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BIS REVIEWS Blog

Songs of the Season: Advent Music vs. Christmas Music

catholic advent playlist christmas playlist

Welcome to Advent, sisters! Isn’t it wonderful that the time has come to prepare for Christ’s birth yet again? What an absolute joy and gift!

Yesterday at Mass, you saw all of the beautiful purple vestments and altar cloths. You prayed along with the congregation as the Advent wreath was blessed and the first candle was lit. And I’d venture to guess that O Come, O Come Emmanuel was the opening hymn for the day.

Welcome to Advent!

Maybe, like me, you have your Blessed is She Advent Devotional that you can’t wait to dive into. Maybe you have your family’s Advent wreath in pride of place on the table. And maybe you still need to try to find those candles you swear you bought last month!

Regardless of how prepared (or unprepared) you are for this beautiful time of year, I’ve got some good news for you! Your search for seasonally-appropriate, liturgically-focused music is over! We’ve got some amazing playlists to share with you for both seasons.

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Two Seasons, Two Playlists

Yes, friends, there is a distinct difference between Advent music and Christmas music. But, let me make this super clear before we go any further.

I am not going to tell anyone not to listen to Christmas music until midnight on December 25th.

No grinches here, I say! If that is what makes your heart happy, then go for it.

What I’m sharing with you today, though, isn’t necessarily the typical music you’ll hear on your local radio station’s “all Rudolph, all the time” lineup. No, today we’re talking holy songs. Liturgical, sacred, reflective music.

The music I’m sharing today is focused on one idea, and one alone: the birth of Jesus.

Advent Music

So, what is Advent music, anyway? Sure, we all know O Come, O Come Emmanuel in our sleep.  But what else is there? And what sets Advent music apart?

Advent music is characterized not by a particular sound, but by a feeling of anticipation. These songs are full of hope and longing. There is a marked sense of pleading for salvation, rescue, and comfort.

On this playlist you’ll find traditional songs like O Come Divine Messiah and People Look East.  These songs have been in our Catholic hymnals forever and for good reason!

But you’ll also perhaps be introduced to some new favorites!  Newer songs like Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven are mixed in among hymns like Come Thou Font. Traditional songs like Gabriel’s Message mingle with Taize chants such as Within Our Darkest Night.

A Surprise or Two

On the Advent playlist, you’ll probably find a song or two that you weren’t expecting. Do you recognize these lyrics?

Well I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms.
These days of dust
Which we’ve known
Will blow away with this new sun.

Even Mumford & Sons can have a place in the lineup!

Advent music doesn’t have to be all songs that start with O. It just has to tune your ear and prepare your heart to welcome our Savior on Christmas morning. Which leads me to our next playlist!

Christmas Music

Ladies, truly. I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun I had putting this particular playlist together for you! The memories, sentiment, and excitement were just almost too much! In a very, very good way, of course.

I really hope that there is something for everyone on here. We’ve got everything from Bing Crosby to the Dominican Sisters, from Johnnyswim to John Rutter. And everything in between!

Traditional favorites (think Away in a Manger and O Holy Night) are always welcome at Christmastime. But do you know songs like O Magnum Mysterium? What about Creator of the Stars at Night? Or Hodie Christus Natus Est?

Joy to the World!

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore Him
Seraphim round Him their vigil will keep
Nations proclaim Him their Lod and their Savior
But Mary will hold Him and sing Him to sleep.

Lyrics like these from John Rutter’s Candlelight Carol truly touch my heart. I love to think about what Christmas was like from our Blessed Mother’s point of view. Or consider these words from MercyMe’s song, Joseph’s Lullaby:

Go to sleep my Son
This manger for Your bed.
You have a long road before You
Rest Your little head.

Songs like this can help us celebrate Jesus’ birth just as beautifully as all of the traditional hymns and carols we’ve known and loved for years. Joy to the World, indeed, yes?!

Wait and Celebrate

So, sisters, however you plan to participate in the joys of Advent and Christmas, I hope these playlists are a fitting soundtrack to your celebrations and observances. May your waiting and preparing during Advent be fruitful. And may the joy of Christmas dwell in your heart always.

If we’ve missed any of your favorite songs, please let us know!

What are your favorite sounds of the season?  What songs tune your heart to the glory of the birth of Christ?

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Beth Williby is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a mom of four pretty amazing humans and has been married to her college sweetheart for almost twenty years. She does her best praying through singing and feeding the people she loves. Having grown up in the Midwest, she now calls Northeast Florida home. You can find out more about her here.

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