Advent Companions … And a Giveaway!

Few things are as dear to me about Advent as my quiet morning times of prayer and devotion by the Christmas tree. With a sturdy mug of cinnamon-laced coffee and maybe a candle or two, I love to sit in my low chair watching the twinkle lights dance with their own reflection in the windows, and the winter dawn kindling beyond the great holly tree outside. Celebrating Christ’s coming, in all the rich tradition of symbols both lowly and magnificent, brings Him nearer to my imagination than any other time of the year—and what is imagination if not faith clothed in pictures our minds can touch and our hearts can hold? I’m well aware that even the most complete earthly picture of Christ’s fullness enfleshed in humanity is only a glimpse of Who He really is in all His glory. When faith is made sight someday, we’ll have the frames to bear such terrible beauty and tenderness. Until then, however, it’s very precious to cling to what we know, knowing the reality is better than our best dreams.


Advent is a time for contemplation as well as preparation. Our inner lives need readying even more than our outer ones do, and it’s for this reason I always surround myself with a goodly company that’s wiser and more experienced than I am—to keep my heart tethered to what’s true and my imagination on fire with what’s good and beautiful.

In that vein, here are some of the books that are journeying with me through Advent this year:


The Divine Hours

Phyllis Tickle’s trilogy of prayer books are a gift to the Church. I’ve been using them for several years now and they are such a trusty anchor in both the daily round and the church year as a whole. They’re divided into seasons: Prayers for Springtime, Prayers for Summertime, and Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime. And while each one contains Morning Office, Midday Office, Vespers Office and Compline for every day of the year, I’ll admit I’m more inclined to pause for Vespers when the afternoons are short and the evening gathers in just about the time I’m sitting down to have my tea. Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime has a whole section dedicated to Advent and Christmas Week, which adds such richness to my holiday prayer times. And if you’re just looking for a dedicated devotional to guide you through the Benedictine rule of fixed-hour prayer from Advent through Epiphany, Christmastide is the perfect ‘condensed’ version.

What the Heart Already Knows

Also by Phyllis Tickle, this book has become an indispensable part of Philip’s and my Advent and Christmas readings as a couple. In this collection of stories, Phyllis gives readers a glimpse into life on the farm where she and her husband, Sam, raised their six children amid a milieu of cattle and fowl and forces of nature—I cannot even begin to express how much I love and relate to this book. With presence and eloquence, Tickle calls our attention to the everyday parables with which the watchful life is fraught, and it’s nothing short of breathtaking. There’s a short tale for each Sunday in Advent, along with the liturgical observances of Christmas Week and Epiphany, and although I’ve read them all many times, I usually can’t get through them without tears. Tickle drives her meanings home with a precision that’s never heavy-handed, and I always feel more aware of my own world after spending time in hers.

Waiting on the Word

Malcolm Guite is one of the most brilliant and devout minds of our age, and in this devotional anthology he guides his readers through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany with a poem a day and a brief but absolutely razor-sharp exposition of the poem’s incarnational themes. I’ve learned more about writing poetry by perusing Malcolm’s insights on reading poetry than just about anywhere else. But more than that, Malcolm pulls back the veil on human expression and shows us the living splendor glowing just beneath the surface. There’s a hint of the Story running through each and every truly creative act—and in this very special, and very unique devotional, that story rings out loud and clear.

The  Circle of Seasons

This lovely gem was written by my very gifted friend, Kimberlee Conway Ireton, and if you long to make connection with the significance of the liturgical calendar but didn’t grow up in that tradition, this book is for you. Even if you did, Kimberlee’s insights into the wealth and texture of the church year will kindle your devotional observances afresh. I absolutely love the way she weaves the seasons together into a living tapestry that narrates the story of redemption. And since the church year commences with the first Sunday in Advent, now is the perfect time to fall in step with Kimberlee’s round of contemplation, celebration, personal reflection and corporate joy.

