I have a confession. I started listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving this year. I could blame it on the ordination papers I was trying to write, which made me need a good pick-me-up of Christmas cheer. Or I could blame it on my family, since we passed around a cold and spent Thanksgiving day isolating at home while setting up Christmas decorations – you have to have the music to go with the decorating, right? But neither of these are the real reason for my jumping ahead a season. The real reason has to do with how longing and expectation are themes during the season of Advent.
Advent music is really what I have been drawn to lately. Not Christmas music. To some, these seasons are synonymous, but there is a big difference. While Christmas joyfully celebrates that Jesus has come (think “Joy to the World”), Advent focuses on the experience of waiting, expecting, and longing for the coming of our Savior (“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a favorite). Although we know we will celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas morning, we are not quite there yet and so we wait with an eagerness for that time to come. Similarly, we know that Jesus will return to us one day in the future to make all things new and finish his saving work, but we are not there yet, so we wait with an eagerness for that time to come. Advent is a season where deep longing is mixed with an expectant hope. Zechariah’s prophecy in Luke 1:68-75 is one of the places we get this theme from scripture:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.”
This speaks to a centuries-long hope that God will be faithful to deliver his people from all that afflicts them. There is a deep longing and waiting for something they are still sure will come. And this is what I love about advent music.
Advent music holds in tension our deep need for God’s salvation with the promise of a savior who will come again. We feel both the angsty longing of a people who struggle in this world with the hopeful expectation of a people who have been promised a future deliverance. As I have listened to Advent music in recent weeks, it has made me both more aware of my need for Jesus’ salvation in my life AND more excited about God’s promise to one day make everything right. It has given me a deeper hope and worshipful excitement about God’s future deliverance that I have yet to experience.
So I wonder how could we allow this Advent season to be a time of preparation for us? In what ways do we need to recognize our longing for a savior? How might we be blessed if we spend some time remembering God’s promises to us, and reminding ourselves that God is always faithful? Are there ways that God wants to prepare you for the coming of Christ during this Advent season?
It’s a great season for the people of God, because we get to renew our hope in Christ’s coming to finish his work of deliverance and make things right once again. I have some ideas for celebrating and preparing yourself during this Advent season that I have listed below. Whether you use my ideas, or come up with your own, my prayer is that God would use this season to fill you with hope and build up your longing for Christ.
A couple ideas for making the most of Advent:
- Bethany Advent Calendar – use this to do an activity every day to help you prepare for the coming of Christ during this Advent season!
- Family Christmas Album by The Oh Hellos – This is by far my favorite Advent/Christmas combo album. It is folksy alternative music, so keep that in mind and no worries if you aren’t into this sort of music. It has 4 movements that all tell the story, starting with advent themes of longing and expectation and ending in joyous Christmas adoration!