Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advent for Adults

Occasionally at this time of year I find myself on the brink of falling into an "Advent is for kids" trap and neglect to recognize that Advent is for adults, too.  Advent is for me, actually.  Not just the me that's the mom and master-planner of all things Advent in the home, but me - a woman, an individual, a child of God.  I absolutely affirm the importance of instructing my children in the How and Why of observing Advent (not what this post is about, though), and of course I take my responsibility to foster their anticipation of the Christ Child's birth seriously.  I make an effort to help my entire family keep Advent and celebrate Christmas in child-friendly ways.  (child-friendly, not child-ish, ok?)   But, for all the time that I've invested in making Advent meaningful for my  family, our children in particular, I can often lose sight of this reality:  I'm an adult, and I may need something more.   I want to be transformed during Advent, and I think it means doing more than what I've orchestrated for the family as a whole.  The family Advent wreath prayers, and songs, and Jesse Tree meditations that  we use to help guide the family unit to the joy of Christmas, are not enough for me.  When those observances are completed for the evening, and the children are nestled all snug in their beds, then it's my adult Advent time.  

It was the week before Advent last year when I first felt the determination to kick my own observance of Advent up a notch.  We had gotten our box of Advent and Christmas books out of the attic.  I was so excited to throw myself into my high-intensity personal preparation for the coming of the King.  And when I pulled my Advent pamphlets and booklets out of the box, my heart fell.  "Oh yeah," I thought, "I remember these" : guides to Advent for the lukewarm soul.  Every year I'd read them, and every year I was not challenged to have the type of Advent I wanted.  The booklets in front of me read like a poorly organized Friday night meditation on a teen retreat... "Advent is a time of waiting.  Have you ever waited for something?  A phone call, a package in the mail, a plane, a train, an automobile?"  or  "Advent is a time of helping.  Have you ever helped someone?  How did it feel?  Did you feel like dancing?  How can you help someone today?  Were you supposed to help someone yesterday, and forgot?" or this  "Advent is a time of social justice.  Have you sung We Shall Overcome today?"  (I have clearly take some liberties here in the paraphrasing of my treasure trove of mediocre Advent literature.)

There was a time when those types of meditations may have been more helpful to me.  And they may actually  be what some adults need to consider.  But last year I was ready for the heavy and hard hitting stuff.  I wanted theology and (small doses of) philosophy, I wanted Scripture, and I didn't want fluffy feel-good Advent books.  I wanted to have a "consider your weakness and helplessness in the face of life's trials and temptations and know the goodness and power of the God who came to Earth in that same weakness and helplessness to rid you of yours" type of Advent.  I wanted a body of Advent literature that would challenge me to strip away the barriers, baggage, and excuses I collected through the last year and jubilantly invite me to a renewed love of the Savior come for me.  

So I put the call out there on trusty old facebook.  I got some wonderful responses, spent a small fortune at, and last year I had a very different kind of Advent.  I finally found some of the books that I had been looking for but didn't know existed.  Finally, I could break free of the free-in-the-back-of-the-church Advent pamphlets.  

I can't wait for this Sunday, the First day of Advent!  I have my stash ready - a book that I'll keep at my corner of the couch, one at my bed, one in the car, and a few others scattered about the house (I wrote that so that I wouldn't have to write that I keep some in the bathrooms...)  I can't wait to revisit the richness I discovered last year.  Borrowing some thoughts from a wise and good friend:  When I nourish myself with the "meatier" materials of the season, I have a spiritual bounty that will overflow into my family.  There is a wealth  of Advent excitement, preparation, and anticipation to share with my children because I took the time to delve into my Advent stuff for adults!

Here's what I have and recommend, in no particular order:
(Obviously, I don't necessarily recommend trying to read everything every day.  Burnout by Day three, guaranteed.)

In Conversation With God, Vol. 1, Advent and Christmastide, Francis Fernandez
     (incidentally, I loved this so much last year, I bought the whole 7 volume set - meditations for every day 
     of the year.  I know I said 'no particular order' but this is my favorite!)

Behold, He Comes: Meditations on the Incarnation, Fr. Benedict Groeschel

The Blessing of Christmas, Pope Benedict, XVI

The Magnificat Advent Companion  (this link is to the 2012 Kindle edition, which I just bought for 99

And two I have my eyes on for this year or next are:

Advent Meditations with Fulton Sheen , for my Kindle  (or should I do the hard copy???)

God is in the Manger, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, because it looks awesome


  1. Bahahaha..."have you ever waited for something?" I was laughing out loud at your opinion of mediocre Advent materials. I SO know what you're talking about!! I remember getting a reflection book on saints from my mom and one of the meditations was about "looking at things in a new way" and it's deeply spiritual life application was to rearrange my furniture that day. I never picked up that book again :) Anyway...I was just thinking this same thing the other day! How often we observe the liturgical year and think of it as "for the children" when really we're teaching the children so that they can eventually live it in its fullness WITH US. It becomes a rhythm of the heart and soul and not just a fun way to get through the year. I know I'm guilty of it and I appreciate the encouragement to deepen things for my own soul this Advent. Now to find the right reading for me...

    1. "It becomes a rhythm of the heart and soul and not just a fun way to get through the year." - I need that reminder a lot. Nicely said. I meant to tell you that I decided to write this post when I saw your Advent give-away. I was going to "enter" and then I remembered all the great stuff I got last year, and I got so excited to get it out again! So, Thanks!

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  3. Man, I SO needed this! It really IS easy to think that Advent (and all of life, I guess) is all about the kids. Great stuff. I actually ordered the Kindle Magnificat Advent companion a few days ago!Now I'll be ordering some more things:)

  4. In Conversation with God (series) = Life for Adults. ;)
    Have a most blessed Advent, dear Theresa.

  5. I know this is a super old post (I've just discovered your blog and am enjoying the archives) so I don't even know if you'll get this or maybe you've written about it in more recent years, but Come Lord Jesus by Mother Mary Francis is an AMAZING advent book! And thanks for your recommendations. I've ready hers for 2 or 3 years in a row and was looking for something new. I'll start here!


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