Let’s Argue about Advent/Christmas Music Again

(Prepare away, but a little "Away in the Manger" never hurt anybody either.)

I got a comment yesterday on a post I wrote a year ago defending Christmas carols in Advent. Wow! These posts really do hang around forever.

I looked at them again and mostly stand by what I wrote. Here is the whole string of posts:

First, I detected a genuine longing for Christmas, beyond some grabby-greedy-gimme kind of consumerist thing, and wondered if other people were feeling that too. (For what it’s worth, I don’t feel that same urgency for the Christmas message that I did last year at this time… you?)

Next, I unpacked some of the tensions between Advent and Christmas hymns and mounted a theological defense for singing Christmas carols in December.

Finally, I looked at some non-theological reasons for the same… some of them more substantive than others.


Actually, you guys argue—I have a book to finish.

And if you’d like a soundtrack for your discussion, may I recommend Peter Mayer’s Midwinter—beautiful Adventy stuff there, with a bit of Christmas thrown in. These are all original songs—no chestnuts roasting on an open fire here.

Indeed, his song “Where is the Light?” is a perfect example of an Adventish song that has a celebratory, upbeat tone—which is something I talk about in my second post.


6 thoughts on “Let’s Argue about Advent/Christmas Music Again

  1. h’mmmm…I’m stricter about this liturgically than I am with myself (like THAT’s a surprise)…listening through all the accumulated Christmas CD’s in the car, during Advent this year.

    Where the liturgical principle founders, for me, is on the reality that there is just TOO MUCH toothsome Christmas music to enjoy it all in the Proper Season.

    BTW MaryAnn my Wise Wednesday Women just LOVED the post about what to do with the wedding dress — we read it together as a model of how theological reflection is done and can enrich and stimulate our thinking. So I, and we, thank you again for that!

    • MaryAnn says:

      Thank you! That’s nice to hear. I still haven’t done anything with the dress :-\

      That’s a good distinction to keep before us: the difference between liturgical practice and personal. I have this rather arcane and idiosyncratic process for easing into Christmas music. I *have* to listen to Jim Morgan’s album of piano solos, “Advent,” before I listen to anything else. Then comes George Winston’s “December,” since it begins with a song called “Thanksgiving.”

      Next I dive into my instrumental Christmas music, like the many Winter’s Solstice albums I have, and a great collection of stride/jazz piano by Butch Thompson. I might also dip into some Chanticleer or Waverly Consort, since a lot of their stuff is in other languages. The idea is that the lack of words helps me ease into the season.

      After that it’s just a hodgepodge of things, although I am careful to deploy some of my absolute favorite albums very strategically and not blow the wad all at once.

      Wow. I need help.

  2. Shawn Coons says:

    I used to be an Advent Nazi, but then there came a point where I realized that most people in church were eager and open to hear and explore the Christmas story. But by the time the church finally got around to the Christmas story they had mostly moved on and there wasn’t enough time to do it justice.

    I’m imaging a Venn diagram of people’s openness to really explore the Christmas story overlapping the richness and broadness of the Christmas story and the overlap is very small. Which passages do you smoosh into the available time this year? Joseph, Annunciation, Magnificat, Elizabeth, Shepherds, the birth? Each one of these could generate multiple wonderful sermons, but it seems like we’re forced to cover them all in one Christmas Eve sermon.

    My other beef is that sometimes Advent seems to be defined in terms of what it isn’t instead of what it is. Advent becomes “the time when everybody else is in the Christmas spirit but we are ‘waiting,'” or Advent simply becomes “not Christmas dammit.”

    At our church this year we did John the Baptist and Matthew’s genealogy last week, but now it’s Joseph, Mary and the birth from here on out. And we’ve got Christmas hymns starting this Sunday, which makes me glad because otherwise the only other public place people would hear them would be in the stores.

  3. Sue Ferguson says:

    I love your topics – here’s my .02 as a non-pastor type. I love Christmas music and am for sure playing it all at my house (I must start every year with a playing of Handel’s Messiah). However, as much as I really don’t like to sing the Advent hymns (the tunes frankly are just not all that endearing) – I do think it is a duty of the pastor to not give us what we want but what we need…and in Advent that means having us wait, however impatiently, for the “fun” songs”. If we were not forced to at least give some pause to the Advent songs, we’d just be contributing to the general downplay of the waiting period. That’s why I am not a pastor – I can play and listen to whatever I want 🙂

    However, I think there are some songs that can be used that may not be specifically Advent, but are not all about the manger either. I have ben hooked on “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” this week. But I think “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night” have a specific place and time. And this year we get the Sunday of Christmas as extra – I think our 11 am service is going to be a LOT of carols 🙂

    And who knows – maybe they’ll give us all new stuff in the new hymnal coming in 2013, and you can restart this discussion again LOL!

  4. […] much as I enjoy classic or traditional Advent-Christmas music, I’ve been more partial to more unconventional Advent-Christmas themed tunes, originals and […]

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