Where did the liturgical year go? We’re almost at the end of this one, with Advent and the new church year just around the corner.

I love Advent, but it often flies by before I can really immerse myself in the season and all that comes with it: the Advent wreath, Advent calendar and scripture readings that guide us through this important time of watching and waiting for the Lord to come among us, God-with-us.

If you need a bit of help getting into the Advent spirit, here are some suggestions for books and activities that can slow things down and offer food for thought, reflection and prayer. Advent is a brief but sustaining season of the church year – a time of heartfelt preparation for the joy of Christmas. Come, Lord Jesus!

Pilgrim Year: Advent by Steve Bell

Join Manitoba singer-songwriter Steve Bell on a journey through Advent with reflections, scripture, poetry and song! This feast for the heart and the soul will bring rich insights and draw you closer to God on the pilgrim path. This is one of seven books by Steve Bell that lead us through the liturgical year.

Doorways into Hope and Joy at Advent and Christmas by Michael McGirr

Advent and Christmas are supposed to be seasons of quiet anticipation and peaceful wonder, but it doesn’t always feel that way. These prayers are a little breather. A chance to be ourselves for a moment, just as we are, with the God who wants to keep things simple. Spending time each day with these words and images aims to draw us closer to the God who loves us enough to become one of us.

Advent Goes to the Movies by John Pungente SJ and Monty Williams SJ

This user-friendly resource invites you to explore, discuss and reflect on 16 films (including many family-friendly choices) through the lens of Advent. Advent offers us a space in our lives to get ready to receive and accept God’s gift of self, a key step in recognizing that we are loveable. Knowing we are loved, we can open the gift, use it, share it and celebrate it.

Heading to the Manger: Advent Meditations for Catholics from Great Writers of the Past

All of us are heading to the manger during the season of Advent, but we are not making this journey alone. In this book, the voices of many faithful followers of Christ guide us as we draw closer to the newborn Jesus: St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Henry Newman, Thomas à Kempis, G.K. Chesterton and others.

Everlasting Light: Prayers around the Advent Wreath by Terence Hegarty

These original prayers, carefully blended with reminders of the long-time faith traditions and symbols of the Advent wreath, are designed to enrich your practice during this season of preparation.

O Come, Emmanuel: Daily Prayers for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (Living with Christ) by Daniel Connors

A distinctive blend of honest wisdom and contemporary sacred language creates a fresh and warm approach to praying with the daily gospel readings of Advent and Christmas. This beautiful book can help us offer prayers of joy, challenge, penance, confusion, need, fear and thanks while reflecting on the wonders God has done for us.

Advent and Christmas (Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton)

In this accessible introduction to the writings of Thomas Merton, small-group participants are led on a path of spiritual growth. Each of the five sessions focuses on a distinct theme: hope, salvation, compassion, tenderness or incarnation. A welcoming haven during a hectic season for those looking for deeply rewarding reflection on the meaning of Advent and Christmas.

Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations by Heidi Hess Saxton

This inviting book captures the humble yet faith-filled spirit of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Her example calls us to consider how we might love more deeply, surrender more completely, and let go of all the things we do not need, so there is more room to give to and receive gifts from the Lord.

From Holidays to Holy Days: A Benedictine Walk through Advent by Albert Holtz O.S.B.

The author, a Benedictine monk, invites us to join him on his daily walks as he points out connections between the holidays and the spiritual meaning of Advent and Christmas. In a string of coloured lights, a crowd of shoppers or a toy store window, he uncovers traditional Advent themes like watchful waiting, repentance and selfless love. On the bustling sidewalks, he introduces us to Isaiah, John the Baptist and Jesus himself, all speaking their ancient Advent and Christmas messages of peace, hope and goodwill.

For Families and Kids

Wonders of His Love: Family Devotions and Activities for Advent by Amy Wellborn

It is a wonder that God sent his only Son, that Jesus humbled himself to be born in a manger and live in poverty. Celebrate those wonders, and many more, as a family! Together, each day of the season, prepare for the coming of the Lord through scripture, reflection, prayers and activities.

Advent Window Calendars: The Lord Has Come

Open a different window each day of December to reveal a Christian image and a Bible passage (no Santa Claus, snowmen or cartoon characters!). The back leads kids on an “Advent Treasure Hunt” with a question, riddle or fill-in-the-blank to reveal the answer when they open the window.

My Catholic Advent and Christmas Activity Book by Jennifer Galvin

Entertaining word finds, crossword puzzles, color-by-number puzzles and crack-the-code puzzles will teach children about Advent and Christmas, emphasizing the real meaning of the holidays. Bonus: the activities are tied to the lectionary for all three cycles. 

Anne Louise Mahoney is managing editor of Novalis. She is the editor of Looking to the Laity: Reflections on Where the Church Can Go from Here and the author of I Hope, a book for young children.

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