Over Thanksgiving my husband, Rogelio, and I had a conversation about how Christians jump into Christmas music all too quickly, ignoring Advent. A good priest friend lamented that “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was all we had in terms of Advent music. We protested, assuring him that there was indeed Advent music, and we would find it! We each created our own playlists and committed ourselves to study Advent together and discuss what it means to us.
For me, Advent is a reminder that, just as the baby Jesus and his blessed Mother and Joseph made their way across Palestine on a donkey, so, too, are we all on various types of journeys in our lives.
Since becoming Catholic I have increasingly recognized the beauty in the liturgical calendar. It is a tender mercy that the end of the secular year coincides with the beginning of my spiritual one; the sense of disappointment, urgency, and monotony that the end of the calendar year brings is remedied with the more beautiful truth of waiting in hope for the reminder that our God is one who chose to enter our messy human history. Advent is a reminder of the great paradox of our lives as Christians—great disappointment is challenged and confronted by great hope.
Ultimately, our playlists tell a story of moving from the disappointment we feel as we reflect on what the world and our human family have been in 2017 to the joy and hope that Jesus’ light brings.
There are some traditional Advent songs here; of course, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” made the list, but it is accompanied by a few secular surprises. Kanye West will never be accused of being too overtly Christian, and “Ultralight Beam” may not have anything to do with the light of Christ, but his song making it on this playlist might show that we are still Christians even when failing to be intentional ones.
In “To Zion” Lauryn Hill’s desire to keep her child is interrupted by the visitation of an angel. Bon Iver’s newest album “22 A Million” may or may not be about the hurt caused by racism and white supremacy. As Americans living in the midst of these forces of sin a song like this is given new depth in the light of Advent; the promise of “God is with us” and Jesus assuming our human nature become even more awe-inspiring facts for the here and now. Sufjan Stevens is a knockout when it comes to making Christmas albums, but we also made a shameless shout out to the Brilliance and the Gungor-included Liturgists. Enjoy!