WinterSong: Christmas Readings

A collaborative work by two friends—and two of the most sensitive female minds in modern writing—this book is a beautiful exchange between renowned poet Luci Shaw and the great Madeleine L’Engle. Alternating between poetry and prose, reminiscence and prescient insight, L’Engle and Shaw imagine the Incarnation in ways old and new. It’s simply gorgeous, as is only to be expected from these two. What’s more, its collaborative nature (between two writers we so admire!) was a huge source of inspiration for Laura and me to found the Golden Hours site.

I can hardly believe that Golden Hours is one week old today! Laura and I have been blessed–and somewhat overwhelmed–by the warmth with which our little offering has been received, and I want you all to know how much your enthusiasm means to us!

And in the spirit of celebration, I’d like to give away a lovely, pristine copy of Phyllis Tickle’s What the Heart Already Knows. We’d love to get the word out on Golden Hours, so to enter, simply share one of the pieces you like here on Facebook or re-post one of our Instagram pictures, and then come back and let us know where you posted it in the comments.

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While you’re at it, we’d love it if you’d share with us some Advent reading recommendations of your own. Every one of the books on my current list came as a gift or recommendation of a friend, so I’m always keen to hear what others are reading!

The winner will be drawn on the evening of Wednesday, December 7.

Happy reading, friends! 🙂

(p.s. This post contains affiliate links. None of these reviews were solicited, and these opinions are entirely my own.)

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  1. Thank you so much for the suggestions. My husband, John, and I just ordered the poems and the What the Heart Already Knows. Also, I am inspired by the vision of reading/praying my morning prayers by the Christmas tree. I am looking forward to reading these, and having my morning devotions by the tree. I really appreciate yours and Laura’s effort in doing the Golden Hours. I had really wanted to focus more on Advent this year than I usually do, and y’all are an inspiration. Thank you so much! Lesa

    1. Hello, Lisa, and thanks for your kind words!

      Enjoy your Advent readings! 🙂 I just started Malcolm’s book again this morning and I’m awed afresh. I know you’ll love it.

    1. Hello, Bonnie! Thanks for sharing on FB. I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer about Instagram. As I mentioned to Joy above, with the Repost app you can, well, re-post images you like on Instagram in your own IG feed. I updated the post with a link. 🙂

      Take care, friend! xx

  2. I am happy to find your blog and see your lovely Advent suggestions. My very favorite Christmas/Advent read aloud is “This Way To Christmas” by Ruth Sawyer. It awakens such a longing for community and connection to nature. This book captures my heart right alongside the children’s. I am sharing this post on Facebook as I love connecting folks to Advent resources.

  3. I posted on FB and a book I’m pulling out again this year is Angels and other Strangers: family Christmas stories by Katherine Paterson who wrote Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob have I loved.

  4. Malcolm Guite’s “Waiting on the Word” is so rich – a spiritual and literary feast. I read it first last Advent and it is once again on my bedside table.

    Sadly, it hasn’t arrived in time for the beginning of Advent but I have ordered Kris Camealy’s “Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting” – your friend Kimberlee Conway Ireton has written the introduction to it and the pages I sampled on Amazon appeal.

    “B is for Bethlehem” by Isabel Wilner – for young children – is a wondrous telling of the Christmas story. A page a day through Advent or perfect, read in its entirety on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, it is full of the beautiful language of the church and illustrated with joyously whimsical artwork. My children are grown now but it would not be Advent for me if I didn’t open up its pages once again.
    Here a few examples from the text:
    “J is for Jesus, Immanuel holy
    Cradled in straw in a stable so lowly.

    R is for Radiance, God’s glorious light.
    It brightens the stable. It lightens the night.

    W’s for Worship. O come and adore.
    In starlight, in candlelight, glad carols soar.”

    I don’t have either Facebook or Instagram accounts, but your name and blog is on my lips in old fashioned conversation with friends (smile).

    1. Judy, face-to-face recommendations are the very best kind. This makes me happy. 🙂

      And thank you for the sampling from “B is for Bethlehem.” Sounds like a real gem. I’ll have to hunt down a copy. 🙂

  5. I shared this post on FB and while I follow you on Instagram, I have no idea how to share there. If I figure it out, I will share there, too.

