My Five Favourite Advent Songs

Author: Jo Boyce


My Five Favourite Advent Songs

CJM Music’s Jo Boyce shares her five favourite Advent songs.

Advent is probably one of the most neglected seasons of the liturgical calendar. Too often, Advent is drowned out by premature carols, tinsel and Christmas shopping.

The two-fold treasure of this season of waiting and preparation is this: not only do we remember and celebrate the promise fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, but the Church also gives us this season so that we can learn to really  long for Christ’s return:

When the Church celebrates Advent… she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.  
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 524

These songs are not necessarily explicitly intended as Advent songs. However, they do give voice to our longing for the coming of our Saviour and the creation of the ‘new heaven and new earth’.

I don’t really have favourites, so here is my current ‘top five’, in no particular order:

1.There is a Longing

This Litany-style song by Anne Quigley is one we recorded on How Can We Keep From Singing? Vol. 1 many years ago and it remains one of our most requested songs.The plaintive melody carries the simple yet powerful text, like a litany of longing. Listen to an excerpt here.

2. King of Heaven

I’m not sure worship leader Paul Baloche and his co-writer Jason Ingram intended this to be an Advent song, but its driving insistence, and repetition of the passionate appeal “King of Heaven come”, captures the heart of Advent longing for me. Listen to the song here, referencing a "power verse" from Isaiah 64:1: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.”

3. Come Down

I discovered this gem of a song when a brief live clip made it into my Facebook feed a few years ago. That 90 second snippet live rendition featured the composer Nate Sabin, a phenomenal guitarist, which was enough for me to add this soulful song of longing to my Advent repertoire. With a little help from Google, I found the website of Nate Sabin, got the sheet music, and we sang it in our Advent concert a few weeks later. Listen to the song here.

4. Light of the World

This wonderful Lauren Daigle track seems to really capture the ”already but not yet” of Advent. We sing of a world that waits for a miracle and cry, ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’. Yet we also sing, ‘Glory, the Light of the world is here’, at the same time.

It is a powerful and compelling juxtaposition. We wait, we long, we hunger for our Emmanuel, yet He is already ‘God with us’, dwelling with us in our longing as the promise of our redemption unfolds through time.

5. Ready the Way

This Curtis Stephan classic has been a firm fixture in our Advent repertoire for a long time. The refrain and first verse are based on the familiar text from Isaiah 40:3-4, which is echoed at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel.

In the midst of all our crying out for the Lord’s coming, it is good to be reminded that we actually need to actively prepare a way  for His coming, too.

And finally...

6. O Come, O Come Emmanuel

I was asked to list five songs, but I can’t resist squeezing in a sixth. Based on the "O Antiphons", it’s probably the best known Advent song, and sometimes that familiarity can fill us with a little contempt. Yet it is still the yardstick against which I tend to measure all other Advent songs.

 A good Advent song always reminds us there is a need in our lives and in the world that only our Emmanuel can fill. Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay.

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