Six years ago, I was about to begin my first journey through the church year. It was a bit intimidating, because while I was an Anglican newbie, I was also also the parish music director and administrator (our background made this slightly less crazy — slightly). So, I was busy planning Advent hymnsings for our congregation — mostly because I needed to learn the hymns myself.
But, despite being in over my head, it was such a joy to get to immerse myself in the great tradition of Advent hymnody. I think one of the most simple, yet powerful ways to keep Advent is to save up the traditional Christmas music for the twelve days. But, to do that, you really need Advent music to fill the gap– music that immerses you in the waiting, longing, and mystery of the season. These hymns have become some of my favorites of all the year.
Most (but not all) of these hymns can be found in the standard hymnals (1940 or 1982). Because I’m not a complete stickler, I also decided to include some carols that straddle the line between Advent and Christmas. If you’re wondering what makes a carol different than a hymn, a carol is a seasonal folk song (and like your typical folk song, may have some strange rootsy elements). I’m including a few because, well, I love them. I love learning new-to-me folk songs; their homeliness makes me happy. Some of these, like Let All Who Are to Mirth Inclined, may indeed count as a Christmas carol. But, I will defend my inclusion of it and the few other little-known carols in this list with the following very technical assessment: they just feel Advent-y to me.
Please let me know what hymns or carols you think I should have included! I’m considering this post the first draft of a work in progress, to be refined each year (and I’ve been resisting letting perfection be the enemy of the good — I’m sure there are typos and wrong lyrics about. Please let me know when you see them. And I did struggle to find good Youtube representations of some of these hymns). This site, Hymns and Carols of Christmas, has been an amazing resource in these past years.
I’ve tried to arrange the hymns according to the general vicinity of when we sing them in our church (i.e. Lo, How a Rose on Rose Sunday, O Come, O Come Emmanuel beginning around the O Antiphons, etc.) Around Christmas Eve, I’ll publish another post with hymns and carols through Christmas and Epiphany.
December 2: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
December 3: Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
December 4: Creator of the Stars of Night
December 5: Wake, Awake For Night is Flying
December 6: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
December 7: Savior of the Nations, Come
December 9: People, Look East
December 10: Prepare the Way, O Zion
December 11: Down in Yon Forest
December 13: Comfort, Comfort Ye My People
December 14: Hark, A Thrilling Voice is Sounding
December 15: On Jordan’s Bank
December 16: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
December 17: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
December 18: The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns
December 20: Hills of the North, Rejoice
December 21: O Come, Divine Messiah
December 23: Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending
December 24: The Darkest Midnight in December
Finally, here is a link to the Youtube Playlist: Advent Hymns and Carols