Before I launch into the Advent content, I want to alert newcomers to, and remind old-timers of, my Thanksgiving Playlist on Spotify (introduced here), which is revised and expanded since last year. You can get an overview at this blog post. From Destiny’s Child to Yo-Yo Ma, Meister Eckhart to Mister Rogers, there’s a little something for everyone, I hope. And exemplifying the global nature of Christianity, there are songs in Hebrew, Luganda, Zulu, Swahili, Yoruba, Spanish, French, Hawaiian, Arabic, Korean, and Tamil.
ESSAY: “All Creation Waits” by Gayle Boss: In the northern hemisphere, Advent is accompanied by a deepening of the dark and cold. In her bestselling and wholly unique Advent devotional, All Creation Waits, Gayle Boss provides twenty-five reflections that detail how wildlife—turtles, loons, black bears, and so on—adapts to these changing conditions. Animals know that the darkness is a door to a new beginning, and we would do well to embrace this wisdom. In the book, each day’s reading is paired with a woodcut illustration by David G. Klein.
The year of the book’s 2016 release, On Being published the introduction on its blog, where Boss answers, “Why animals for Advent?” and describes some of the inspiration behind and framing of the book. This year Paraclete Press released a hardcover gift edition with a new introduction and afterword.
SONG: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”: There are hundreds of arrangements and recordings of this most beloved Advent hymn. Last year I featured two that I particularly like, and I think I’ll start a trend on the blog by doing the same at the beginning of each Advent—sharing two new renditions of the song.
>> Anna Hawkins. Anna Hawkins is a singer-songwriter of Irish heritage living in New Zealand. In her version of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” from her album Divine (2015), she sings the first verse in Hebrew, honoring the lyrics’ rootedness in the Hebrew scriptures. The music video was shot in Israel (cinematography by Michael Hilsden from Aspiring Productions). [HT: Global Christian Worship]
חזור חזור עמנואל
ופדה אסירי ישראל
עד כי תבוא בן- האלוהים
,שמחו! שמחו! עמנואל
יבוא לכם בני ישראל
Chazor, chazor Immanu-El
Ufde asirei Israel
Ad ki tavo Ben Elohim
Simchu, Simchu, Immanu-El
Yavo lachem bnei-Israel
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
>> CeCe Winans, arr. Alvin Love III. CeCe Winans is a gospel legend. On Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album (2018), she collaborated with her son, Alvin Love III, who wrote the lush orchestral arrangements and produced the record. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” opens with a celesta, which sounds like a music box or twinkling stars and has long been associated with the supernatural. The accompaniment is played by the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Tim Akers.
VISUAL MEDITATION: “I Corinthians 7:29-31: God Only Knows” by Lynn Miller: The Rev. Dr. Lynn Miller is an author, ecclesiastical artist, workshop leader, and Presbyterian minister who holds a BFA in graphic design, an MA in art history, an MFA in creative writing, an MDiv, and a DMin. From 2014 to 2021 she ran the blog Art&Faith Matters, curating a diversity of images based on the liturgical calendar. In this post she guides us in looking at the surrealist painting At the Appointed Time by Kay Sage, which features a mysterious, draped figure or object and lines receding toward the horizon. “What do you see in the painting? What do you think about what you see? What do you wonder about this painting?” She posits a number of possible interpretations.
PODCAST SERIES: “Whispered Light: Advent Reflections on Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell” by Matt Simpkins: In this four-episode podcast series from December 2020, the Rev. Matt Simpkins, an Anglican priest and musician from Essex, explores the four themes traditionally contemplated by Christians during Advent—death, judgment, heaven, and hell—through four old American folk songs. He performs the songs, giving their history and using them as a launchpad for spiritual and theological reflection, which also integrates discussion of the Psalms. He addresses misconceptions about these “last things,” tracing the thread of hope and redemption that runs through them all. Just twenty to thirty minutes each, the episodes are available on your favorite podcast app and on YouTube (links below).
- Episode 1: “O Death” (aka “A Dialogue with Death”)
- Episode 2: “I Want to Be Ready” (aka “Walk in Jerusalem Just Like John”)
- Episode 3: “There Is a Happy Land”
- Episode 4: “I Don’t Want to Go Down There”
Simpkins records music under the name Rev Simpkins & The Phantom Notes. Check him out on Spotify or wherever you listen to music.