The question comes up every year, and most congregations have partisans on both sides. On one extreme, only Advent hymns, songs, and anthems are included prior to Christmas Eve; and all the traditional and beloved carols are saved until Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the one or two Sundays following Christmas. On the other extreme, the First Sunday of Advent brings Hanging of the Greens, poinsettias, the creche, and, O Come, All Ye Faithful. Many congregations are somewhere in the middle, being faithful to Advent themes and music early in the season, while gradually introducing a few Christmas hymns as Christmas approaches, saving, Silent Night and, Away in a Manger, for Christmas Eve.
Many people want to sing Christmas songs during Advent because everywhere around them, except in the church, the world is observing Christmas with lights, parties, decorations, trees, concerts, school and choir programs, radio and TV, and their own shopping. Everything seems out of sync when the church seeks to preserve the integrity and message of Advent by putting off its Christmas celebration until Christmas Eve.
If you are a pastor or musician who wants to sing Advent hymns in Advent, here arefive excellent Advent hymns that have been set to music of familiar Christmas hymns:
- The King Shall Come, using Antioch's, Joy to the World
- Watchman, Tell Us of the Night, using Mendelssohn's, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
- The People That in Darkness Sat, using Christmas's, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night
- Of the Father's Love Begotten
- Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending
Here is an opportunity for you to sing great hymns of the Advent season, appropriately joined to familiar tunes your people will recognize from Christmas hymns. These hymns may be copied or inserted into your worship bulletin.
-- Dean McIntyre, Director of Music Resources