Welcome guest blogger, Regina Heater! Regina is a longtime friend of the A Nun's Life community and we're delighted to have this series on Advent from her!
Welcome to the Nativity Season!
That’s what Sybil MacBeth calls it in her new book -- this time of Advent through Epiphany, the tryptych of the new church year. One of the ways we can celebrate and commemorate is through music -- by taking a few minutes each day to purposefully listen to the songs of the seasons, so they transform from noise that insulates us from what’s going on around us to prayer that awakens us and alerts us to the presence of Emmanuel, who was and is and is to come.
This week we light the 1st candle of the Advent wreath, which represents Hope. The readings for Advent 1 are prophetic, apocalyptic and ultimately, full of hope for the coming Savior. To help you embrace the season of hopeful waiting and preparation, here are a few songs and hymns especially for the first week of Advent.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
We’ll return to this hymn each week, as it is our Advent cry - Come, Emmanuel. Come, God With Us. Read about the origins of the hymn at Hymnary. Note the mention of the O Antiphons, which we’ll revisit later in Advent as we turn into the final days of waiting.
This version is by Enya. It’s gorgeous and ethereal, a great way to center and consider the implications of this God With Us we wait for.
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
This is a common hymn for Advent in many Protestant churches, as the text is attributed to Charles Wesley. Read some of the background about the hymn over at Hymnary.This version is from Red Mountain Church - the video includes lyrics if you’d like to sing along.
Lo, He Comes on Clouds Descending
You have to love a hymn that was originally published in a hymnbook called “Hymns for the Intercession of All Mankind”. Another of Charles Wesley’s masterpieces, you might need to give yourself a little time with this one -- particularly this arrangement by Schola Cantorum. It starts with an organ introduction and builds to the chorale part of the piece. While you’re listening to the beginning, read the lyrics and more background at Hymnary.
Soon and Very Soon
Andrae Crouch wrote and recorded this in 1978, and about a decade later it began appearing in church hymnals. It’s a great Gospel tune with a lyrics. Soak yourself in the amazing, joyful hope of this recording from a Gaither Homecoming Session, featuring Andrae Crouch himself and the incomparable CeCe Winans.
E’en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come
Although not written to be an Advent song, it has become a popular choral piece for Advent and Christmas because the text is adapted from Revelation (our go-to passages for end-times!) and because it has been used for the Kings College Festival of Lessons and Carols, thus endearing it to choir directors everywhere. Also, it’s spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing beautiful music coordinated with lyrics that seem to echo the cries of our own souls.
If you know musical theatre, you might know both of these songs and perhaps the singer, Michael Ball (the original Marius in Les Miserables.) Prepare Ye (The Way of the Lord) is from Godspell, Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar. Putting them together juxtaposes the realities of our liturgical lives: we’re preparing for our Savior, for the Kin-dom ofGod, but before we can quite get there, we’ll have to watch and wait again with Him in the Garden.