I recommend food — preparing it, sharing it, tucking gift cards from new or favorite restaurants into Christmas stockings (along with babysitting guarantees). Treats and time together are great gifts.
But I am haunted by pictures of many flood and fire-ravaged communities, so this year I’m giving food though donations to World Central Kitchen. This network of chefs arrives with first responders and, mobilizing neighbors, prepares and distributes millions of meals each year to those who need it most. They remain long after others are gone, giving nourishment, comfort, and hope to communities in the midst of bleakness and despair. Is that not what we all await in this season of Advent?
Kathleen Alexander is a parishioner and former senior warden of St. Francis Church in Potomac, Maryland.
Families will love Novo Natural’s festive mushroom-shaped nutcracker, which gives children a distracting and helpfully destructive kitchen task. Who would not love turning the red mushroom cap and satisfying the desire to really crack something open? Yes, buying shelled nuts is easier, but it is not nearly as much fun.
Deborah Boston breaks lots of things accidentally while staying home with four small children and helping her husband, an Episcopal priest, keep everything together.
First published in 1913, The English Office went through several editions before attaining its final form in 1953. Today, Canterbury Press publishes English Ritual: A Companion to the English Missal. It contains the prayer book office of 1662, supplemented with hymns, antiphons, an expanded sanctoral kalendar, and other devotional material from the Catholic end of the Anglican spectrum. This reprint from Canterbury Press is useful as an enriched form of the Anglican daily office, or as a reference work from which liturgical material may be culled. Occasional typos and errata from the 1953 edition are preserved.
The Rev. Will Brown is associate rector of All Saints’ Church, Thomasville, Georgia.
W.H. Auden’s For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (Princeton, 2013) is one of my favorite works of poetry. It is more accessible than his other long poems, and Alan Jacobs’s introduction and notes brilliantly illuminate the text. The poem is a meditation on the event of the Incarnation, yet it plays with our sense of time. All of the usual characters are here — Joseph, Mary, the wise men — but the contemporary references sprinkled throughout remind us that the Incarnation changed history as much as it was an event within history.
The Rev. Stewart Clem is visiting assistant professor of theology at Valparaiso University.
As the centenary of the Diocese of Coventry draws to a close, I would like to commend Fire in Coventry, a spiritual classic that tells the story of a gentle, genuine renewal in the Holy Spirit in the center of England as the diocese prepared for the consecration of its new cathedral in 1962. This new edition sets the work of God in one place at one time in the context of divine activity in every place and time.
The Rt. Rev. Christopher Cocksworth, formerly principal of Ridley Hall Cambridge, has been Bishop of Coventry since 2008.
The poet Christian Wiman is not known as someone to turn to when you are seeking an upbeat note. His poetic gifts have mostly helped us face the dark and honestly describe the encounter. His profession of the Christian faith comes from a place that knows wounds — personal, communal, global. I was surprised to learn that Christian Wiman has edited Joy: 100 Poems (Yale University Press, 2017). This collection of mostly modern voices bears witness that joy persists, even in this age. That is good news for all.
The Rt. Rev. Brian Cole is Bishop of East Tennessee.
Michael W. DeLashmutt
I grew up on a family farm in southwest Iowa. My grandparents, who lived just on the other side of a gravel driveway, were our closest neighbors by a mile. Every year, after opening our own presents at home, we would brave the elements and walk the 100 yards to Grandma’s house for Christmas dinner. Although I am sure everything was delicious, my memory of the sights and tastes of her Christmas table center on her brightly colored red and green Christmas pickles.
These delicious sweet pickles draw their unusual color and flavor from the addition of red hots (for the red pickles) and lots of food coloring (for the green ones): not the healthiest treat, but certainly a vivid reminder of the season. We try to make some variety of pickles (for our table and for friends) every Christmas in memory of Grandma D.
Michael W. DeLashmutt is vice president and dean of academic affairs and associate professor of sacred theology at General Theological Seminary in New York City.
In Forever and a Day (HarperCollins, 2018), Anthony Horowitz, current successor to Ian Fleming as James Bond scribe, provides the guilty pleasures, including villains grotesque and politically misguided. But this prequel to Casino Royale also explains how a young Bond becomes the fascinating but cold agent in Fleming’s debut novel. Surprisingly, much of Bond, not only his tastes in cigarettes and martinis, is shaped by a woman whose war experience included the Special Operations Executive, betrayal, and Ravensbrück.
Neil Dhingra studies education policy at the University of Maryland, College Park.
My favorite gift at Christmas is a new Christmas CD. I was a chorister at the Washington National Cathedral while growing up, so Christmas for me was filled with song. This of course continued during my seven years at Oxford. Happily, I am still surrounded by music at Christmas, as Saint James has an excellent choir and we have an annual tradition of Lessons and Carols, which is always well done. I commend to you There Is No Rose: Carols from the Chapel of St. James School.
