Day 6 is a day late, but Sundays are for more important things than blogging. In this catch-up post I want to share three of my favorite hymns to sing during Advent and three for Christmas itself.
Differentiating the Advent and Christmas seasons is something that I haven’t always done. This year, maybe because of having so little time between the end of the semester and Christmas, I’m recognizing it a bit more than usual. In case you aren’t familiar with this concept, here are a few brief explanations to help you better understand this post:
Advent: the season beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and extending to Christmas Eve
Christmastide: Also known as the twelve days of Christmas, this is the season between Christmas Day and Epiphany
Epiphany: In liturgical church tradition, a feast day celebrating Christ’s incarnation. Also sometimes called the Annunciation, which recognizes the angel telling Mary she would conceive Jesus. Celebrated on January 6.
Liturgical church tradition: that which comes from Christian denominations which tend to have more formal services, follow the “church calendar” for Bible study and sermon topics, and are usually more closely tied to Catholic theology
In this post I will use “Christmas” interchangeably to refer specifically to December 25 or the general season around late December and early January. Also, please note that these are not formal definitions but simply my understanding and an explanation of the way that I am using the terms.
So now that we have a general understanding of this, what distinction is there between an Advent hymn and a Christmas hymn? Basically, Advent hymns emphasize looking forward to Christ’s birth, while Christmas hymns celebrate the birth itself. It’s not a hard-and-fast line, and many hymns cover both, especially if you include all of the verses. As with most things on my blog, in the end this will come down to a degree of personal preference.
Also, I hope to come back to this post soon and add in links to either Spotify or YouTube so that you can actually hear the songs, so if you’re interested in that, please check back soon! Title links go to hymnary.org, a site that gives the lyrics, history, and additional information about hymns across many traditions. Since some of these hymns have many versions and some carry multiple stories about their origin, I am not listing a date or author for any of them.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
let ev’ry heart prepare him room
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.
Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.
O holy night! the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope – the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
There’s something extra special about singing these songs as a congregation, especially when the church is decorated for Christmas and everything in the context is supporting the message. Personally, I find it even more meaningful to sing a capella, regardless of talent. Hearing the voices of those gathered celebrate, honor, and share the experience of anticipation (sometimes joyful, sometimes sorrowful) adds a depth of meaning that I simply have not experienced anywhere else.
Do you have a favorite Advent or Christmas hymn?
Until the next chapter,