Since this is not Christmas Eve, I challenge you to think of this traditional carol differently. The focus for this Sunday is upon joy and the wonder about what Jesus brings to earth. The processional at the entrance to this service is intended to create a sense of awe that leads us to the coming fulfillment of God’s promises in “Joy to the World.” Again, this is not Christmas Eve. How, then, can it work within this Advent season? How can you, your worship leadership, and your congregation best embody this within your own community? Read History of Hymns: "Silent Night" »
Joy to the World
While this is often thought of as the grand opener on Christmas Eve, the text truly harkens to the reign of God in its fullness. Therefore, “Joy to the World” is indeed a wonderful Advent hymn. This hymn is usually set in the key of D for a reason — tone color presents D as one of the brightest keys in western music. Let the brightness of the tune, ANTIOCH, shine as you sing it in worship. There are plenty of arrangements and hymn accompaniments of this for brass. Put those band students and local musicians to work! Read History of Hymns: "Joy to the World" »
Open My Eyes, That I May See
With the theme of “See” for this week, this hymn seems a logical choice. Not an Advent hymn, you say? No problem. The stanzas of this hymn can easily be set to VENI EMMANUEL (“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”) while using the “Rejoice” refrain from “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” This hymn then becomes both a core thematic hymn for the week and a Prayer of Illumination when incorporated with the Gospel reading. Because of the use of this tune, you will find that the text becomes much more of a yearning plea than a “sing-song,” lilting melody. Read History of Hymns "Open My Eyes, That I May See" »
Give Me Your Eyes
Brandon Heath has written a very thoughtful song that can be used as a chorus with the Prayers of the People. Rubrics on how to incorporate the song are within the worship order. Note that there are a lot of syllables in very short phrases, and the tempo is brisk. This can make singing it difficult. Here are some suggestions to help the congregation:
- In your role as a worship leader, take some time to teach this and other new songs. Teach only one phrase of the chorus, and focus on the four sixteenth notes at the beginning of each phrase. The other phrases will take shape after the congregation understands the basic contour of each phrase. (Hint: the contour is almost always the same in every one of these phrases. If not the exact same, they are very similar.)
- When singing the notes after the “Give me your eyes” sixteenth notes, make them more conversational and less exact. Also sing them a bit softer, like the second half of most western musical phrases. This takes the mental focus off of the rhythmic accuracy and places it on the text. It also makes it much easier to have a large group sing the rhythm together!
- Do not have your instrumentalists play the melody notes. With energetic and syncopated sections like this, simpler is better. For example, pianists would do best providing one bass note per chord in the left hand and the rest of the chord in the right hand, pulsing in steady quarter notes. If there is a guitar, another strummed instrument, or percussion, these are the instruments that can provide more rhythmic interest.
Jesus, We Are Here (“Jesu, Tawa Pano”)
One of the great global songs by Patrick Matsikenyiri, “Jesu, Tawa Pano” is a song in the Shona language that is an easy song to sing and an easier song to love. Do not focus on precision in the parts; slight scooping and sliding is welcomed. No matter what, don’t turn this hymn into a chorale. Simply keep the tempo steady. Even the most inexperienced choirs can sing this song in multiple parts. It is also one of the best songs for children to lead in the congregation, so if you have a children’s choir (whether established or impromptu) and are looking for repertoire for worship, begin with this one!
The use of this in the Sanctus of the Great Thanksgiving is also encouraged in this service. The three stanzas of the Sanctus have been arranged in four lines, each line representing one phrase of the MATSIKENYIRI tune. Read History of Hymns: "Jesu, Tawa Pano" »
Look Toward Christmas
Shirley Erena Murray has written a joyous hymn connecting the dots between Advent and Christmas, and this hymn can be found with a tune by Carlton R. Young in the recent collection, Songs between Friends, published by GIA Publications. The rousing chorus of “Sing alleluia!” would be a wonderful way to introduce this selection to your congregation. Allow the choir and/or soloist to sing the first stanza and have the choir sing the refrain. Follow with the congregation on the stanzas and refrains with additions of instruments on each successive stanza. The last time through, sing the refrain twice. Ending on a V chord creates an unfulfilled sense of anticipation, which is a timely way to fuel this sense of anticipation in others.
