“Seven Reasons to Celebrate Advent” by Ryan Shelton: Many Protestant churches, including the one I grew up in, forgo the celebration of Advent and other seasons of the church year, unconvinced of their value. Like Mathis, I wasn’t introduced to Advent until my early twenties, and also like him, I’ve grown to love it. Here are seven reasons why.
New Advent album for kids: Last month Rain for Roots released Waiting Songs, a collection of (mostly original) Advent songs for the whole family. Including tracks like “Isaiah 11” and “Every Valley (It’s Hard to Wait),” the album goes beyond a narrow focus on the Nativity to encompass ancient messianic prophecies and the present-day anticipation of the church for Christ’s kingdom to come in full: “These songs are about making time for waiting. The King is coming and He is already here. So we practice listening, quieting ourselves, celebrating, whispering good news, and yelling shouts of joy. In the Rain for Roots family, we practice most of all by singing to ourselves, to each other, and to our children about true things. He is coming—the Joy of Every Longing Heart. Our longing hearts. Grown-ups and children; we are the same in this. Through these songs, may God call us closer into conversation with Himself while we wait and hope with expectation. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
“The Annunciation: A Really Weird Story” by W. David O. Taylor: I can’t speak highly enough of David Taylor; everything he writes or says is gold. In this article he reminds us that at the edge of every part of the Christmas story is a dark shadow, which many celebrants conveniently ignore, preferring its sweet and sentimental aspects instead. As a church we need to embrace the weird and haunting quality of the Incarnation and the events that surrounded it.
The Great Christ Comet by Colin Nicholl: This book has been getting a lot of positive attention since its release in September. The fruit of four years of research, it posits a new theory of the Star of Bethlehem: that it was actually a comet. At first I was hesitant to consider the findings of a biblical scholar on such a specialized topic in science, but actually several astronomers have endorsed it, calling it “a remarkable achievement,” “erudite,” groundbreaking, “a significant contribution . . . worthy of serious consideration,” and certain to “stimulate important new lines of scientific enquiry.” If you’re interested in finding out more, click on the hyperlinked title above (which will take you to the book’s Amazon page), or check out Tim Challies’s book review, Christianity Today’s printed interview with the author, or the video interview below given by radio host Eric Metaxas (discussion of the book starts around 0:22:39).
“Let Us Adore Him” by David Mathis: Mathis holds up the magi (sorcerers) as a model of how to worship God in spirit and in truth.