The Rev. Sam Adams, vicar, St. Augustine’s Oak Cliff, Dallas
Want to help your loved ones delight in the wonders right outside their window? Invite them into the wonderful world of birdwatching! A gift basket with a simple feeder (you can make your own; the birds don’t care), birdseed (I use a no-mess blend from Wild Birds Unlimited), and a copy of Birds of [state your recipient resides in] by Stan Tekiela will set them up nicely, and there’s no telling who might show up during migration season!
Liza Anderson, resident scholar, Collegeville Institute, Minnesota
For the Anglican who has everything (except loyalty to Article XXII), EBay and Etsy are fantastic sources for a wide range of relics. Strictly speaking, of course, relics cannot licitly be bought or sold, so you’re technically buying a reliquary that just happens to come with a free relic. Authenticity can be questionable, but the relic trade being a little bit dodgy is a pretty time-honored Christian tradition.
The Rt. Rev. Jenny Andison, rector, St. Paul’s Bloor Street, Toronto
We took our daughters to see the marvelous film A Hidden Life on Christmas Eve two years ago, and despite their initial teen objections, it was a powerful experience for our family. Based on true events, it tells the story of a farmer, Franz Jägerstätter, who lived in a remote Austrian village in the early 1940s. He became a conscientious objector against Nazi conscription, was executed at the age of 36, and beatified in 2007 by Pope Benedict. If you want to mix up your Christmas movie viewing, Terrence Malick’s masterpiece, shot in long, flowing camera movements, is worth your time and popcorn.
The Rt. Rev. John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee and president of the Living Church Foundation
Studying the night sky was once a natural for me as a science fiction enthusiast. Pandemic times and skyguide, an app by Fifth Star Labs, helped me to reconnect with an avocation that had languished for decades. “Seek him who made the Pleiades and Orion,” the prophet Amos said, and aided by a decent app you too can set out for informal exploration.
The Rev. Michael A. Bird, vicar, Trinity Church Wall Street
Resurrected to Eternal Life: On Dying and Rising by Jürgen Moltmann (Fortress Press, 2021) is a quick read. This is pastoral, preparatory, and engaging in this winter season as we wait for the coming of the Light. And if that feels a bit too much like work, our family is giving tickets and gift certificates to concerts in our local smaller venues. Jazz at the Village Vanguard, or your neighborhood version of the same, feels just right.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry
One of my favorite sources of Christmas presents for family, friends, and colleagues is olive oil from Palestine. There’s nothing quite like the oil from the trees that so many Palestinian families depend on for their livelihoods, oil that connects us in a physical way with the life of Jesus. This year I’ve added almonds, dates, herbs, soap, and even a jute bag to my Christmas order. There are many suppliers, but I use Zaytoun on the recommendation of someone who knows the local situation very well.
The Very Rev. Dr. Michael W. DeLashmutt, acting dean and president, The General Theological Seminary, New York City
I’ve become obsessed with the science fiction trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Cixin Liu. The narrative arc begins with the Chinese Cultural Revolution and extends to a not-so-distant future encounter between humans and an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. While an overtly secular novel, it serves as an illuminating example of the enduring power of the religious imagination and the human struggle for meaning, hope, and community in the face of an uncertain future.
The Rev. Dr. Russ Levenson Jr., rector, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Houston
Run, don’t walk, not to see the movie (not recommended), but to read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House, 2010) on the amazing life of former Olympian Louis Zamperini. A nonfiction narrative on the capture, torture, and survival of a World War II prisoner of war, it is also so much more. When he returned to the United States, Zamperini began a steep slide into self-destruction until, under pressure from his wife, he attended a Billy Graham crusade in 1949. The book is a page-turner, and a story not just about the human spirit, but what happens when God’s Spirit breaks the human will and restores it by his grace. Read it, give it away—you will not be able to put it down.
