Advent, Music, Spirituality

All I Want for Christmas is an Advent Playlist

Advent HymnalKatherine Greiner’s post on the practices of waiting during Advent struck a chord with me—and opened up the question of which chords to strike.*  While I’m not such a liturgical purist as to find Christmas songs abhorrent before their proper liturgical time, I am wary (and weary) of being preemptively inundated with the songs of the season.  Secular or pop-sacred, they propel me out of an Advent spirituality by offering to fill me up before I’m aware of the deep longing that Advent can uncover.  With so many opportunities to customize music through streaming services, my question is:

What’s on your Advent playlist?

I have a few suggestions below to get us started, but feel free to chime in with your ideas about songs and links to favored versions.

Best. Advent. Song. Ever. :   “People Look East”

You can find a choral version here. For me, the lyrics are rich metaphors of Advent spirituality.  Try out the first verse:

“People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.”

If these lines don’t lead you to seek out the sacred in the midst of the ordinary while pondering who you’re really preparing for, I don’t know what will.

Advent Pop:  “The River”

Joni Mitchell’s version is a classic, though Robert Downey, Jr. had a great cover on Ally McBeal back in the day.  Yes, it’s about a lost love made more poignant by the romance we’ve built up around Christmas; but, the desire to skate away from heartbreak and sin can also be about our longing for a love marked by joy and peace.

Advent-Appropriate Harking of the Herald Angel:  “Gabriel’s Message”

I’m partial to Sting’s version, and in this performance he’s boasting a beard for extra hipster points.  OK, so the last verse obtrudes into the Christmas season, but it’s mostly about the annunciation, a reading that is very much part of the Advent season due to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.  How do we say “yes” to the Holy Spirit in Advent so that God may become incarnate in our lives?

Add to the playlist in the comments below!  

*Puns are signs of the world’s deep need for redemption.  Just a friendly Advent reminder from me to you.


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12 thoughts on “All I Want for Christmas is an Advent Playlist

  1. Your post has made me consider something new; to look into, and discover new music and lyrics to listen to during Advent. Thank you.

    Posted by 1catholicsalmon | December 3, 2013, 1:25 am
  2. Is it uncouth to paste a link?

    Here’s my melancholic advent / christmas playlist:

    and via tumblr:

    …a few songs on the list are by Paper Route. They aren’t on Spotify, but you can listen here:

    Blessed Advent!

    Posted by Jacob Wayne Torbeck | December 3, 2013, 7:15 am
  3. “People Get Ready”

    People get ready
    There’s a train a-comming
    You don’t need no baggage
    Just a-get on board
    All you need is faith
    To hear the deisel hummin’
    You don’t need no ticket no no
    Just thank the Lord

    Posted by Nathanial Putnam | December 3, 2013, 10:52 am
  4. Particularly for early Advent , coming on the heels of Christ the King, I am partial to “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns”. The sense of longing for final fulfillment is so strong.

    Posted by Brian Garcia-Luense | December 3, 2013, 1:30 pm
  5. I have to say “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is one of my all time favorites. I know that it is an obvious choice, but I just love it. One Advent I listened to Enya’s version each morning.

    Posted by Katherine A. Greiner | December 3, 2013, 2:43 pm
  6. I am very partial to this arrangement of Rory Cooney’s Canticle of the Turning, as performed by Michael Iafrate. I hope that this embedding works!

    Posted by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn | December 4, 2013, 4:52 am
  7. Thanks for all the contributions so far! Here are two more shared by alert readers on Facebook:

    Posted by Amanda Osheim | December 4, 2013, 9:26 am
  8. So many of my favorites have been shared! Many of the chants of the season are glorious too. Conditor Alme Siderum, Of the Father’s Love Begotten are two of my favorites. I also reviewed a fantastic Advent CD on my blog last month: I highly recommend Advent at Ephesus!

    Posted by margaretfelice | December 4, 2013, 1:04 pm
  9. I had some free time over the weekend, and so I put together a large (100 songs!) Advent playlist for myself, using music I already had combined with some new purchases.

    It’s a mix of some ancient / traditional Advent carols (like O Come O Come Emmanuel, Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending etc), and more contemporary worship music. (Probably 80% contemporary / 20% traditional). You can find it here.

    and you can listen to a batch twelve of songs from the list here:

    Advent blessings.
    Karen B.

    Posted by anglicanprayer | December 5, 2013, 8:38 am


  1. Pingback: Two New Songs for Christmas (Eve)! | Daily Theology - December 24, 2013

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