The Rev. D. Stuart Dunnan has been the headmaster of Saint James School in Maryland since 1992.
Across New Mexico, it is common to find nichos, small altars with items that include found objects, religious images, and personal items that invite one to stop, ponder, and consider our lives of faith anew. Mishkhah has created several nichos for personal prayer that reflect different themes like new birth, silence, and hope. These nichos make wonderful gifts for friends and family. Visit shopmishkhah.com to learn more.
Kate Eaton founded Mishkhah in 2010 to inspire new vision for worship through the arts, music, movement, and interaction.
One of the best gifts I received this year was a monthly subscription to Audible, which I’ve used to delve into nonfiction about the current political crisis. On my commutes, at the gym, and while doing chores, I’ve listened to We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright, Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward, The People vs. Democracy by Yascha Mounk, and most recently The Future is History by Masha Gessen. It’s been a great — albeit not particularly relaxing — way of broadening my understanding of the historical and global context about what is happening today.
Miguel Escobar is director of Anglican Studies for Episcopal Divinity School at Union.
Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez
I send two simple gifts of faith and heart. The Habit of Holiness: Daily Prayer (Continuum, 2004) by Martin Warner contains various prayers, Scripture, the Daily Office, and a collection of devotions. I encourage my brother or sister to break it open during the day. Within the book, I include a handwritten letter that gives thanks for the recipient’s importance in my life and companionship on this sacred journey.
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez serves the Diocese of Pennsylvania as bishop.
Sharon Dewey Hetke
For the low-church evangelical on your list, Banner of Truth publishes a beautiful hardcover set of the works of 19th-century evangelical Bishop J.C. Ryle. Ryle writes with clarity and power, and my husband has found Expository Thoughts on the Gospels both wonderful devotional reading and a great help in preaching.
Sharon Dewey Hetke is national director of the Anglican Communion Alliance and assistant editor of The Anglican Planet. She lives in Napanee, Ontario, with her three teenage children and her low-church husband, Richard.
Since I am on a sabbatical from teaching, I have had more time to indulge in my favorite pastime: cooking. And because I am not preparing lectures, I have also had time to indulge in a related hobby: reading books about cooking. Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace (Scribner, 2012) is one that I have especially enjoyed. Livened by humor, eased by down-to-earth advice, and dotted with simple recipes, it is an inspiration for veteran and novice cooks alike.
Wesley Hill is associate professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.
Why do we hate each other? That is the driving question behind Sen. Ben Sasse’s new book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal (St Martin’s, 2018). The core answer he gives is loneliness. Our families and communities have broken down, and so we look for any substitutes we can find. If we cannot find something good to be for, we settle for something to be against. It’s a thoughtful book that helps us understand the steep challenges that local churches face, and their abiding importance.
The Rev. Canon Jordan Hylden is canon theologian of the Diocese of Dallas, and co-vicar of St. Augustine’s Church.
I most love giving music and books, those gifts that transport us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from reality into the world of fantasy and healing. At the top of my list this year is Let Them Fall in Love, which CeCe Winans released in 2017. The song “Marvelous” is a favorite. And I recommend Hallelujah, Anyhow: A Memoir (Church Publishing, 2018) by Bishop Barbara C. Harris.
The Rev. Canon Vicentia Kgabe is rector of College of Transfiguration, Southern Africa.
I cannot overstate the importance of The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson. Even as I serve in a setting geared toward numerical growth in our work as witnesses of God’s coming kingdom, Peterson’s words, first published almost 30 years ago, serve as a clarion call toward the heart of ministry. Continuing his unique ability to combine quickly readable prose with great spiritual depth, Peterson both convicts and encourages ministers to keep as their first priority a time of intense relationship with the God made known in Jesus Christ. The text also contains some touching autobiographical moments from a man who this year moved on toward worship on a more distant shore among a throng no one can number.
The Rev. Thomas Kincaid is vice rector of Church of the Incarnation, Dallas.
Bob Dylan, in two short periods of intense work in New York City and Minneapolis 44 years ago, produced one of his most enigmatic and rewarding albums, Blood on the Tracks. This autumn he has released More Blood, More Tracks, which offers sketches and outtakes from the sessions. Perhaps $100 for the full version is too dear, but listen to a single song, “Shelter From The Storm,” to hear the comfort of the gospel filtered through Dante, Chekhov, and the man from the north country.
The Rev. Justin Lewis-Anthony is deputy director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and author of If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him: Radically Re-Thinking Priestly Ministry (Bloomsbury, 2009).
