27 Daily Advent Devotionals

Phaedra Taylor, "Annunciation" (Watercolor, 4'X2', 2005)

"Enfeebled Waiting Muscles that Wait With Hope"

The beginning of the church year, marked by the first Sunday of Advent, arrives again.

Oft-nicknamed a "Little Lent," because of its invitation to repent as a way to prepare for Christmastide, the time of feasting, Advent is a season in which we meditate on the coming of God in Christ by his Spirit. From the Latin "adventus," which is the Latin translation of the Greek word "parousia," a word frequently used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ, Advent asks:

"How does the original coming of God to earth and the future, eschatological coming of God inform our experience of God's coming here and now?"

More personally perhaps:

"What does it mean to commemorate and celebrate God's coming when he so often does not, in fact, come?"

Instead of seeing God's coming as a distant idea, fossilized in the past or far-flung in a seemingly perpetually receding future, both First Coming and Second Coming re-orient our sense of God's coming in our own day and time.  If we're honest with ourself, this fact might actually terrify us, as it often did the protagonists of Luke 1 and 2. If the triune God wants to come into my life today, what does that mean? What does that look like? How does my life need to change in light of that fact?

It bears mentioning that the season of Advent, with its stress on the "coming of God," is not interested in a generic coming. It is interested in a very particular form of coming: a coming that involves an extraordinarily large amount of waiting, an experience of anticipation that resists our urges to predict the work of the Lord in a manner that excuses the need for deep trust, and an arrival that always surprises even if in retrospect it remains consonant with the character of God.

This coming of God is ever and always a communal experience: a "advent" of the triune God which is experienced by the people of God. It is never a solo project.

This coming of God is inseparable from a personalized invitation to wait and to anticipate.

What Advent does, at its best, more concretely, is to retrain us in muscles of waiting and anticipation, which are muscles that we require in all domains of our life--family, work, friendship, ministry, politics, study, economy, health, hobbies and so forth.

All-too often, despite our best wishes, we succumb to a hopeless waiting. If this hopeless waiting is allowed to occupy our heart long enough, it results in a low-grade form of despair that in turn births a "grinding it out" or a "making the best of it" mentality, which inevitably makes us feel sick of ourselves.

All-too easily we grow faint with anticipation. How long do I have to wait? How long must I wait for that which I have hoped for, worked towards, prayed into, yearned till it hurts to want something so intensely?

Advent reminds us that God does in fact arrive. In Christ he arrives to a first-century peasant girl betrothed to a blue collar worker. In the Spirit he arrives to a hundred and twenty of the most unlikely bedfellows, gathered on the day of Pentecost. He arrives here and now, in this time and place, to you and to me.

He arrives just on time, even if it takes him a day or two, or thirty years, or four hundred, or even a thousand to arrive on the scene.

But his arrival, just like all his arrivals, always unsettles and astonishes. His arrival always exceeds our capacity to forecast the manner of his arrival, even if, looking back, we're be able to perceive the coherent shape of God's care for us and for the world that he so loves.

The season of Advent, then, is an opportunity both to discover the nature of our enfeebled waiting muscles as well as our tired practices of anticipation and to discipline our hearts and minds, bodies and lives so that we might become, together, a people who wait with hope, who anticipate with faith, and who welcome the arrival of the Lord with courage in our hearts.

A Collect Prayer for the first Sunday of Advent
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.

Artwork of the Holy Family by Fr. John Giuliani

In light of the fact that we cannot do this work without practical helps, here are a few resources (in no particular oder) that might be helpful to do this work well.

1. The #AdventWord Global Advent Calendar. "It’s an innovative way to engage in the season of Advent with people all over the world. Simply respond to the daily meditation emailed to you with images and prayers that speak to your heart. Your images and prayers will appear in the Advent Calendar with others from around the world."

2. The Office of Social Justice for the Christian Reformed Church: "What does the incarnation have to do with us in our daily worship, work, school, home, and play? How should Christians respond to friends and family, strangers and neighbors—literal and figurative—in light of the true light? Are we as Christians, as followers of Christ, embodied beings of love in our interactions with members in our community and beyond? What does the incarnation look like in our lives today—for us and for others? We invite you to let these questions orient your Christmas season."

3. An Advent Devotional by the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. "This devotional includes an Advent Worship Service for Families."