Now Thank We All Our God
If this chorale is chosen as an act of thanksgiving following Communion, I would recommend singing only stanza 3 as a way to transition into the acts of sending forth. This particular stanza is a doxological expression of thankfulness that connects the Advent elements of reflection, promise, and fulfillment to come. Recommended accompaniment would be organ or piano, although a unison melody with a band and fewer, less frequent chord changes is also possible. Read History of Hymns "Now Thank We All Our God" »
Thank You, Lord
Using the repetitive refrain from this song is a simple, effective way of offering thanks to God in a variety of styles of worship. The short chorus can be easily accompanied by piano, guitar, or band. Using this song may be an effective transition in your setting to the song of sending forth, “Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come.” The styles easily merge together, and moving from the key of F (suggested for this song) to C (suggested for the next song) is a relatively easy key transition for most bands.
Joy to the World, The Lord Has Come
This reimagination of the Isaac Watts text is an effective way to bookend this service with the traditional setting sung at the beginning. The recommended liturgical use in this service is singing the chorus only. It is easily accompanied by piano, guitar, or band. One thing to note: if using CCLI SongSelect as the source, the first beat of the chorus is actually a rest (The “joy” on the first beat is the conclusion of each stanza). Invite the congregation to begin singing on beat 2 of the chorus.
The King of Glory Comes
An Israeli folk song based on a dance form, this spirited text and tune are a perfect choice for the joy of Gaudete (literally, “Rejoice”) Sunday in Advent. The second stanza specifically addresses the directive of Jesus, “Go and tell John what you hear and see” (NRSV): “He goes among his people curing their illness.” Sing this song with a sense of joyful anticipation, and allow your body to move when singing! This is a dance form, after all, and a rigid singing, either by worship leaders, choir, or congregation, would stifle the movement of the Spirit and reduce it to an inauthentic attempt at joyful awaiting. Possible accompaniments would involve a guitar, tambourine, finger cymbals, or a rhythmic piano. Read History of Hymns: "The King of Glory Comes" »
The writer of “Shine, Jesus, Shine,” Graham Kendrick, has created this wonderful call to usher in the coming of Jesus Christ. The words are related to Christ’s coming, but they also seem to foreshadow the irony of Palm Sunday, which makes this a wonderful addition to the Christian Year. References to Jesus’ healing make this text quite relevant for the call heard in the Scripture: “Go and tell John what you hear and see” (NRSV). The tune, MAKE WAY, is very singable and uses an echo in the refrain, which also makes this a wonderful possibility for intergenerational choirs. Children, youth, and/or adults can alternate singing melody and subsequent echoes to create a brilliant alternative procession for this day. Sing with a bold, strong accompaniment from organ, piano, or band. Any of these combinations works well in a variety of settings.
God Almighty, We Are Waiting
This Trinitarian hymn serves as an opportunity for praise in the midst of the Advent season. An observation of note is the parallel occurrences of the words, “waiting” and “child” in each stanza. An interpretation of this hymnic phenomenon is the wonder created when we wait for the presence of God to arise from children, rather than what might be most commonly expected through adults. Allow your congregation to see this as a sermon within a song by pointing out the significance of some of these keywords: “waiting,” “child,” “humbled,” “receive,” and others that speak to you. A great pairing might be to use this hymn in connection with the hymn, “Like a Child” (TFWS 2092) by Dan Damon.
Until Jesus Comes
Dean McIntyre mastered the art of simple song when he wrote “Until Jesus Comes.” This rousing, easily singable chorus can be sung by congregations in varying worship styles at various times throughout the Advent season. Use of a heavy, gospel accompaniment is preferred, but it would also be possible to alter the style to a more folk-like quality using piano or guitar. If the song is unfamiliar to the congregation, it will take only a soloist or choir singing it one time for the congregation to join in. Read our Until Jesus Comes hymn study »
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
Another hymn that addresses the work of Jesus, “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,” addresses common Advent themes of prophecy and longing. However, this hymn is less somber than much of its hymnic kin. The focus of the text is constantly on the reign of God, which is ever-increasing and without end, and it ends on a key element of Wesleyan theology — God’s identity as love. Sing confidently and heartily with a lively accompaniment on organ or piano. Do not let the tempo move too slowly, or the congregation may have a difficult time hearing and embodying the hope found in this hymn. Read History of Hymns: "Hail to the Lord's Anointed" »