Greg Metzger, director of sales, New City Press
I was at a retreat recently where built into the time was what they called an “Emmaus Walk.” It was a time to walk with a friend and share what God is doing in our lives—the questions and struggles we might be facing—with the expectation that, just as on the Road to Emmaus, Jesus would become present to the conversation. It was a beautiful exercise—physically and spiritually. I recommend it this Christmas season.
The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, professor of historical theology, Wycliffe College
I have become enamored of Anton Chekhov’s short stories. Long admired as a playwright, his hundreds of stories are now recognized as perhaps the greatest collection of the genre ever written. Profound, funny, tragic, elegiac, sublime, disarming, glorious, Chekhov manages to embrace all the world with a questioning compassion that, however challenging, heals. Try the Pevear and Volokhonsky Vintage Classic edition, or, for a smaller sampling, Rosamund Bartlett’s About Love and Other Stories anthology.
The Rt. Rev. Poulson Reed, Bishop of Oklahoma
“Fantasia on Christmas Carols” by Ralph Vaughan Williams (multiple recordings available) is a 12-minute work from 1912 for chorus, baritone, and orchestra that weaves together English folk carols with other Christmas favorites. At moments solemn, at others jubilant as a movie score, it’s the rare medley that both moves and delights. A perfect prelude to his majestic “Hodie.”
The Rev. Dr. Chuck Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church
To bring a smile and some hope, I recommend:
- a subscription to see Ted Lasso, seasons 1-2.
- Ken Follett’s classic, The Pillars of the Earth (still holds up).
- for Trek fans, a Chateau Picard cheeseboard or wine bottle-holder.
- for Beatles fans, the coffee-table book Get Back (ties in with the new documentary), or Lego Beatles wall art (2,933 pieces).
Or make a difference with a donation in your recipient’s name to Episcopal Migration Ministries or Episcopal Relief and Development.
The Rev. Jacob Smith, rector, Calvary-St. George’s Episcopal Church, New York City
As we approach the new year, many will resolve to lose the pandemic 15 by exercising more. Hence, I am recommending the Theragun Prime as the perfect gift. I have permanently borrowed my friend’s, and it is amazing. It has multiple settings and has helped me tremendously with all of my post-run aches, pains, and an issue I have with my sciatic nerve. Only the Holy Spirit is more penetrating.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Spencer, director of theological education in the Anglican Communion
James Rebanks is a farmer in the Lake District of England whose family has been sheep farming for many generations. As a boy he hated school, but later in life came to love reading and writing. His beautifully written book English Pastoral: An Inheritance (Penguin, 2021) describes the traditional sheep farming of his grandfather and how it was undermined by more recent industrial farming practices that are degrading the land. Rebanks finds hope through the recovery of the mixed ecology of the past.
Joe Swimmer, executive director, CEEP Network
Christmas has always been my favorite feast of the Church year. Whether it’s midnight Mass, or family dinner, or leaving a plate of cookies for Santa, the celebration serves to remind me of a life rich with blessings. Of the many gifts given and received over the years, the most treasured are the handwritten letters sent by family and friends. These missives always bring joy to my heart and, sometimes, a tear to my eye.
Rebecca Terhune, advertising coordinator, The Living Church
A gift from the heart! That is what our family always enjoys! The Embroidery Project offers items crafted by women located in rural Honduras and Kurdistan. Decorative pillows, gift card bags, small totes, all truly one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Items are limited. Please contact my friend Terry Koehler in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas (210.824.5387) for more information or to place an order. Their work makes it possible for women to purchase some of life’s necessities, including medicine, clothing, and food.
The Rev. Keith Voets, rector, Episcopal Church of St. Alban the Martyr, St. Albans, Queens, N.Y.
Grandma’s Snowball Cookies
¾ cup of softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon of water
⅛ teaspoon of salt
⅓ cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
6 ounces of chocolate chips
1 cup of chopped pecans
Combine the first five ingredients; blend well. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and pecans.
Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Once cool, roll cookies in powdered sugar.