    I am reading Wintersong right now and loving every page. I read Elizabeth Goudge’s Christmas Book every year as well as Charles Spurgeon’s December readings in Morning and Evening. Every year I try to find a new book to read and ponder at Christmas so that, as you said, I’m preparing internally as well as externally for the Season.

    I just finished reading China Court by Rumer Godden and was interested in the Divine Hours as a result. I was excited to read about the prayer books by Phyllis Tickle and plan to look for them.

    Thank you for this lovely, thoughtful blog. Each time you post, it gives me a chance to slow down and meditate on the wonder of Christ’s birth and His love for us as I read your words.

    1. Thank you so much, Joy! 🙂 I’m happy to know you’ve found this to be such a peaceful place. And, oh, I LOVE the Elizabeth Goudge Christmas Book, as well! One of my all-time favorites.

      (As far as Instagram sharing goes, I should have made that clearer: with the Repost app you can, well, re-post images you like on Instagram in your own IG feed. I updated the post with a link. :))

  6. Just shared this on fb. I am looking fir arms to how your blog develops! Thanks for the lovely reading suggestions.

  7. These sound lovely! A farm-based Advent book – be still, my beating heart.

    Our family reads the Advent collects from “The Book of Common Prayer” through the Advent season, usually at our Sunday lunch.

  8. I am so enjoying Golden Hours! I shared on Facebook and plan to download the Instagram app in order to share there. What a gift these daily posts are! Not actually an advent book, but I am reading (rereading) Miss Read’s Christmas books. So warm and evocative and sweet! Right now I am reading from The Christmas Mouse before bed.

    1. Thank you, Melissa! 🙂

      And, oh, I love the Miss Read books. The Christmas Mouse reminds me of the time my cat brought a live field mouse into the house and released it…into the Christmas tree! It was several days before we realized where all that rustling and scattering of fir needles was coming from…

  9. Love, love, love Golden Hours! I’m enjoying it so much! 🙂 Shared it on Facebook. Thanks so much for doing this Lanier and Laura!!!!

  10. Thank you for including me in your Golden Hours meditations… I love what you are doing and am already blessed! Especially thank you for the book recommendations… we didn’t “do” Advent in my denomination growing up so I’m always looking to others for inspiration and suggestions…

    I don’t FB so cannot really help you out in that way but have already spread the word about your new blog this Christmas season!

    Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angels’ voices!

  11. I’ve shared on facebook, ladies. While I’d love to win the book, I really hope that every share and like and repost you get brings you closer to your goals. You are both so talented!
    PS – I am also forever in your debt for the new Christmas music recommendations. I have loved Christmas music for so long, but I was actually beginning to dread all of the same ol’ stuff.

  12. OH how I love, LOVE Advent, and I would love, LOVE to win a copy of this book!!! Advent is such a special season in our home, as revival always seems to follow, and miracles seem to happen in relationship. I’m always really happy when Lent comes, because I find we need it again. I so wish we could just hold onto it!

    I shared on fb! I am doing Advent with six littles (ages 2-19), and we have enjoyed so many writings over the years! The Arnold Ytreeide adventures have brought Christ into our hearts, Jesse Tree traditions, The Jesus Storybook Bible plan for Advent, Handcrafted Story’s art journals, the Bible itself, and this year we are enjoying Each year I pray and search for what will bless our family in that season. 🙂

    1. Sandi, Miracles do seem to happen in relationship! Sounds like you have a busy household and you’ve shared some great books together. Thanks for the suggestions!

  13. When I first saw a link to this site I smiled . Christmas? Just Christmas? Sounded almost too good to be true! A site without angst – a site simply here to warm the heart. Yes, it was true! And what a breath of fresh air it is. And although our lives are world’s apart, that’s okay, because I love that I can sneak in, take a peak and be cheered.

    Thank you, both, for creating a lovely little place to visit for a few minutes and leave uplifted.


    p.s. I posted on Facebook

    1. Susan, I’m glad you’re enjoying our angst-free zone (for angst you can visit our personal blogs). I’m glad you stopped by–and said hello!

