Erica posted a great idea - since most Christmas CDs include one or two Advent tracks, compile them together to make an Advent playlist. I'm going to work on this, although we don't seem to have enough Christmas albums to make for a very long Advent list. (Side note: I am presently importing last year's purchase of Sufjan Steven's Songs of Christmas into iTunes, and it was sort of funny to see "Importing: 'Ding Dong'" pop up on the screen. That Sufjan, he so crazy.)
Erica also tagged me to name five favorite Advent songs. Here goes...
1. "Emmanuel (God With Us)", Mississippi Mass Choir
I actually had not heard the Mississippi Mass Choir sing this song until this morning. The Kent State University Gospel Choir sang this song for our 2000 Christmas Concert. Even though singing it was probably one of my most powerful spiritual/musical experiences I've ever had, we learned music by rote so I had no recollection of the song title or composer. I started poking around on iTunes to see if I could find the song, and as soon as I heard the little 20 second clip, I knew I'd found The Song. It's amazing, though there is a significant difference between listening to gospel music and singing it. Lordy, do I miss singing gospel music.
2. "O Come O Come Emmanuel," Hymn
Sung simply, in the context of a congregation I love. Doesn't get any better than that.
3. "Breath of Heaven," Sara Groves
I know this is an Amy Grant song, but Sara Groves has a much simpler arrangement that I infinitely prefer. I like that it imagines Mary's experience without being manipulative. It's prayerful and honest and plain; it's a good sign when the most moving line of a song is "help me."
4. "The Trumpet Child," Over the Rhine
Funny that OtR has two Christmas albums (though one could argue that Darkest Night of the Year is not a Christmas album, but a solstice album) yet the most Advent-ageous song is on a regular studio release. I might use some of these lyrics in my sermon this week. It's full of Isaiah's imagery and prophecy, refracted through the perspective of Revelation. I.E., the Advent stuff that is hardest to preach because it sounds the least "Christmassy."
5. "My Soul Gives Glory to my God," Hymn
This is one I'd love to have a nice, folksy recording of. I'm looking forward to singing it on December 16th, when I preach the Magnificat.
I think it's telling that four of my five songs are ones I've sung, either in choirs or as congregational hymns. When it comes down to it, playing seasonal music on the stereo is lovely, but I'd be bereft without the regular opportunity to sing in a community of faith. Jason Byassee recently wrote in the Theolog blog, "When Lauren Winner expresses concern for unchurched people, she asks: where do they sing? Baseball games? In the shower? Whatever else we Christians do, we sing regularly, and surely that’s good for the soul."