Wait for the Lord The song Wait for the Lord is what we are singing each time we light the Advent wreath this year. The song is from the Taizé community, an ecumenical brotherhood from Western Europe. The community, though originating in France, has sought to include people and Christian traditions worldwide. They have sought to demonstrate this in the music and prayers where songs are sung in many languages and have included chants and icons from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The music emphasizes simple phrases, usually lines from Psalms or other pieces of Scripture, that are repeated over and over again, allowing for single voices to pray or sing a verse over the repeated song from the group. Wait for the Lord is a meditative refrain meant for Advent, juxtaposing the 2nd coming of Christ (who knows how many candles are lit on THE Advent wreath, that wheel of time?) with the Christ child in Bethlehem. Christmas is the answer to Advent’s prayer.
O come, o come Emmanuel The carol O come, o come Emmanuel has its origins all the way back to the 8th century, though the formal version we know of today originates in the 15th century in France, later Germany, written in Latin (Veni, Veni, Emmanuel). It was meant to be a paraphrase of Antiphons (brief sentences sung or spoken to accompany a larger body of scripture or prayer) attached to the Magnificat (song of Mary from Luke 1 when she receives the news), usually sung each night during the final days of Advent up until Christmas. It’s got hazy origins, but there have been up to 8 different verses to this carol, and we will dive into those this year as we “play around with it” musically. Here, we include the interlude from the Hatikvah (Hebrew for “the hope”), which became a theme for the national anthem of Israel.
Even So Come Even so come is one of my favorite contemporary praise & worship songs for the Advent season, especially the first week, where the focus is mostly on the second coming of Christ, coming to restore His church, as us being ready for it. I especially like the line from verse 2, “Call back the sinner, wake up the saint, let every nation shout of Your fame, Jesus is coming soon.” As we know, “soon” could mean anything, from later today to thousands of years from now. Our only concern is to be ready. The song was released in 2015 by the band Passion, with Christ Tomlin, who helped write the song, as a guest vocalist on the album.
Hosanna A contemporary praise & worship song that suits the season is Hosanna, written in 2006 by the popular praise & worship group Hillsong. It beautifully captures the dichotomy of the second coming of Christ with responding as the people did during Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. The real gem in this song however is the bridge, which is an appropriate prayer during this penitential season. It reads, “Heal my heart and make it clean; open up my eyes to the things unseen; show me how to love like You have loved me; break my heart for what breaks Yours; everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause…”
The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns Because the first week of Advent is primarily focused on the second coming of Christ (the Church year begins with the end, love that), we use this folk hymn to start things off. The King shall come when morning dawns sings about the Day of the Lord, but its musicality is what brings the song to the forefront (we use it as an Advent 1 processional). Its music/tune is so strikingly different than the typical hymn/song (yet easy to sing), that it musically announces that we are in a new church season.
Keep Your Lamps Keep your lamps is an old gospel-blues song written in the 1920’s, usually credited to the singer Blind Willie Johnson. It’s been recorded in many different styles, even in the secular world, but the lyrics of this song is based on the account of Matthew 25, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins and the return of Christ. Here is a choral arrangement by the popular gospel composer Andre Thomas, my first exposure to the song in my choir days.
Prepare Ye the Way The second Sunday in Advent is often referred to as John the Baptist Sunday, so let’s echo his message to the world in style. Turn your volume up, enjoy Michael W. Smith’s Prepare Ye The Way, and maybe don’t eat the locusts…
Of the Father’s Love Begotten One of the oldest carols we have in written form, Of the Father’s Love Begotten has its origins back to last MILLENIUM. The tune we know it best with is a chant melody from the Middle Ages, which explains its very free metrical phrasing. Originally in Latin, this hymn has gone through many different translations, so the words may slightly vary depending on the rendition. We are using this carol as the basis for our Kyrie, which, during penitential seasons (Advent and Lent), takes the place of the Gloria (“Glory to God in the highest” etc…) that we usually sing after confession of sins towards the beginning of the Mass. A Kyrie will recite Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison, which translates to Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. We then sing two varying verses of the carol itself. This is an a cappella recording of the carol, not my absolute favorite rendition, but it’s the clearest with the lyrics. My actual favorite version is HERE.
God of Justice We sang God of Justice during Eucharist on the 1st Sunday in Advent, and, although not a seasonal song, it is appropriate for penitential seasons. A penitential season (usually referring to Advent and Lent) is a season where the church emphasizes both inward reflection as well as an increase in outward serving, sort of like a period of “spiritual spring cleaning.” This is why during these two seasons the Deacon reads the full ten commandments before confession (Decalogue, usually an Anglican tradition), and we sing a Kyrie (Lord have mercy) instead of a Gloria (glory to God in the highest). The Charismatic Episcopal Church is the only church body I know of that also excludes the use of the word alleluia in the Mass, while most other liturgical church bodies/denominations, including Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox, practice this exclusively for Lent (although it’s common in some Orthodox branches to never exclude it, including Lent). At any rate, this song is unique because it’s almost like we sing it to each other rather than just to God, bringing a horizontal aspect to worship. The recording here is the original recorded version from 2007, it quickly becomes a prayer for this penitential season.