  14. Hi Lanier! I posted on Facebook:

    This is the first time I’ve observed Advent (along with my husband and our two little ones) and it has been such a delight. I’ve been going through the Advent study from She Reads Truth during my morning quiet time and then in the evenings, we read the daily Scripture readings together and light one of the candles (so far) in our “Advent wreath” – which at the moment is four pillar candles on a white china tray. I need to add some greenery and pinecones. I’ve been enjoying your blog so much! P.S. Have you heard Christy Nockels’ new Christmas album? The second track is a beautiful Advent hymn.

    1. Hello, Lauren, and thank you! 🙂 We’re so happy to hear you’ve been enjoying Golden Hours.

      I haven’t heard the Christy Nockels album–thanks for the recommendation. I’m always on the lookout for new gems to add to my list of loved Christmas music!

  15. I’m enjoying your Golden Hours blog very much, thank you! This Advent I’m using Henri Nouwen’s A Book of Hours. It’s a compilation of snippets from his books, done by Philip Waldron. It isn’t specifically Advent focused, but wonderful nonetheless.

  16. So glad I stopped by Lanier’s website and found this brightly glowing candle in the darkness of a Black Friday kind of world. I shared the pushme/pullyou post on FB but must admit that it was a tough call. I love Phyllis Tickle’s books and would be as pleased as Wassail punch to win the give away!

  17. I’m using a new work by Kate McCord for my Advent reading this year. She’s a former aid worker in Afghanistan. (I shared the “Christmas Greens” blog on Facebook)

  18. We are celebrating with a special prayer and candle lighting, followed by the hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. This year, we will include the advent prayer found on your lovely blog. Thank you for sharing your holiday traditions.

  19. I shared this on Facebook and in particular with a friend who might appreciate this treasure trove – you two are such an encouragement to fight the good fight! I am actually sitting here by the fire having my morning quiet time, but I have not yet found my Advent books for the year, nor is the tree up yet. One step at a time…Thank you both for your writing and good cheer!

    1. Thanks for visiting! One step at a time, yes! I don’t have my tree up, either — tomorrow’s trimming day. I love Christmas in stages — and by the 25th the house is in all its festive glory. All I have out so far are some sprigs of holly in vases, a few candles and a wreath on the door. Cheers! ~ Laura

  20. I’ve used a collection of readings called “Watch for the Light” and it’s wonderful. I stumbled upon your site via the Frederick Buechner. Anyone who is a friend of FreddyB is a friend of mine 🙂

    I’ve not been feeling especially hopeful lately so I continue to pray for a work of grace in my heart. Thanks for sharing, ladies.

    1. Love “Watch for the Light.” That’s actually on my kitchen table as my daily guide right now. And I hear you — there are times I don’t feel particularly hopeful, either. And Christmastime is loaded, so whatever you are feeling can be multiplied. Praying for a work of grace in your heart, my heart — and all hearts. Blessings! ~ Laura

  21. Thank you for sharing these recommendations! My husband and I are spending our first Christmas together this year, and we selected Malcom Guite’s Waiting on the Word. Reading out loud together is something we have enjoyed since our courtship – we are discovering a new appreciation for this practice with the poems Malcom presents each day. Looking forward to trying the books you mention in the Advents to come!
    (I reposted “What are you reading for Advent?” on Instagram, and shared your “Bringing in the Greens” article on Facebook with some dear friends – with whom I hope to share such traditions & lasting-friendship as you and Laura have!)

    1. It makes me cry when I think about my first Christmas with my husband — 22 years ago. We had NO money, but we broke down and got a little Fraser fir anyways and gave it some love. I made (and baked) all the ornaments. Enjoy! ~ Laura

  22. My FAVORITE Advent song is “OH Come Divine Messiah”. I can hum that song all through Advent and never get tired of it.

  23. Ah! I was already intending to leave a comment here after reading through all of the posts this afternoon, and your giveaway makes me extra glad to do so!

