Hello, lovelies! One of the things that I miss most about the Lutheran Church whilst Will and I are abroad experiencing the beauty of the universal church (in all its many facets and factions) is the rhythm and reliability of the seasons of the church. Unless we seek out specific churches that we know follow the church year, most of the time I don’t see or feel that movement and progression of the cycle that I have become so accustomed to in my many years of Lutheran churchdom.
The other weird thing is that its summer here…I’m not used to associating the Advent/Christmas season with warm weather since I spent the majority of my Decembers in the frozen tundra of the Midwest. So, we walk around town and they still put up icicle lights and swags and ornaments. There are jolly, fat Santas climbing down chimneys. There are even pictures of snowmen and snow on the cards…and its 80 degrees outside.
I’m even missing the snow a bit (don’t tell anyone, it’s just a moment of weakness, I’ll get over it). I just feel a little homesick for the holidays. So, in honor of my nostalgia, I’m going to give you a list of the holiday songs I miss the most, a special arrangement of them, and the reason I love them.
1) O Come, O Come Emmanuel – This has been my favorite song of the Christmas season for years and this is my favorite arrangement. I love the tension of the mournful sound of the tune contrasting with the inviting nature of the lyrics. It is so hauntingly beautiful. I could listen to different versions of this song all day…seriously. I love it.
2) Joy to the world– In contrast to the previous song, this one is full on, blow-you-out-of-the-water joyful and exciting. It proclaims that the Lord has already come into the world and all the world rejoices and sings! This arrangement is by Natalie Grant and it is the version that I sang the solo in when I was in college. The UWEC Gospel Choir sang this at one of our Christmas concerts. I belted this song and it was one of my favorite memories of singing ever. IT was like being a pastor with my whole soul.
3) Mary Did You Know– I found this song originally thanks to Clay Aiken (this is not his arrangement, fyi) and the lyrics blew me away. Did Mary have any idea what she was getting herself into when she had that encounter with the angel? “Oh BTW, Mary, you are giving birth to the lord of all creation…nbd” -God…..Did she really know what was going to happen? All the miracles that would happen? The way that the entire future of the world would be changed by this birth? This arrangement was one I just discovered this week. I love a cappella music. This is a stunning combination of beautiful voices with beautiful lyrics.
4) Emmanuel, God With Us– This is another take on the incarnation, much like O Come, O Come Emmanuel but it brings the biblical words into a present day reality. Since the birth of Jesus, the incarnation, the whole world has been turned on its head. But the Christmas season and the incarnation are more than us just being grateful for what Christ has done for us and being “Emmanuel” to each one of us.. It is also about us being “emmanuel” to the world. We, as believers bear the vision and mission of God in this world. We are God with others. This song tells that story. I sang this with my sister Elizabeth for at least two years at our Christmas Eve service in Fond du Lac. She was always better at it than I was…but I still love it.
5) Do You Hear What I Hear?– I love the progression of the story in this carol. The way that the voice of God in the wind whispers to a lamb, the lamb to the boy, the boy to the mighty king, the king to the people everywhere. The story goes EVERYWHERE, but if anyone would have been silent, would it have made it. And there’s a sense almost of disbelief in the thread of the story. “Do you hear this, or is it just me?” And it grows. From a whisper to the nations. I’m not really sure how silver or gold is going to warm up this little babe. Instead, I probably would have brought blankets, but whatever. It’s the thought that counts. There is no reason why I picked this version. It just sounds good.
Maybe I’lll stop with a top 5 for the night. I have more, but this post is getting long.
Merry Advent, friends. You are all in my thoughts as dwell on the memories of many Christmas seasons past.
Love from the weird summery Christmas season of Africa!