I wrote a book. Well, kind of. “Put together” a book is probably the most accurate way to describe it.
The guys at Patristica Press approached me earlier in the year about writing something for them, and after thinking through several possibilities, I decided to put together a book of common prayers that would revolve around the liturgical year, while also drawing secular holidays and seasons into a prayerful rhythm of life. Then as I started working on it, I realized that there are a lot of holidays in the year, especially when you combine sacred and secular. So I decided to break it up into three volumes: Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, and Ordinary Time.
The title of the series is Counter Liturgy: Common Prayers of Formation and Resistance, and Volume I (Advent and Christmas) is available for order as of today, November 1. Because my friend and reviewer Jamie McGregor (Worship & Arts Pastor at University Baptist Church, Waco) summarized it better than I’ve even been able to, I’ll let his review describe what it is:
In this first volume of the Counter Liturgy series, Sam Davidson has produced something accessible and significant. The primary content of this collection is an impressive weaving of Scripture, liturgical/historical exposition, prayers, carols, silent reflection, and thoughts from prominent Christian figures, into liturgies that do exactly what they should do: offer language with which one might both proclaim the story of God, and find oneself drawn into, challenged, and transformed by this Story. These liturgies serve as hammer blows to the petrified accumulation of scarcity-driven self-interest, consumption, and materialism left by the cultural liturgies in which we live…. This collection would be valuable for informal groups seeking to gather in worship, and should be consulted—if not directly implemented—by anyone tasked with crafting liturgies for churches during Advent or Christmastide.
Last week, I did a Facebook live interview with Tylor from Patristica to discuss the book, which you can view here:
My lovely and artistic wife Alexis also created sketch illustrations that are woven into each prayer:
Below are some more reviews, the table of contents, and an excerpt from the Counter Liturgy series introduction. You can order the book here!
“It is not every year that we are offered Advent devotions that give us anything profoundly new, but this one delivers. Counter Liturgy gathers us not to merely huddle contentedly around the sentimental warmth of a hearth-fire, but stands us helpless, hopeful in Word and Silence before the One whose Fire burns in our hearts. We are reminded in these prayers that the Incarnate One still breaks in to the world with good news, turns the tables of Black Friday, and holds out hope for peace and joy even in times like these. With a smile I think that these Advent liturgies and prayers will make a wonderful early Christmas present for everyone on my list I wish to disturb and then encourage with the Good News revealed in the Incarnation.”
– Eric Howell, Pastor, DaySpring Baptist Church (Waco, TX)
“Counter Liturgy is anything but your typical Advent devotional that would tend to focus on a manufactured, Western-focused nativity. This book delves into both the darkness and light we endure when we seek to approach the holiness of Christ’s first Advent. I plan to use it, although it’s not written to make me feel all warm and fuzzy in my pajamas with cider. Sam Davidson is a burgeoning scholar who is willing to wrestle with the very real tension between worship and justice in a world desperately in need of incarnation.”
– Eric Costanzo, Senior Pastor, South Tulsa Baptist Church
“In Counter Liturgy, we are reminded that the coming of Christ as a child has both eternal and present-reality implications. We are reminded that Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace are not abstract feelings, but a person; namely, Jesus. And we are given structure and direction that, I believe, frees the heart and mind to worship deeply. I look forward to using this liturgy with our church and pray that by doing so we would understand and celebrate Advent in a new and deeper way.”
– Jarrod Mathis, Worship Leader, Grace Church (Waco, TX)
CONTENTS (prayers bolded):
How to Use This Book
Introduction to the Season
Black Friday: A Prayer of Repentance
Advent Week 1: Hope
Saint Nicholas Feast Day (December 6)
Advent Week 2: Love
Advent Week 3: Joy
Advent Week 4: Peace
Reflection on Christmas
In the Beginning: A Christmas Eve Scripture Litany
Christmas Day: God Becomes a Child
New Years: A Prayer of Rest
Epiphany: Light Has Come
EXCERPTS (from the Series Introduction):
Our lives are wrapped up in liturgy.
Whether we recognize it or not, everything that we do is in some way forming us to be particular kinds of persons. Through our daily routines and the way we celebrate special occasions, in our calendars and budgets and weekend activities, we come to see the world in certain ways. We learn through these patterns of living to take for granted various assumptions about what is right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy, wise and foolish, responsible and irresponsible.
This is the liturgy of life.
The liturgies of our lives are the sets of traditions and attitudes that simultaneously reflect and guide what we believe about the world and our place in it. As we become accustomed to them, as we participate in them and adopt them as our own, these habits of thought and action become our liturgy. They become the formative practices that make us who we are, directing us toward what we believe to be highest and most valuable.
From the time that we become conscious of the world around us, we begin learning cultural norms and appropriate behavior. Through planning our life according to the five-day work (or school) week; by saying the pledge of allegiance and singing the national anthem; by learning the process of saving and buying; through hearing and watching stories about love, courage, and justice; by reading history books and going through election cycles: in all of this, we discover what is expected of us, how the world works, and how we should behave to make sure the earth keeps on spinning.
We learn that there are certain things we should respect, and certain things that we shouldn’t. We learn what is sacred, and we learn what should never be questioned. We learn what is wholesome and what is shameful. We learn to be good people; we want to be good people, and that’s ultimately why we learn to take part in the many liturgies that surround us.
But what if the liturgies of our lives turned out to be liturgies to false gods?
What if many of the things that we’ve learned to take for granted—about what is ultimate and unimportant, right and wrong, honorable and disgraceful, necessary and unnecessary, useful and impractical, safe and dangerous—what if the behaviors and attitudes involved in these assumptions turned out be sacrifices made to idols? What if many of these liturgies, and the things they are directed to, were actually opposed to the God we claim to worship, to Jesus Christ as the Bible testifies to him? And what if these unholy liturgies have become so ingrained in us—and we so enmeshed in them—that we aren’t even able to question how or why we take part in them?
This is the starting point for the Counter Liturgy series.
As we get caught up in the liturgies of other gods, we miss the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a fundamental reordering of everything we believe about the way the world works. We lose sight of how the claim that God became a human being and died at the hands of the state as a dangerous zealot undermines all that the world claims about the way things are and the way things should be
Without even realizing it, we are constantly being formed by the influence of other would-be lords and gods.
This is why we need counter liturgy: we need liturgy and prayers that reframe our vision, that teach us to think and to see the world in a way that is reflectively and holistically Christian. We need liturgy, grounded in Scripture, that becomes all-encompassing; liturgy that teaches us to see the world and every aspect of our lives through the lens of the life, death, and resurrection of the true Lord and God, the crucified and risen Jesus Christ…
You can also view an excerpt from the “Reflection on Christmas” on the Patristica Blog.