Welcome guest blogger, Regina Heater! Regina is a longtime friend of the A Nun's Life community and we're delighted to have this final installment in the Advent series from her! Enjoy this Christmas music and video playlist!
You didn’t think we were done, did you? Nay, friends! We have traveled together kindling our Hope for the Coming Savior, and now we are a few days past the feast, but not past the celebration! The Magi are still on their way, following that star, and so we can spare a few more days to to gaze upon the Baby in the Manger. And now might be an ideal time to do that as maybe the frenzy of the feast is receding, and maybe we have a little space to breathe, to focus, to look at the Child who is to become Christ.
O Come Let Us Adore Him
For all of Advent, we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Now, He has come. It is time to rejoice. It’s time to worship. It’s time to adore Him.
(If you are a fan of traditional church/choral music, you must also listen to this version by the King’s College Choir, with a beautiful and perhaps familiar descant.)
O Holy Night
There’s a reason this is sung almost everywhere at Christmas - there aren’t many songs whose combination of music & lyrics make you want to fall to your knees and worship the Savior. This version, by Southern Gospel singer David Phelps is my current favorite.
I think one of the wonders of the Incarnation is its simplicity, which Audrey Assad & Chris Tomlin articulate quite well in this song.
A Strange Way to Save the World
However beautiful and simple the Incarnation is, whatever wonderful warm, fuzzy feelings it may induce in us, it is still a puzzle. Why this way? Why become human so that we might be saved? We can discuss soteriology over and over, examining all sorts of doctrine and ideas, but in the end, it is still a mystery. It is a strange way to save the world.
Angels We Have Heard On High
I remember seeing the music for this in the hymnal at church when I was a child and trying to figure out the refrain. The notes fascinated me, especially when you look at the harmony line and try to figure out how it all goes together!
Perhaps that’s why I especially love this version by The Piano Guys. It’s truly amazing how they create their arrangement of this much-loved hymn.
Little Drummer Boy
This *might* be my favorite Christmas carol. It’s something with which I identify -- this idea that I want to worship God, but I have nothing to offer. There are times when I feel so unworthy of God’s love and the gift I have been given to participate in the co-creation of this world. This song reminds me that it needn’t be complicated, and I can’t let that deter me from participating. I think that too often we let our inferiority complexes get in the way of doing God’s work in the world -- we believe we don’t have anything to offer, or that we can’t be “saintly”, so we don’t even try. The drummer boy reminds us that we all have something to offer.
Welcome to Our World
A simple, quiet song that acknowledges how badly we need Jesus to come into our world and bring His peace.
The text of this song is a Latin translation of a simple poem by Edward Esch.
warm and heavy
as pure gold,
and the angels sing softly
to the newborn babe.
pura velut aurum
et canunt angeli
molliter modo natum.
Composer Eric Whitacre collaborated with poet Charles Alan Silvestri for the translation to create this masterpiece. This version is from an amazing project called the Virtual Choir. Singers recorded themselves individually singing their voice parts and uploading the recordings. Each video was then put together in this stunning video, a Virtual Choir of 185 voices. When I listen to this, I feel like I can feel the Light and hear the angels singing.
O Magnum Mysterium
The text of this song comes from a chant used during the Matins of Christmas:
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
This is my absolute favorite Christmas song. I have wonderful memories singing it several years ago at a reunion of my college choir. The words “O great mystery and wonderful sacrament” are a reminder to me that the Incarnation is a wondrous, beautiful, amazing Mystery, one into which we are invited to participate because it is a sacrament in itself. Perhaps it is THE sacrament, for without the Incarnation we would have no need of our sacraments, of our rituals by which we encounter, receive and participate in Grace. Many composers have created contemporary settings for the text. This, by Morton Lauridsen, is so beautiful that it ushers me into that sacramental space, such that I feel that I am encountering the Divine each time I hear it. It is my prayer that it will bring you the same.