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On Advent

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are here, yet I say that every single year, so I’m convinced now that this is just how it works: time flies; the holidays show up on our doorsteps when we’re not looking. Rinse and repeat.

But one thing slightly different this year is Advent’s potential to actually sneak up on us — at least for Americans. Because Thanksgiving falls so late in November this year, Advent is the Sunday just after our turkey day. Normally we have a full week after Thanksgiving to prep for the start of Advent, but not this year.

Hence, why I’m bringing up Advent now, several weeks before it begins.

Advent starts on December 1 this year, which is easy to remember, but technically it officially begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. For four weeks, we prepare inwardly and outwardly for the Feast of the Nativity on December 25, which kicks off the Christmastide season.

If you’ve read AoS for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of Advent. This quiet, humble season gives us permission to ease into Christmas, reflect on our soul’s postures, and lean into the paradoxical feeling of already/not yet woven into the anticipation of Christmas.

I love Advent. I also love keeping it simple, and it took me years to land on a method for celebrating it in our family without going bonkers. So many books, devotionals, and guides ask for too much prep and too much time for a typical family’s schedule. We needed something open-and-go, with almost zero prep work, and that provided freedom to skip a day, or two, or a week if need be. We could then pick it back up and never “be behind.”

This is why I wrote my family’s simple Advent guide — because I couldn’t find anything else that worked for us. And the past two years, I’ve shared it with you, and you’ve told me how much you loved it. I’m so happy to hear.

This leads me to some happy news… my Advent guide is now a fully fleshed-out book called Shadow & Light: A Journey Into Advent, in partnership with Harvest House Publishers. It’ll be hardback-bound, full color, and gorgeous, including art from one of my favorite artists, Connie Gabbert (she’s designed my past two book’s covers, as well as the AoS logo here). Based on the Daily Office Lectionary found in the beloved Book of Common Prayer, Shadow & Light walks through the poetry of the Psalms as our daily prayer guide through Advent. 

I also share daily short essays of my own thoughts, along with music and both historic and modern art reflecting the introspection of the Advent season. I love it so much, I’m so proud of it, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

christ of the breadlines by fritz eichenberg
Christ of the Breadlines (1930s), by Fritz Eichenberg

Which leads me to the less-than-great news about the book… Shadow & Light won’t be available until next Advent, in 2020. I KNOW. These sorts of books — full-color, illustrated — take a considerably long time to make, so, unfortunately, it’s still being crafted for you.

BUT. Harvest House is doing something unheard of so early in the publishing process: they’ve allowed me to share with you Week One of Shadow & Light completely free! It’s still in the editing process, so with this sneak peek, you’re getting to see the rough, in-process look behind the scenes as this book moves toward completion.

Head here to get Week One of Shadow & Light free, and try it out for the beginning of your Advent 2019. I hope you find it just the thing you need for your season.

As a little reminder, our family makes simple beeswax Advent candles with this kit, and then we use a firewood log drilled with holes as our “wreath.” I love keeping things local, natural, and inexpensive for Advent.

Starting with the first candle on week one — which again, begins on Sunday, December 1 this year — we read the day’s entry, listen to the song, look at the artwork chosen for the day, then pray the Psalm. Done.

We light only the first candle during the first week, then the first and second candles during the second week, and so on. By Christmas morning, we light all five candles — the four Advent candles and the Christmas Day candle.

Shadow & Light also includes two extra entries for St. Nicholas and St. Lucia Days, which happen to occur during Advent, so we’ll do those on December 6 and 13, respectively.

And again, Advent lasts through the four Sundays before Christmas, which means this year, it’s December 1-24.

Christmastide is then twelve full days (you know the song), from December 25-January 5. Epiphany follows the next day, on January 6. Epiphanytide continues in the spirit of the Christmas season until February 2, Candlemas. Some traditions even recognize the Epiphany season through Ash Wednesday.

If all this is gobbledygook to you, I get it. I wasn’t raised in any sort of tradition that recognized the global, ancient liturgical Church calendar, and it’s only been the past five or so years that we’ve included it as part of our family’s holiday tradition.

But it’s such a blessing to us now, and it’s my favorite way to recognize the historic season so often co-opted by modern commercialism. It’s genuinely fun.

If you’d like to give all this a whirl, or if you’re already a fan of Advent yet wish your options out there weren’t so involved, get your copy of Shadow & Light’s Week One, free. I’d love to hear what you think.

• Listen to the podcast episode about this post.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Jane

    Well, this is EXCITING! Already signed up for the free week 1. Thanks to you and Harvest Publishers, what a treat! Advent is my favourite season of them all.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Jane! I’m excited too. xoxo

  2. Shauna

    YAY! I’m excited for Week 1 and will preorder the entire book as soon as it becomes available! Advent is such a blessing. We make the beeswax candles as well. One of our favorite Advent traditions is for our kids to pick out a few items from the World Vision catalog. This year, we also get to buy Christmas gifts for local children via my church’s prison ministry. Over the years, I’m finding that I enjoy this type of giving even more than giving gifts to my kids (who already have everything they need and more), and I think it’s because of the mindset and priority shift that Advent brings to the holiday season.

  3. Mary

    Congratulations, Tsh!! I am so excited for this. Everything you produce is pure gold in my eyes and I’m sure this will be no different. <3

  4. Angie

    Awesome! I also will be pre-ordering as soon as possible. 😃 Your books are always beautiful, both in content and the physical book. Is the simple/original version still available to use for this year? Can’t

  5. Caroline

    Congratulations on the book, and thank you for offering the first week free to us!

  6. Hanni

    So excited about your new books. I will definitely buy for next Advent. I signed up for the first week but wondered if it will come later? I haven’t received anything yet.

  7. Christine Bailey

    Wow, that art piece is breathtaking – this book sounds so lovely and I know you’ve put so much heart into it! So generous of your publisher to let you share Week One for free – yay! Your Advent Guide was the one we did last year for the first time – I’d always wanted to celebrate Advent but hadn’t found an easy way to do it, and we loved it so much.

  8. Ellen W

    As a lifelong liturgical Christian (Lutheran), I’m happy that the seasons of Advent and Lent are being introduced to a broader audience. I love the rhythm of the church year and have a hard time imagining worshiping this time of year without the Advent construct.

  9. Rachel

    So excited to see your Advent book when it releases next year! Thank you for the one week sneak peak sample! I LOVED the podcast on Advent this week. My heart yearns to connect with the true meaning of Christmas during this season – and I want to lead my family in this practice without buying expensive props, or having to prepare a lot crafts before we can participate in Advent. Very much looking forward to Shadow & Light!

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