4. Advent Begins in the Dark: Reflections to Ready Us for the Not Yet: "Reflections by Fleming Rutledge, Jason Micheli, Sarah Condon, Todd Littleton, Chenda Innis Lee, Taylor Mertins, Johanna Hartileus, Teer Hardy, Josh Retterer, Will Willimon, Drew Colby, and several others for a special online Advent devotional and discussion community."

5. Christianity Today's Advent Devotional: "Advent is a 30-day devotional to help individuals and families journey through the 2017 Advent season. It features devotions by Christianity Today contributors and editors such as N.T. Wright, John Ortberg, Fleming Rutledge, Peter Chin, Joni Eareckson Tada, Russell Moore, Tony Evans, and more."

6. Cru's Advent Devotional: "The Savior is Here: Advent Study. As our awareness for the first coming of Christ is heightened, our longing and expectation for his second advent should increase as well. Beginning four Sundays before Christmas we focus on advent, a season of reflection and longing for the coming King."

7. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Advent Devotional: "A Pregnant Pause: Each section contains a number of different elements: a painting, Scripture passage, written reflection, questions, and a guided prayer. I encourage you to see each component as an opportunity to converse with God. Take the time to step away from distraction and allow God to meet you through this work. Enjoy His presence with you and respond as He leads. It is more important that you engage with Him than whether you get through all the content. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring you to a place of rest, refreshment, and transformation in His way and at His pace."

8. I Am Mary: Advent Devotional: "From the first Sunday of Advent through Christmas Day, each daily devotion includes a scripture verse, a reflection, and a prayer. I Am Mary also features an Advent candlelighting service as a free download. Best-selling author and minister Carol Howard Merritt leads us on a remarkable Advent journey with the blessed ordinary girl who becomes the holy and revered Mother of God."

9. The Common Rule Advent Devotional: "The Common Rule - Advent Edition! is a seasonal version of The Common Rule which provides a set of daily and seasonal practices for celebrating the King that has come and waiting for the King that will come again."

10. Lectionary Poetry – Advent Week 1 (Year A) by The Englewood Review of Books: "A diverse range of classic and contemporary poems to accompany the Sunday lectionary readings through Advent (and beyond)!"

11. The Image Journal Advent Calendar: Day 1 includes the entry, "Snow on Snow" by Robert Clark.

12. Biola University's Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts Advent Devotional: "Join us daily for the CCCA’s popular Advent Project, an online resource with scripture, devotionals, art, video, and music -- as we remember the mystery of the incarnation and the Word made flesh."

13. Paraclete Press' book All Creation Waits. The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by Gayle Boss: "Dear friends, We’re very excited to offer our best-selling Advent devotional, All Creation Waits, as an e-subscription. Chapter one can be viewed here."

14. Tamara Murphy's Advent Daybook: "If you've ever considered following the ancient rhythms of the liturgical calendar, there's no better time to start than at the Church's New Year: Advent. Even if your church follows the civic calendar more prominently than the liturgical, you can follow along with your brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe from the quiet spaces of your own home. You could create -- figuratively or, even, literally -- a family altar. This does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or expensive. Simple tangible acts will impress themselves upon your hearts and minds for a lifetime: a book or two filled with rich images and time-tested writings, mealtime prayers, a candle or two. It's one of my greatest joys to walk alongside you through Advent with suggested resources and daily encouragement in the form of the Advent Daybook blog series."

15. What Can't Wait: A Sanctified Art: "This is a bundle of 8 multimedia resources for you to use in your worship and ministry to draw near to God throughout the season of Advent. The Draw Near theme emerged for us in our group study of the Revised Common Lectionary texts for Advent Year C, particularly the gospel texts for each week. It helps us name our individual and collective longing for God’s closeness and for a world made new."

16. ADVENT ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES AND KIDS by Godspacelight (Christine Sine): "I love getting ready for the Advent season and am already planning our activities and decorations for the season so thought you might like to do so too."

17. Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries: "Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon, shepherds, wise men from the east, a legion of angels, and even King Herod—all play their parts in the Gospel narratives that speak of the Savior’s incarnation. Explore the many ways their lives were touched as God became one of us, for each of us, in The Coming King."

