“Why write a book of Advent devotions?”
That’s what I kept asking myself this summer. And I couldn’t come up with a very good answer.
I mean, friends and family who enjoyed my Lenten Thy Will Be Done prayer book have been asking about an Advent resource for a couple of years. But really, does the world need another collection of readings and prayers and devotional anecdotes to help people mark time from December 1 until Christmas?
“Not really,” was the best answer I could come up with. Or maybe, “Not from me.”
So the Kindle edition of my Advent devotional book is now available at https://amzn.to/2r5npap, along with both a paperback edition https://amzn.to/2NpSkH8 and a large print edition https://amzn.to/2qsFS0y (paid links).
So what changed? How did I go from no mas (or at least, no Christmas) to publishing in time for Advent? Well, therein lies a tale….
Let me explain. No, we don’t have time for that; let me sum up. I still don’t think the world needs another collection of nice sentiments to help make the yuletide right. But what I do think real people need is real help following Jesus.
So that’s what I did (or tried to do) in this version of an Advent devotional book. If you are just looking for a daily reading, a devotional thought, and a brief prayer, you’ll find that, too. But let me give you three of the things that make this book different from what I had always imagined writing for Advent (and therefore never wrote).
1. A Focus on Next Step Discipleship
Everything in this book is intended to help real people delight in taking a small next step following Jesus. The traditional elements of an Advent devotional resource are leveraged to create opportunities for personal growth. The timeline extends beyond Christmas Day and into the new year, all the way to Epiphany and beyond. Forty days seemed like a good, biblical number for a focused time of growth. And let’s face it: that busy holiday season makes paying attention to your faith walk a real challenge! Staying focused on small, doable, real life outcomes helps this Advent book feel like a tool bag, not just a coffee coaster.
2. The Fun of Running an Experiment
If you want to help people take a next step, you have to give them options: one size does not fit all when it comes to discipleship. Because I cover 40 days, I have the space to introduce a variety of new ideas or methods without the pace being too hectic. The book shares adapted versions of Luther’s simple way to pray, Bonhoeffer’s meditating on the Word, and even St. Ignatius’s Prayer of Examine. Some of my favorite experiments are adapted from the good people at Visual Faith. (In my experience, they are experts in running experiments that help people delight in taking a next step.)
The daily devotions don’t expect you to do any of these methods perfectly; you’re simply invited to try them out and see how they go. Running an experiment takes the pressure off. You don’t have to have your spiritual ducks in a row for Jesus to touch your life this Christmas season. Real life is way too messy for that. So let’s go find something that works for you in the midst of the messy. Let’s see if we can discover what Jesus is up to in your life right now. Come on; it’s going to be fun!
3. An Attitude of Play and Delight
All those prayer experiments and thought experiments and life experiments are geared toward discipleship growth; but those tools and methods are also just plain fun. I guess that’s one final thing that makes this Advent Discipleship Travel Log different from your typical devotional, at least to my mind. The whole project runs on a spirit of play, curiosity, adventure, and delight.
Don’t get me wrong: you are still invited to confess your sins, or to forgive the hurt others have done to you; the devotions and reading and prayers have real, theological depth and insight. But this Advent devotional tool doesn’t take itself too seriously. Most Saturdays are geared toward rest; other buffer days let you catch up on any readings you have missed. (My favorite prayer in the whole book comes after a section labeled, “The Spiritual Gift of Naps,” and goes like this: “Now I lay me down to sleep; than you, Jesus. Amen.”)
The whole attitude from page one says, “Try it; you’ll like it! And if you don’t like it, that’s OK, too; you can try something else tomorrow!” I found this book fun to write and I think it’s a delight to read. If you are going to do me the honor of inviting me on a discipleship journey with you by reading this book, I want to be a traveling companion you think is fun to hang out with. I think discovering what Jesus is up to this Christmas season in your life should be a blast!
Those are just some of the reasons I wrote this Advent devotional–excuse me–why I felt compelled to write this 40-day, daily discipleship travel log for Advent, and Christmas, and New Year, and Epiphany. I want to help people delight in taking a next step following Jesus. I hope this book captures just a little of that awesome adventure.
Advent starts December 1, 2019. Heading my way?