Everlasting God The song Everlasting God is now considered an older praise & worship song, written by Brenton Brown in 2006. The popularity of the song grew quick with both churches and other recording artists, including Lincoln Brewster, who took the song to new heights of popularity, and it’s this version that is usually the most well known to the Christian community. The ending of the track is actually Lincoln’s 5-year old son, and prior to recording the song, the two of them, father and son, prayed over the recording session that it would bless everyone who hears it. At the time, Brenton Brown (who wrote the song) and his wife were both going through long-term illnesses, and gave Lincoln Brewster the nod to keep leading the song in concerts. Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord… A great message for Advent, the season of hope. That’s actually one of the theological reasons the churches dating back to the 12th century started to use blue for Advent instead of the traditional purple; blue is the color of hope, usually a sarum blue, representing darkness before the birth.
Revolution Okay, I got a little weird on this one today, but hear me out. First off, we’re obviously not doing this song in church (although…), and style isn’t what we’re used to, at least not our parish, it’s an urban gospel song (that was actually a huge hit in the early 2000’s that helped relaunch Kirk Franklin’s career). But is this not today’s version of John the Baptist’s message of “prepare the way for the Lord, make a straight path?” John the Baptist wasn’t people’s usual style either. If you read the accounts, he was a peculiar cat. His message was clear though, often being blunt (the whole “brood of vipers” thing probably didn’t sit well). Here, in the song Revolution, it’s clearly time to make those paths straight, citing we lost our focus: Sick and tired of the church talking religion; but yet we talk about each other – make a decision! No more racism, two-facism, no pollution, the solution? A revolution! What I would give to see the clergy over there, hands raisin’ that roof, yelling whoop whoop! Maybe at the next clergy conference…
Way Maker The song Way Maker is so well known within the Christian community, it’s hard to find a church (at least a church which incorporates contemporary praise & worship music) that doesn’t use it on a regular basis. Little known though, is that is was actually written by Nigerian gospel artist Sinach in 2015, making her the first African to ever top the Christian billboard charts. Since then, it has been recorded by many Christian artists, including Leeland, which is the recording here (this is probably the most well-known recorded version). So why Advent? Well, it’s a play on words and titles. This whole week is about a voice crying in the wilderness to “prepare a way for the Lord,” but the One who we are preparing for is indeed the Way Maker. As we shift to put ourselves more into the story, God does make a way – we find that way in Bethlehem
Prepare the Way As the season of Advent is shorter than usual this year (it’s always four Sundays, but this year the 4th Sunday is also Christmas Eve), I will try and “catch up” this week. The song Prepare the Way echoes the famous Advent passage in Psalm 24. The second and third Sunday Advent readings are about the voice in the wilderness, John the Baptist, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. The Psalm, and the song, ask “Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.” I know the recording is a bit dated, but a powerful message nevertheless, the song was written by Jared Anderson in 2004.
Almighty King (Come Emmanuel) Gabriel Wanous founded a new publishing company in 2018 called Worship Now Publishing. It’s purpose is to provide contemporary music resources to liturgical churches who are not used to that wheelhouse, especially the Roman Catholic Church. Aside from a contemporary music hymnal containing songs that are familiar with praise & worship oriented churches, there are lot of original songs/arrangements, including Almighty King, which uses the familiar Charles Wesley hymn Come now almighty King, with an an Advent refrain of Come Emmanuel; God with us to dwell; Jesus, savior to all; Almighty King. This is what we are singing for our Gospel acclamation this year, taking a different verse each week with the same refrain.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus One of the reasons I connect with the season of Advent is its dual focus. It’s where the story both begins and ends, and we actually focus on the ending first. We first focus on the second coming of Christ, to completely renew His creation, claim His bride and how we, His bride, need to watch and be ready. The second half of Advent puts you into the narrative of God’s people waiting for the promised Messiah, and that being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. The third week of Advent usually serves as the bridge from second coming focus to birth of Jesus focus; in other words preparing for Christmas, the answer to Advent’s prayer. This is where the music, mirroring the narrative of the Mass itself (or at least trying to), reflects more of the seasonal sounds current western culture associate with the season (Western culture starts November 1st apparently). Here is one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, and Advent hymn about about preparing for the birth of the Messiah. It is written by Charles Wesley, the “John Williams of hymn writers.” He wrote literally thousands of hymns, many still sung today, and yes, he is the brother of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement in the 1700s. This particular hymn is set to many different tunes, this one is my favorite.
Hearts Waiting Hearts Waiting is a song that bridges the focus between waiting in expectation and God delivering on His promises, so it’s a great song for the “bridge” Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It’s also the Sunday where we light the pink candle, symbolizing joy in the midst of darkness. The song is written and released by Matt Redman, one of the most prolific song writers in the contemporary praise & worship world. He’s even written a lot of songs that were released by other artists.
Lo How a Rose e’er Blooming Lo how a Rose e’er Blooming is an old German carol dating back to the 1600’s, although the origin is uncertain. It is a very poetic carol that emphasizes the prophesies in Isaiah, including the virgin birth, the incarnation of Christ, and root of Jesse regarding the lineage. This is a popular hymn sung with choirs, often even sung in German regardless of where it’s being performed. Here is a solo version that has the poetic lyrics shown, it’s a favorite carol for Advent. You can hear a choral version HERE.
Holy is Your Name Mary is usually the main character on the last Sunday of Advent, it’s when she receives news from the angel that she will bore a child, Emmanuel. Her response? It’s what the church has long called the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, found in Luke 1:46-55. Throughout the entire history of church music there have been literally thousands of renditions of this text set to music, from simple melodies sung in church to grand concert works performed by choirs and orchestras. Here, Holy is Your Name is a setting of this Magnificat text to an old Scottish folk tune, very singable, called Wild Mountain Thyme (not based on the movie). So, the answer to the popular song Mary Did You Know, is yes; yes she knew, and sung one of the most poetic words of the New Testament.