By Trent Barrick, MT-BC

Songs for Advent!

Advent takes place in a dark season, celebrated during the winter when the nights are longer and the daylight is shorter. Advent means “coming” or “waiting.” But what IS Advent? How does it impact us today? Advent can have different meanings for different cultures and traditions.

First, let’s observe Advent as it relates to the Winter Solstice. The Solstice marks the onset of winter. This occurs on the longest night of the year and the shortest day of the year – December 21st in the northern hemisphere and December 22nd in the eastern hemisphere in the 2014 calendar year. This date is the common time for modern Pagans to celebrate Yule, celebrating the rebirth of the sun and beginning of winter. Advent in ancient Celtic tradition reveres December as a holy month and carries a message; the light will always come, even in the darkness night. Advent begins about four weeks before the winter solstice, although the fourth week is rarely a full week (sometimes being only a day).

Now, let’s observe Advent from the Judeo-Christian lens. Advent is observed four weeks before the arrival of Christmas. It’s the season where Christians remember the longing and great anticipation God’s people experienced as they waited for their coming Messiah. Christians believe prophecies of the coming Messiah found in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Advent is a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus in the town of Bethlehem, his life, and ultimately his promise to come again.

The scriptures (Old and New Testament) are filled with imagery and metaphors concerning this season. The prominent theme in scripture is also light shining in the darkness. There is no coincidence that Christians celebrate the birth of the “sun of justice” (Malachi 4:2) after the winter solstice – the birth of Christ comes at the darkest time in the world. According to scripture, Jesus said about himself, “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in” (John 8:12, The Message).

For example, Isaiah says it like this:

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:2, 6 NIV).

Christian liturgy is more concerned with the Birth of the Son than the Return of the Sun. However, some Pagans and Christians have similar rituals, including gift giving, meals, and symbolism. There are participants in both cultures that commemorate this season with an Advent wreath with four candles and lighting a new one each Sunday before the winter solstice/Christmas.  Though some modern Pagans may observe Solstice celebrations with trappings of Christmas, both parties try to keep the westernized “holiday hustle” at bay in place of a more truly contemplative embrace. For example, the idea of children “waiting” to receive gifts on Christmas day is a common way Advent has influenced both traditions. The idea, of course, is learning the beauty of patience – the anticipation of something far greater than one could ever imagine!

The music selected for this season includes many songs music therapists may routinely use with more religious patients of the Judeo-Christian faith that illustrate the main messages of Judeo-Christian Advent. Such songs include, O Holy Night, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Joy to the World, O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Come O Come Emmanuel, and many more. We have included more and more music that re-tells the same story in new ways. See our official playlist for more!

Below are a few examples of the music in our Spotify playlist that captures the story of Advent from the Judeo-Christian perspective.  To listen along, click here.

Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song

Artist: Sovereign Grace Music

Honestly, not many albums can get me listening to Christmas music out of season, but this one may. Lyrically, these songs are God-centered, biblically saturated and true to story-telling of the Advent season.  There are new songs, as well new arrangements to hymns one may hear during the advent season.

Advent Songs

Artist: Sojourn Music

 We love the creative production in this album. This advent album has all kinds of sounds for all kinds of folks. Ranging from easy listening, rock, folk, the list goes on! Lyrically, each song unpacks the longing of heaven and earth for the coming Savior, coming to a vibrant conclusion of “Hosanna in the Highest.”

 Advent at Ephesus

Artist: Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles

 This album gives praise to God through songs, not only through chanting the Divine Office, but also through various sacred hymns and original songs re-telling the Advent story. We feel antiphonal music lovers and a cappella enthusiasts will enjoy this compilation!

Below are a few examples of the music in our Spotify playlist that captures music  appropriate for Advent of the Winter Solstice. To listen along, click here.

And Winter Came

Artist: Enya

Though this album makes brief religious references on occasion, the majority of this album paints a picture of a landscape changed by the incoming winter snow. It will leave the listener with feelings of peace, happiness, and a chance to escape the business of the holidays and a chance to enter in the awareness of the season upon them!

Winter Solstice

Artist: Ben Wisch

This instrumental album is perfectly fit for time of contemplation, meditation, and remembering the light that fills our world even in the darkest of night. We love easy listening music – perfect for music assisted guided imagery or improvisation art/dance.

Winter Solstice

Artist: John McCutcheon

Because who doesn’t love hammered dulcimer?? True to Irish instrumentation and story-telling of the Winter Solstice through sound, this album has many songs that will likely transport the listener to a serene place.