Advent logoOur Christmas tree and decorations went up on Saturday, and yesterday we went to an Advent service at a local church. I tend to listen to classical music radio as I work, and today there has already been a smattering of seasonal music on the airwaves. Even though I’m still scratching my head trying to work out where 2013 has gone, Advent is here already, whether you like it or not.

This brings a challenge: with the focus on decorations, cards, presents, family get-togethers and all the hustle and bustle of seasonal church activities, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the real “reason for the season”. With this in mind, I’d been thinking about following some kind of Advent scripture reading plan to help me at least begin each day with a clear focus. I had got as far as finding a suitable daily reading plan online.

Then, in my Twitter feed this morning, I saw a link to an excellent free resource called Seeking His Face: An Advent Prayerbook, available via this church website. (Warning: the site can be a little slow to load. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded.)

Now, I don’t know if you’re like me, but I tend to have a hard time getting into a steady pattern of focused daily time with God. I’ve tried all kinds of methods over the years from the highly structured to the completely unstructured, some of which have worked better than others, all punctuated by long periods of nothing much in between. So I was quite excited when I followed the link from my Twitter stream and looked at this prayer book, because it provides what looks like an excellent blend of structure and freedom.

For each day of Advent, there’s an introductory “invitational” scripture, a reading from the Psalms, an Advent reading with suggestions on how best to meditate on the text, free prayer with suggested prayer topics, and finally a written prayer and blessing. There are also two suggested “quiet” periods for the reader to take time to simply be quiet before God. What’s really nice is that all the scriptures are there on the page, so there’s no need to go flipping back and forth through your Bible. Each day takes up one double-page spread that contains everything you need.

Because I was one day late starting, I covered the first two days today. I would say you need to allow somewhere between ten and twenty minutes a day in order to get real value out of the exercise.

I really enjoyed using this guide today, and I’m looking forward to following it for the rest of Advent. To reiterate, you can download it here – just click on the “Download the Advent prayerbook here” link on the linked page. The book is a .pdf file, so you can load it up in your Kindle, iBooks or other e-reader, or just open it directly in your favourite .pdf reader.

In fact, it turns out that this prayer book is actually a free sample of a larger prayer book that covers the whole year. If I find it helpful during the Advent season, I’ll probably buy the full version and carry on using it after Advent, at least for a while.

If you decide to give the prayer book a try, I’d love to know how you get on with it – let me know in the comments.

Also, if you missed my introductory post on Advent yesterday, why not go and read it now?