18. ADVENT DEVOTIONS from the Reformed Church in America: "The Jesse Tree explores the lineage of Jesus in preparation for Christmas. This year's Advent devotions follow the Jesse Tree. Join us as we reflect on Abraham, David, Rahab, and others, tracing God's plan as it unfolds toward the birth of the Christ child. Devotions are available in both English and Spanish."

19. Advent Conspiracy: "Advent Conspiracy was founded on the radical idea that we can celebrate Christmas humbly, beautifully, and generously. Advent is the story of a wondrous moment when God entered our world to make things right. It is the greatest story ever told and it changes everything—including the way we celebrate Christmas."

20. On the Road to Bethlehem: "Advent Reflections for 2018 Written by the Oblates and Sisters of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine."

21. Advent Calendar from The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: "Advent devotions including the Advent wreath, remind us of the meaning of the season. Our Advent calendar above can help you fully enter in to the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ."

22. Advent Devotional by World Vision International: "Our prayer is that this Advent these few simple resources will provide you with ways to help your faith communities become more aware of the violence that is happening to children, and encourage them to start breaking the silences that have surrounded those forms of violence against children, whether they are in their neighbourhood or further afield in the global community."

23. Kids Reads Truth Advent Conversation Cards: "Twenty-five conversation cards will help you countdown to Christmas while exploring the biblical story of Jesus's birth. Celebrate our Savior each day by reading Scripture, answering age-appropriate discussion questions, and completing a fun activity."

24. The Birth of Jesus Advent Calendar and Nativity Scene by Agostino Traini: "Agostino Traini's delightful Advent calendar looks like a book but unfolds into a Nativity scene made of pressed wood that’s sturdy enough to last for years. The brightly-colored figures that make up the scene—one for each day of the season and a bonus one for the day after Christmas—will delight children. Many of the characters are engaged in everyday activities, as if to emphasize that Christ came into a world of ordinary people."

25. Pilgrim Year (Advent) by Steve Bell: "Drawing on poetry, music, history and tradition, Steve's unique reflections animate a rich spiritual tradition for the seasoned and the novice alike. Advent, where we consider the mystery of the human person, whose dignity is to accept the invitation to take part in the drama of salvation, co-operating to bring Christ’s life to the world."

26. "The Bible in Advent" by Fuller Missional Formation: "This Advent, consider using our free guide and scripture readings to help you and your community engage Advent afresh by simply listening to the Bible together. Gather with your family, an existing group, or start a new group and delight in the mysteries of anticipation and joy. These are simple tools to help you pause, and reflect."

27. We Wonder: Contemplative Bible Storytelling for Children: A Daily Contemplative Advent Podcast: "Join us, as we wait together for God. Each episode features: a Scripture passage brought to life with dynamic music and audio a short, engaging reflection on the passage a contemplative time for wondering together about the story brief thoughts and a prayer led by a special child-guest."

PS: If you know of any other good daily Advent devotionals, please feel free to add them in the comments section.
Donald Jackson, "Luke Frontispiece: The Birth of Christ (Preparatory sketch 1)"


Unknown said…
Ann Voskamp’s journal/devotional, “The Greatest Gift,” is a favorite of mine.
That's wonderful, Ann. Is it available online or only in print?
Chinwe said…
I'm using these two this year: "Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas" and "Waiting on the Word: A poem a day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany" by Malcolm Guite.
Those are two wonderful Advent devotionals. They're not available online, which is why they're not included on this list, but great stuff all the same.
Unknown said…
"A Coming Foretold"
Steve, thanks for sharing this devotional!
Antiquerain said…
Each year, The Atlantic features a pictorial Advent calendar of shots from the Hubble Space Telescope. I love that it evokes awe and reminds me of the one whose coming was foretold by the prophets and sought be the wise men--celestial students.

Thanks for sharing this with me!
sarah said…
Adding to the list: on December 1, I'm launching a contemplative Advent podcast for children (and really, anyone) called We Wonder: Advent (https://wewonderpod.com). A little embarrassed to be self-promoting here, but it's based on a devotional we've used at City Church SF for the past three years, and I'm really excited to share it with the world!
Thanks for this recommendation, Sarah!
Kchue said…
This is great! Thank you so much for this. Would love to share these with pastor Keion - houston pastor at https://lhhouston.church/

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