September 21, 2020

Preparing for the New Church Year (4)


For our final post on preparing for the new Church Year, we will talk about some suggestions for further reading and practice. I’ve divided them into three categories. Some are my own suggestions, others have come from IM readers.

  1. Books that give an overview of the Church Year to help individuals, families, and churches grasp its basic concepts and begin participating in Church Year spirituality.
  2. Books that can aid believers in conforming their daily prayer and devotional lives to the framework of the seasons of the Church Year.
  3. Books and resources that focus specifically on the upcoming Advent season, so that we can get a good start this year.

What criteria did I use in selecting these resources? First, I am recommending books that I myself have found useful. Second, others are on my own “Wish List” because I have seen them and they look intriguing to me. Third, I am suggesting links to other resources because I have used some related materials (but not all) and have found them helpful. These may enable those in different seasons of life (for example, with young children) to find additional resources to meet specific needs.

Each of us is unique, so you will have your favorites and some of mine may not resonate as deeply with you. If any in our iMonk community would like to make additional suggestions, please feel free to do so.

My best recommendation for you would be to join a faith community that practices Church Year spirituality. As I will argue in my next post, this pattern is designed to enable Christians to experience his life, death, and resurrection not only as individuals, but also together with one another in God’s family. If you are part of such a community now, you should take your first counsel from the ministers and mentors in your own tradition, for each stream of the Christian faith has its own emphases and detailed practices. Your local church or denominational publishing house may be able to guide you more specifically than I can here.

Short of that, I recommend starting with incorporating a few simple Advent practices in your personal devotional life and/or with your family. Using an Advent calendar or lighting Advent candles along with prayers for the season has helped many believers enter into the practices of the Church Year.


Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year, by Robert Webber

The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life – The Ancient Practices Series, by Joan Chittister

The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year, by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

The New Handbook of the Christian Year: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, by Hoyt Hickman, et al

The Services of the Christian Year (Complete Library of Christian Worship, Vol 5), Robert Webber, editor
Copies available through Amazon links to other vendors

Children’s Activities for the Christian Year, by Delia Halverson

Anglican/Episcopal resources:

Book of Common Prayer online

Find other resources at Anglicans Online

Roman Catholic resources from Liturgical Training Publications:

Orthodox resources:

DAILY PRAYER/DEVOTIONS (arranged according to the Church Year)

Treasury of Daily Prayer, by Scot A. Kinnaman

The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle
Various editions available for seasons of the year and occasions.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne

Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, by Bobby Gross

Eternal Seasons: A Spiritual Journey Through the Church’s Year, by Henri Nouwen

Celtic daily prayer (online)


The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas, by Madeline L’Engle

We Light the Candles: Devotions Related to Family Use of the Advent Wreath, by Catharine Brandt

The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas, by Dean Lambert Smith

Preparing for Jesus: Meditations on the Coming of Christ, Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom, by Walter Wangerin

Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World?, by Rick McKinley
Various resources for churches wanting to follow this approach to keeping Advent/Christmas are available at the Advent Conspiracy website.

The Winter Pascha, by Fr. Thomas Hopko.

From Holidays to Holy Days: A Benedictine Walk Through Advent – Albert Holtz

Living With Hope: A Scientist Looks at Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany – John Polkinghorne

Watch For The Light: Readings For Advent And Christmas

Sermons to the People: Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, Epiphany – St. Augustine

A Coming Christ in Advent: Essays on the Gospel Narratives Preparing for the Birth of Jesus : Matthew 1 and Luke 1 – Raymond Brown

No Trace of Christmas ? : Discovering Advent in the Old Testament – Christoph Domen

• • •

I hope these resources will give us all a good start at going deeper into understanding and practicing Church Year spirituality.


  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    In the Western Liturgical Church calendar, today is the Feast of Christ the King, the pre-enactment of the Second Coming which ends the Church Year and slides into Advent to repeat the Year Cycle.

    If you’re into the Dallas GCB Megachurch whirl, today is the anniversary of Grinning Ed Young’s “Seven Day Sex Challenge”.

    And I think that says it all.

  2. David Cornwell says

    Thanks for this. Before church this morning clipped the entire post to my Evernote account.

  3. CM, thanks for pulling all these together and sharing them with the iMonk community!

  4. Thanks for these resource ideas.

  5. Such good material. Exactly what I’m trying to do for the first time this year. I guess everyone else knows this already? 6 posts

    • We’re relative newbies too, with the added bonus of trying to figure out how to establish rituals that include kids. This is year two with a toddler.

      Chaplain Mike, thanks for the resource list!

  6. Thank you so much for this series. I am just introducing my Baptist congregation to the practice of walking together through the church year — not merely as a custom, but as an intentional tool of discipleship. I am using your 4 articles to help people understand what this is about — trying to allay fears of being “too Catholic.” By emphasizing that the CY helps keep us focused on Jesus, things seem to be going well.

    We are focusing Advent with the establishment of paraments, and doing simple candle lighting ceremonies on Sundays.

    We also have planned a prayer vigil on St. Nicholas Day, focused on praying for our church, our community and our world – this will help us focus early on the “watch and prepare” portion of the season. The church will be open for 4 hours for people to come and go as they please. I will lead whoever is present through an hourly cycle of prayer, moving from adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication using a mix of silent and guided prayer.

    On the 14th of December we will host an afternoon community Christmas carol sing as we move from Watch and Prepare to Rejoice and Behold. We are even firing up the church organ!

    Then Christmas Eve, of course. And finally on January 6 we will hold a midweek Epiphany Potluck Feast.

    Doing this intentionally is new to many of the congregation. For others it is calling up early memories. But because the focus is on Christ, and not on tradition, people are excited about it. I’ve gotten a little push back on the lack of “christmas songs” during advent, but it’s minor and not a hill to die on. I have been so tired of celebrating xmas according to the world’s schedule. I am looking forward Christmas this year more than I have in many years.

  7. Nice, Dave.

  8. Could you recommend some websites that would help us incorporate the colors of the church year around our church?