that no matter how early stores start putting out decorations and radio stations start playing Christmas music, the Christmas season seems to fly by. One way that I’ve found to help me be present in the season is to go through a book that has daily readings through Advent. I have a book that I read every year, but I’m always looking for new and interesting ones. I like the idea of having my traditional book, but I like having new ones, too.

Advent is the traditional name for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Different Christian churches celebrate it in different ways: with candles or with certain songs and readings. Christmas always falls on the same date each month (December 25, you know this), but Advent floats around the calendar. This means that some Advent books are 25 days long, and some provide for a few extra days. Advent can be 22–28 days long. This year, the first Sunday of Advent is December 1, so we get exactly 25 days.

I’ve rounded up some different Advent books to help you take time to pause and reflect on the season. Some of them are great for families to do together, and some are better to be used alone. Although, now that I say that, I think a mini Advent book club with a weekly meeting would be lovely.

Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide for Advent and Epiphany by Sarah Arthur

This is my go-to. Sarah Arthur has collected some beautiful readings in her book, which follows the liturgical calendar. So: not a 1:1 25-day list of readings. What I like best about it is that because there isn’t one reading assigned for every day, it doen’t feel like a task I have to check off. I can dip in as I please. The author includes at least one poem of her own, about snow in Michigan, that is one of my favorites.

Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany by Malcolm Guite

Well, that subtitle is fairly thorough. Malcolm Guite, bestselling poet, edits this collection of poems for Advent all the way through Epiphany (the holiday that falls 12 days after Christmas, which celebrates the Wise Men visiting Jesus). There are classic poems by George Herbert and Christina Rossetti as well as modern-day poems by Scott Cairns and Luci Shaw.

Mary Had a Baby: An Advent Bible Study based on African American Spirituals by Cheryl Kirk-Duggan and Marilyn E. Thornton

More a study than a devotional book, Mary Had a Baby is perfect for groups. Each lesson is based on an African American spiritual and includes the song, Bible readings, reflections, and a prayer. Written by two college professors, it’s a little academic, but still super accessible. Each week of Advent is based on one song. An MP3 of all four featured songs is available free with purchase.

Rise Up, Shepherd! Advent Reflections on the Spirituals by Luke A. Powery

Another book based on African American spirituals, but this one is more poetic than academic (though it is also written by a college professor). This book features one song per day of a four-week advent, and each day includes the lyrics of the spiritual, a reflection, a Bible verse, and a prayer.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu

Each week of this devotional is based on one of four themes: Hope, Preparation, Joy, and Love, and starts with a family devotion. Then, there are five daily devotions for the adults to read on their own. (But there are ways to adapt the devos for whole families online.) Then the week ends with an activity or service project. I like the combo of family and personal devotion time. I like options! Options make a nearly month-long project like Advent readings doable.

Under the Christmas Tree: 23 Poems About Preparing for Christmas by Nikki Grimes

Okay, I do not know why there are only 23 poems in this book. They were so close. But if you’re looking for a great way to get ready for Christmas with your family, here are 23 poems by Nikki Grimes, a Coretta Scott King Award-winning author and poet. I guess you can consider the two poemless days in the seasons as freebies when you run out of time in this busy season.  (Currently out of print, but there are lots of used copies available online.)

While I’m here: not a book, but I’m pretty excited about this We Wonder podcast for families that is launching soon. It will be a daily podcast through Advent for families with older children. I think it’s such a great idea.