By Steve Krout
Some days I’m thrown back and forth between two different feelings. At Koinonia, we observe the blessed season of Advent. We sing the beautiful hymns of the season, light the candles around the wreath, and listen to the Holy Scriptures as we quietly anticipate the coming of Emmanuel. Yet, in the shipping room, where I spend most of my time during this part of the year, I’m surrounded by hundreds of packages from people sending chocolate and Christmas greetings to loved ones as close as Ellaville, GA and as far away as France, Germany, and South Korea. There’s the longing of the Advent season and there’s the excitement that is the Christmas season. I love both of those feelings.
In the evenings, after a long day of handling gift boxes, and before I’m ready to dive into a good book, I wind down with some music and eggnog. I thought I’d share with you a few songs on my Advent to Christmas playlist.
- “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” by Wilder Adkins
Recently I’ve come to absolutely adore this recording by Wilder Adkins. It is the last verse in particular, written by Adkins, that grabs me: “Someday war will be a memory/Someday we will rise above/The racial strife, the choosing sides/I will abide in my heavenly home.” To use Tolkien’s words in The Return of The King, someday “everything sad is going to come untrue.” It is that longing that aches inside of me every time I hear the beginning of Isaiah chapter 10.
- “Mvmt I, ‘Rejoice, Rejoice!’” by The Oh Hellos
This take on the beloved hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emanuel”, by The Oh Hellos is nothing short of spectacular. The slow, somewhat haunting build that happens throughout the song will stay with you long after you have listened to it.
- “The Friendly Beasts” by Sufjan Stevens
Arranged in the 12th century, with English lyrics written by Robert Davis in the 1920s, “The Friendly Beasts” is a Christmas favorite. I can’t help but think that this song would delight St. Francis of Assisi, who is said to have staged the first nativity scene, including live animals, in 1223. This rendition by Sufjan Stevens, while maintaining the simplicity of the song, is a joy to sing along to.
- “Funky Little Drummer Boy” by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
The late Sharon Jones put her heart and soul into every song that she ever sang. It’s A Holiday Soul Party, which “Funky Little Drummer Boy” appears on, is one of my all-time favorite Christmas albums.
- “Refugee King” by Liz Vice
Recorded in 2019, “Refugee King” is a powerful retelling of Joseph and Mary’s flight into Egypt in order to protect their child from the death sentence handed down by Herod. According to The UN Refugee Agency, “At least 79.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18.” We see the Holy Family reflected in refugees today — the father who will make any sacrifice necessary to protect his family, the mother who cries out as she is separated from her child, and the children who remain the most vulnerable among us.
I hope that these songs, if they are new to you, add something beautiful to your life. If you’ve heard these songs before, I hope they serve as a nice reminder of the beautiful art that exists in the world. I encourage everyone to support these artists: stream their music, buy an album on Bandcamp, consider giving the gift of music to a loved one this Christmas. I wish everyone a blessed and safe Advent and Christmas season.