Advent is here, and of all the seasons of the church calendar, Advent is probably my favorite. One of my traditions each year involves building a playlist of music to orient me towards the coming of Christ, both devotionally and as a worship leader and designer. I have been listening to my Advent playlist for a few months now, thinking about what it means for our church to gather and actively anticipate the coming of Jesus together this Advent, and I have found that the songs we sing have a huge part to play in how we Advent together. (Yes, Advent is a verb for me sometimes).
So here are 11 songs I’d encourage you to add to your Advent Playlist this season, especially if you are planning worship for your local church:
Songs of Longing
O Come O Come Emmanuel (traditional) – Adapted from traditional Latin vespers for the final week of Advent, this is probably the song to sing in the Advent season. There are a ton of arrangements out there for this song, so no matter what style your church sings, you can likely find a way to appropriate it.
This is Our God (Jesse Reeves and Chris Tomlin) – In our church, this song has resonated deeply with those who find themselves in tough times. This can be used well as you address the longing for Christ we embody in this season.
Oh Great God, Give Us Rest (David Crowder and Matt Maher) – One of the newer songs in a long list of tunes Crowder has written dealing with key Advent themes: darkness and light, rest, longing, and Christ as our one true hope.
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (Charles Wesley) – Yet another standard, and one most Wesleyan congregations would find quite familiar. We often sing this as a congregation when lighting the candles of the Advent wreath.
Songs Looking to the Incarnation
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (traditional) – This is a great hymn centered on both the Incarnation and its ultimate goal of redemption. The second stanza also draws heavily on the images of the table, making this a great song to use during the Eucharist in Advent.
Here I Am To Worship (Tim Hughes) – Images of light stepping out into darkness and the humility of Christ in his descent anchor this song in the season, while the bridge carries the focus forward to worship in light of Christ’s sacrifice. A great, familiar song to use in most churches.
Joy Has Dawned (Keith Getty and Stuart Townend) – Getty and Townend have supplied the church with a flood of new hymns over the past two decades. This hymn tells the birth narrative quite well, seating the promise and arrival of Christ within the larger salvation attained through his sacrifice.
Light of the World (Matt Redman) – As Advent progresses, more and more light breaks into our liturgies and services. This song might fit well in one of the latter services in the season, announcing the humble way the light of the world has shown upon us.
Songs Looking to His Returning
Sing To The King (Billy Foote) – Perhaps it is because of the season in life I first came to love this song, but I can’t imagine Advent at our church without this song. With its bold announcement of Christ’s ultimate victory and the call to worship in the chorus, it always fits better in Advent than almost any other season.
Let Us Adore Him (Reuben Morgan) – The language of adoration in this song echoes the hymn, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, but the verses anchor this adoration in a longing for the return of Christ. One of my new favorites in the Advent season.
Joy to the World (Isaac Watts) – I first noticed something critical about this hymn about two years ago: Joy To The World is not primarily about the birth of Jesus, but about his triumphant reign when he returns. Seriously, go read the verses again. In a culture where Christmas music has become cliche, reclaim this hymn and announce the coming of Jesus in a fresh way this Advent.
As always, this is a very incomplete list. Feel free to add some of your choices for Advent songs to this playlist in the comments. Maranatha!