    I learned about and subscribed to Golden Hours a few days ago, but I waited (impatiently at times) to read until this afternoon, the first time I’ve had all week to sit and breathe deeply and take in some nourishment for my soul. I’ve so enjoyed what both you and Laura have written here. I’m looking forward to more, and I have no doubt it will enrich my experience of Advent and Christmas this year!

    As soon as I finish posting my comment, I’m going to share a post on Facebook, probably this one, since it’s the most recent and contains recommendations for Advent reading. And I can’t wait to follow the links and explore the new-to-me resources myself! I just bought The Divine Hours in October and have been so thankful for this new dimension to my spiritual life. As someone who grew up Catholic and is now part of a non-denominational Protestant church, I’m finding that praying the offices helps to fill a need for liturgy in my life.

    My oldest and most well-loved Advent book is Jesus, Be in My Christmas, by Sarah Hornsby. It’s a faithful friend every December. My most recently-acquired book is John Piper’s The Dawning of Indesctructible Joy. I’m terrible at writing succinct descriptions of books (or of anything, for that matter), so I’ll just leave you to investigate on your own if the titles intrigue you. 🙂

    Thanks again to both of you for this lovely place to land during this beautiful season!

    1. Hi, Keri, and thanks for your warm comment! 🙂

      And thank you for your recommendation, as well. I will be sure to check out the Sarah Hornsby book, as I’ve never heard of it.

  24. I shared on facebook. I am loving this site– it feels like an advent calendar in blog form, but more nourishing than daily pieces of chocolate! I am starting every day with The Harpooner Advent Devotional, which I believe I first heard of either on your blog or the Rabbit Room.
    Oh, and I just baked some of Laura’s Granny’s Gingersnaps for my co-workers- just the thing for a cold, rainy day!

  25. Since you have so happily proclaimed that word of mouth counts, I’ll add my own name to the jar… I recommended this lovely blog to my best-friend-sister (and told her to blame you ladies for my incorrigible Christmas spirit this year). This is my first Christmas with my husband, and oh, it has been so wonderful already. I can’t choose a favorite post, since every one has fed my fire until I’ve pranced around our little apartment hanging garland and baking snickerdoodles… I was teetering on the edge before, but now I am a hopeless romantic through and through. (The only way I’ve yielded to my practical side is making most of my decorations by hand instead of spending our emergency fund on poinsettas–the paper ones I made bring just as much delight!)

    1. Jessika, thank you so much for your excitement and encouragement!

      And your comment reminds me of my first Christmas with Philip–I made paper chains and gilded walnut ornaments, and a gold tinsel star for the top of the tree–and after 17 years they are still among my very favorite decorations. Happy hand-making!! 🙂

  26. I love this blog! Every morning I read your newest post by the twinkling lights of my Christmas tree. It’s a lovely way to start the day! My library carries a few of your Advent reads, so I requested them right away. (I also posted your picture of those sweet tree candles on my Instagram.) 🙂

  27. Oh dear; too much loveliness here to choose which to share. <3 But somehow, choose I did, and shared on Facebook. Thank you, ladies, for creating such a lovely respite on the web. I, too, am a by-the-tree-and-candles-and-coffee-early-morning aficianado, and have enjoyed both Ann Voskamp and Elizabeth Foss's Advent meditations (Elizabeth's in the morning with my Bible and Ann's after children are tucked in bed at night.) Adding The Divine Hours to my Amazon list now; thank you so much for the suggestion!

  28. So glad I just found this blog! You both remind me of three of my good friends, so I tagged them on my repost on Instagram. @carlee_sl I love Madeleine L’Engle and haven’t read any Luci Shaw- maybe I should get WinterSong!

  29. I’m reading through WinterSong for the second or third year and Waiting on the Word for the first time. I love Malcolm Guite’s The Word in the Wilderness for Lent and Easter! So enjoying Golden Hours–thank you!! Shared on FB 🙂

  30. Love listening to your conversation. Thank you for the Advent suggestions. I try to remember to get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of this season. It is also a fun time for our family to go out together and do fun activities like sledding, skiing, and swimming at the gym. Staying physically active and present in the moment bonds our family together and this is the time of year we have the most time off from school and work. (Shared your site on Facebook.)

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