Advent in Three Songs

Advent in Three Songs

I loved Amy’s reflection last week on being an “Advent Grinch.” Every year, I negotiate the balance of allowing myself to embrace a season of waiting without being a total party-pooper to everyone around me. One way I’ve managed this balance is music.

Over the last several years, Amy has curated a couple of awesome Advent playlists for us on Spotify. In particular, last year’s “A Very Apocalyptic Advent” really revived the season for me with songs of hope and anticipation and celebration. At the end of 2020, it felt so much better to hear songs about our King coming to make all things right than to hear Brenda Lee rock around the Christmas tree for the 8,000th time.

This year, I’ve made my own Advent playlist, drawing from songs we sing on Sundays, songs from Amy’s lists, and a few things I’ve found on my own. Playing this list each day has created a little sacred space in our house during our routine moments–when we are slurping cereal, getting our backpacks ready, or playing games while making dinner. Since these songs have been such an important part of my Advent, I want to share three songs that have hit me this year. Enjoy!

“The Woman at Jacob’s Well or When Did We See You Thirsty?” by Mike Crawford and His Secret Siblings

This song is from an album called Songs for the Advent Conspiracy, which I absolutely love. After all, the advent of Christ is a conspiracy–a plan hatched among the Holy Trinity, with messengers conscripting the unlikeliest crew to pull off the secret job: smuggling in the king of the universe right here in Bethlehem.

This song blends two “non-Christmas” gospel passages: Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4) and Jesus’ teaching about “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The lyrics mingle the woman’s voice, confused by this man who asks her for a drink with our own voice, as we wonder when it was that Jesus asked the same of us. The song blurs the biblical images with our contemporary world: we didn’t have time to notice Christ since we had “meetings to make” and “emails to write” and “parties to plan.” It’s a gentle conviction of what this season does to us.

Ultimately, though, it’s a song about grace. It’s a song about Christ’s insistence that the water we seek and the water he brings–they’re two different things. It’s a song about Christ’s neverending desire that we learn to drink deeply of him.

“To Those Who Wait” by Bethany Dillon

I have listened to this song in previous years, but I hadn’t really heard the lyrics until this year. This is ironic because the song is mostly about learning to be still and listen and wait on the Lord.

This song unfolds like a psalm–it cries out to God: where are you? But as it begins to complain, it turns back to us: where are we? Are we actually waiting on the Lord? Are we expecting him to show up? Or have we moved on, trying to forge our own way? I was particularly convicted by this refrain: Lord, today you know what I need to do, but you can do more in my waiting than in my doing I could do.

“This Night Will Soon Be Over” by Dalton & Anna Thomas

Oh wow, this is the one you’re waiting for on the playlist. It’s a powerful, belt-it-out song about Christ’s return. The lyrics draw on the imagery of Revelation and the density of the words mean you hear something new every time. But it’s the way the song is constructed that will get you. The verses each end with a lingering refrain–this night will soon be over–and for a moment the song wants to burst out, but doesn’t quite until, finally, we hear the pronouncement: Heaven can’t restrain him forever, heaven can’t restrain him forever. And then the chorus explodes with the announcement: He will return, he will return, like the breaking of a down for which we’ve yearned.

This is one of those songs that takes you on a journey–it arrests and holds you and pulls you away from whatever you were doing. Which is what makes it a perfect Advent song.

If you’re interested, here’s an Apple Music version of my Advent playlist this year. I’d love to hear what songs stir you during this season.