’Tis the season for Lessons and Carols, and 100 Years of Nine Lessons & Carols (bit.ly/100YearsLessonsCarols) is a wonderful compilation in honor of a century of services from King’s College, Cambridge. Almost two hours long, it is a balance of familiar carols with traditional medieval carols like “Adam Lay Ybounden” and modern classics, like Tavener’s “The Lamb,” Pärt’s “Bogoróditse Djévo,” and my favorite, Chilcott’s gorgeous “Shepherd’s Carol.” For a musical Advent calendar, or a reverent accompaniment to prayer in Advent, you could not do better.
Hannah Matis is an assistant professor of church history at Virginia Theological Seminary.
Baking at Christmas is always a tradition, and it can include the most basic element of bread, as well as more festive fare. The traditional Italian bread pan will be a welcome gift — it allows two loaves in a batard or baguette shape to be baked, and the high center keeps the loaves apart. With two, you can choose whether to give, share, or both.
Andrew McGowan, dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, is writing a book on the theological history of bread.
Want a small, delicate, wrenching novel about colonialism, church, and human yearning? Get hold of Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy (Heinemann, 1966), originally published in French (Une Vie de Boy) in 1956, and now considered a classic. Oyono published several other novels and plays, and pursued a distinguished career in the Cameroonian government. Houseboy details, in poignant and sometimes brutal detail, the first-person experience of a young African servant to French missionaries and administrators. Human decency is still something we are yearning for.
The Rev. Ephraim Radner is professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto.
In the film Green Book, Don Shirley, a virtuoso jazz pianist, hires a New York City bouncer, Tony Lip, to be his driver for a concert tour of the Deep South in the 1960s. Shirley is African-American and Lip is Italian-American. This true story chronicles some of the challenges they encounter and shows how a lifelong friendship grew out of the experience. It is both disturbing and heartwarming.
The Rev. Fredrick Robinson is rector of Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota, Florida.
Dabney T. Smith
A thoughtful and educational gift for this Christmas season is the newly released Leadership in Turbulent Times by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is a fast-paced and dramatic survey of four United States Presidents: Abraham Lincoln and transformational leadership; Theodore Roosevelt and crisis leadership; Franklin D. Roosevelt and turnaround leadership; and Lyndon B. Johnson and visionary leadership. I commend it as particularly helpful in the Johnson segment in working through legislative polity and the art of executive persuasion. It is helpful material for the Episcopal Church’s legislative process.
The Rt. Rev. Dabney T. Smith has been Bishop of Southwest Florida since 2007.
Jacob A. Smith
This year I will give my friends and loved ones subscriptions to The Mockingbird. The magazine is a piece of art filled with articles that are culturally and theologically riveting. Each issue is organized thematically, exploring such topics as mental health, forgiveness, and the church.
The Rev. Jacob A. Smith is rector of the Parish of Calvary-St. George’s in the City of New York.
In The Mission Song, John le Carré opens the vivid and complicated world of African mining, warlords, and the exploits of Western interests. Some themes are classic Le Carré, such as deceit, corruption, and ordinary people heroically uncovering these things in high places. But this time there is also sympathetic insight into the interaction of missionaries with African life, especially through the central character, Bruno Salvador, a brilliant interpreter.
The Rev. Stephen Spencer is director for theological education in the Anglican Communion.
J.R.R. Tolkien needs no introduction, but his short children’s story Farmer Giles of Ham was unknown to me until recently. It has all the things you would expect from the great medievalist — knights, dragons, legendary swords, a humble farmer doing great things — all laced with Tolkien’s inimitable charm in a story of much more manageable length (about 80 pages) than the author’s magnum opus. This could be wonderful bedtime reading for your kids, or a nice break from heavier tomes.
The Rev. Mac Stewart is an assistant priest at St. Francis Church in Potomac, Maryland, and a doctoral student at Catholic University of America.
Jesus (1999) is very different from traditional Jesus movies. It uses extra-biblical narratives but is largely faithful to the purpose of the Incarnation of Christ. Jesus loves and shows radical openness toward the other. The Lemon Tree (Bloomsbury, 2007) by Sandy Tolan and I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity (Bloomsbury, 2011) by Izzeldin Abuelaish, both written in the background of Israel-Palestine conflict, are invitations to and hope for reconciliation amid hate and violence.
Muthuraj Swamy is director of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide.
I’m always on the lookout for comfortable T-shirts to exercise and sleep in. Those who work in or around churches usually have an inventory of shirts from past youth group trips and fundraisers, but they are usually pretty uncomfortable. Just because we dress down does not mean we have to throw ecclesial pride out the window. While we wait on the folks behind Episcopal Skeletor to design a T-shirt, my go-to would be “W.H. Auden Was An Episcopalian.” Throw in a “Low Anthropology” sticker from Mockingbird and consider that stocking stuffed.
David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries.