Why Calendars?

Can you imagine organizing life without a calendar? Neither can I.

Many different calendars have been developed over the years by different people groups to help organize their lives around it. Today, businesses and corporations follow the fiscal calendar. Students, teachers and professors follow the school academic calendar. Avid sports fans follow the sports calendar.

The Church organizes its life around the liturgical calendar which helps it journey from Advent to Christmas, to Epiphany and Lent, through Easter and Pentecost, and down into Ordinary Time. The church calendar is neither a requirement to follow Jesus, nor an empty ritual. They are spiritual rhythms and routines that center us on Jesus through out the year and at the same time keep us connected to the historic and universal church, reminding us that we are not the first one’s or the only one’s attempting to follow Jesus.

(If you are interested in a beautiful art-filled Christian Seasons Calendar that is a distinctive reminder of the Christian way of life, check HERE)

A Season of Waiting

In the liturgical calendar the four weeks leading up to Christmas is called Advent (This year is November 29, December 6, December 13 and December 20). Advent simply means “coming.” Advent is different than Christmas. One person said it this way, “Advent is like the 37th week of pregnancy and Christmas is delivery day.” It is a season of waiting, expecting, and hoping.

Advent is a time when we remember Jesus’ first coming as a child to save and to rule and also a time when we patiently and hopefully wait for him to come again to set all things right in this world. What better way to start a new year than to anticipate Jesus?


How do we actively participate in advent?

If we are not intentional, the advent season will slip away before we know it. If we don’t intentionally focus on Jesus we will lose ourselves in the busyness and the hustle and the bustle of consumerism and commercialism that comes with the season.

Below is a collection of Advent readings, family activities, and resources that will help shape your imagination, form your soul and move you to center on Jesus and truly behold his beauty during Advent and Christmas.

**(NOTE: You can find the recommended books on www.booksforchrist.com and  www.amazon.ca )


Recommended Books 

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas is a great collection of essays and selected readings from Lewis to Moltmann to many more.

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp beautifully invites us into the richness of the true meaning of Christmas.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas is a collection of writings by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Piper, Keller, and many others.


Recommended Devotionals

Seeking God’s Face is a great protestant prayer book of Scripture, historic prayers and confessions that Phillip Reinders has put together. It includes a Psalm, a Scripture to meditate on, guided “free prayer”, a written prayer and more.

Preparing for Christmas is a great little book of daily reflections by Richard Rohr for Advent and Christmas.

God Is In The Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas is a collection of excerpts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings and sermons that will guide you through the weeks of Advent and Christmas, from waiting and mystery to redemption, incarnation, and joy.

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen is a book of waiting, hope, anticipation, and celebration that will guide you on a spiritual journey through the Advent and Christmas season.

Common Prayer Pocket Edition: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, and Enuma Okoro helps churches and individuals who desire to cultivate a deeper prayer life.


Recommended Free Resources

Preparing For the Coming of Christ is a free advent devotional guide written by Mark D. Robert who is an Evangelical theologian. This devotional includes Scriptures, prayers, and recommended hymns. Check it HERE

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper is free daily devotional that helps to reflect upon the meaning of the coming of Jesus and its impact on the world and us. Check it HERE

Paul David Tripp’s Advent Devotional (free online readings, video, and audio).This once-a-week devotional contains a reading, a video, and a sermon for each Sunday in Advent. Check it HERE

Advent Meditations from Redeemers Presbyterian Church is a free online advent resource from 2014, but it easily adapts to any year. The devotional contains daily personal readings, weekly reflections, and discussion questions for personal or whole family discussion. Check it HERE

Advent Resource from the Church of England. Check for confessions, prayers and worship service material HERE.


Recommended Family Activities:

Consume Less: Consider why shopping less and giving out more is a better practice. Encourage your family members, especially your children to give to others rather than adding more to their Christmas list.

Unwrapping The Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp is a beautifully illustrated family devotional that follows the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree. Each day, families can read the provided Scripture passage, engage with a specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme. There are free downloadable ornaments for each day on the author’s website that goes with the activities in the book, Check it HERE. 

Advent Wreath is a family activity. Every Sunday of Advent, light a candle in the Advent wreath along with reading a devotion to your family as you prepare to celebrate hope, peace, joy, and love.

The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is a great resource for the advent season that helps both children and adults see the Jesus-centered story line of the Bible and the importance of his coming.

Jesse Tree Project: A Jesse Tree is a family activity that combines devotionals with creating ornaments. Check here for ideas HERE

The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas by Dean Lambert Smith

Practice Gratitude: Use a chalkboard or a Journal or a chart paper in the house for the family members to write an “I’m grateful for” list in relation to how they have been blessed by Jesus this year. For further reflections on practicing gratitude check HERE

Serve Locally: Commit to serve a local organization, where you can meet people face to face and get to know their names and serve them. it could be in a Soup Kitchen or a Salvation Army or a shelter or walking across the street to your neighbours home. For some it can also be reaching out and spending time with your own family that you have neglected for some time (parents, children, siblings etc). You could also gather a group to go caroling at a nursing home or invite people who are away from their families or countries for table fellowship. You get my point!

Give Globally: Give your presence or support to an organization that serves people in need around the world. There is a big need and ample opportunities to be engaged beyond your own localities. Engage in conversations about the current refugee crisis and racial injustice and ask the question, “How can we as Christians welcome others as Christ has welcomed us (Romans 15:7)?


Recommended Music:

The Brilliance is a neo-liturgical group. And their two Advent volumes are remarkable. Check out HERE  and HERE

Paul Baloche’s two Christmas albums have both Advent music and Christmas carols! Check it out HERE and HERE

Chris Tomlin’s two albums, Glory in the Highest and Adore have mostly Christmas songs that engage us and invite us to worship Jesus.  Check it out HERE and HERE

The King’s College Choir and the Westminster Abbey Choir is a classical collection of Christmas carols, not advent songs. Check it out HERE and HERE

Bach is considered one of the greatest composers of all time. This is his work for use in the liturgical season of Advent and Christmas. Check it HERE and HERE


Recommended Prayers:

First Sunday of Advent:

Book Of Common Prayer CONTEMPORARY:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Revised Common Lectionary:

Unexpected God, 
your advent alarms us. 
Wake us from drowsy worship, 
from the sleep that neglects love, 
and the sedative of misdirected frenzy. 
Awaken us now to your coming, 
and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.


Second Sunday of Advent   

Book Of Common Prayer CONTEMPORARY:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Revised Common Lectionary:

Laboring God, 
with axe and winnowing fork 
you clear a holy space 
where hurt and destruction have no place, 
and a little child holds sway. 
Clear our lives of hatred and despair, 
sow seeds of joy and peace, 
that shoots of hope may spring forth 
and we may live in harmony 
with one another. Amen.


Third Sunday of Advent 

Book Of Common Prayer CONTEMPORARY:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Revised Common Lectionary:

O God of Isaiah and John the Baptist, 
through all such faithful ones 
you proclaim the unfolding of future joy 
and renewed life. 
Strengthen our hearts to believe your advent promise 
that one day we will walk in the holy way of Christ, 
where sorrow and sighing will be no more 
and the journey of God’s people will be joy. Amen.


Fourth Sunday of Advent

Book Of Common Prayer CONTEMPORARY:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Revised Common Lectionary:

Shepherd of Israel, 
may Jesus, Emmanuel and son of Mary, 
be more than just a dream in our hearts. 
With the apostles, prophets, and saints, 
save us, restore us, 
and lead us in the way of grace and peace, 
that we may bear your promise into the world. Amen.


Come, thou long expected Jesus

An Advent Prayer by Charles Wesley (1744)

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
 by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.


The Grace and the Impatience to Wait
An Advent Prayer by Walter Brueggemann (1994)

In our secret yearnings
we wait for your coming,
and in our grinding despair
we doubt that you will.

And in this privileged place
we are surrounded by witnesses who yearn more than we do
and by those who despair more deeply than do we.

Look upon your church and its pastors
in this season of hope
which runs so quickly to fatigue
and this season of yearning
which becomes so easily quarrelsome.

Give us the grace and the impatience
to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
to the edges of our finger tips.

We do not want our several worlds to end.
Come in your power
and come in your weakness
in any case
and make all things new.



Remember, these suggestions aren’t feel good legalistic exercises. They are also not to be used to impress God or people. I hope and pray that it would encourage and create space for individuals like you, your families and your communities of worship to center on Jesus and make the most out of the season.

Feel free to share your reflections, experiences, traditions, ideas and helpful links.