Holiday Book Review: Honest Advent

I have not finished this book yet. It is a daily reading, but I wanted to get the review on The Starving Artist now (December 5th) so that if you are interested in reading it, you won’t miss Advent this year, entirely. I will update the review after I read it all, but I don’t see much changing.

Image from

One of the things I love about this book isn’t even in the book. Because Scott Erickson wrote it out of an attempt to inject novelty and therefore authenticity back into Christmas and did so by creating new and modern images about the Advent story, it invites the reader (without literally doing so) to attempt their own advent craft to bring wonder back into Advent. In other words, this year I read a meditation every day along with contemplation of the image Erickson gave us, but I am looking forward to embellishing on this in the future, which could be done for an many years as I have left. How do I plan to do this? To do some sort of daily art along with meditation of the Christmas story. You could draw (print?) like Erickson, sure, or you could even write your own meditation, but you could also:

  • Draw
  • Paint
  • Write a meditation
  • Write a poem
  • Calligraphy art
  • Craft an object
  • Make an ornament
  • Make your own nativity
  • Make a Jesse branch
  • Any number of arti mediums, like sculpture, ink, charcoals, whatever
  • Take a photo
  • Color
  • Mix and match
  • Connect a song to the day (or write music, if you’re inclined)
  • Fabric art
  • Make a décor chain or banner/pennants
  • Write letters/postcards
  • Etc.

If you read the intro to the book (which I recommend in this case), doing something creative during Advent in contemplation of Advent is basically the point of the book. However, if you don’t want one more giant project to add to your holiday season because that seems much less like getting to the heart of it than stressing yourself out even more, then you could just read the book.

I have been looking for a great Advent book for years and years. I found one that we use for the Advent candles and also one to do a Jesse Branch, but I had not found one for daily Advent that I really like. Well, as much as I won’t object to trying another someday, this is exactly what I was looking for. If you are not a Christian or someone considering the faith, then this is not the book you’re looking for. But if you are curious about what lies at the heart of Christmas—the original story/”reason for the season”—and would like to start stripping away at all the accoutrement (from plastic toys to decorated trees and even to tired re-tellings and worn out carols), then this is the book for you. That might be a lot to claim, but I do appreciate how this little book really carves out a small space in each day (for 24 days) to contemplate something different but no less relevant to the “Christ in Christmas” and that very first Christmas season.

Erickson’s writing is approachable. It is modern, sometimes funny, sometimes of the time, but also very real and, well I don’t love the word but, authentic. He seems like a friend who is thinking about these things with you and for the most part, his writing is clear and always concise. Half of the point of the book, though, is his modern, duo-chromatic paintings, which the reader is supposed to meditate on before reading the chapter. Most of them have some element of surprise curled within them, to drive home a point about the Advent story. For example, today’s reading featured a symbol for the Trinity on top of a candle lighting a candle with the world on it; thus we consider that Advent is meta as well as a time of the year or a moment of time. The Godhead gives all of us Advent in Its grace and forgiveness, all of the time. Then, that’s what Erickson writes about for that day. He also concentrates on the historical elements of Advent, at times, but sometimes in a speculative way. For example, he guides us into considering the meaning of God arriving in the very real uterus of a teenage woman.

I had considered writing an Advent book because I have had such a hard time finding one that spoke to me. I don’t know if I need to do that anymore, at least for now. My years of having kids in the house are getting long in the tooth, but I still need to simplify things as much as possible amidst a very busy life. Grabbing Honest Advent is my chosen way this Advent and probably next for stepping back and reconsidering what has become repetitive, mechanical, and often obscured by mountains of cookies and ugly sweaters. It is a small thing, but for me and many others, it is effective.


“We can get all caught up with our language and body positioning and forget that these are just the invented structures that help us connect what prayer is really about–abiding in the love of God” (p6).

“Connection with Divine has evolved over time from a burning bush, a tent, a temple, a first-century Jewish carpenter, and now the mysterious hidden portal within you” (p9).

“In any divine annunciation, you receive revelation as a gift, yet at the same time you receive notice that all that you had planned is ending” (p17).

“[Shame i]s the burden of perfection morally, spiritually, humanly, and it inevitably destroys our souls because there is no fulfillment” (p44).

“This shame we experience can be easily woven into our religion–the rhythms, rituals, and practices that become, not a remembrance that we are loved, but the very accomplishable works to earn back that love. A religion based on trying to earn love inevitably fails, because works can never truly heal the fear of being left alone because of your real. At some point, you just want to be loved for your real…” (p45).


One thought on “Holiday Book Review: Honest Advent

  1. I, too, have been looking for years for a book to help make Advent a more purposeful time of preparation for Christmas. I will have to check this out. I enjoyed your review.

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