It’s a challenge to sing Advent. Our hymnal is replete with “the” Christmas carols that have defined Christianity for two thousand years. When it comes to Advent, we’re a little shy of familiar songs to fill up the four weeks until Christmas. That is unless you blur the liturgical lines and start singing the Christmas carols as soon as the tree’s out and the first Advent candle’s lit. More of us do it than we care to admit though deep down in our hearts, no one likes to sing Joy to the World until Christmas day. What’s a pastor to do?
1. Sing a different one of the first four verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” during the four weeks of Advent.
2. Sing whatever you want and what makes your congregation happy. I’m sure Jesus has bigger fish to fry than worry about what we’re singing. Do not deny people Christmas joy because of your liturgical hangups. Let God’s people sing.
3. Try to avoid “Joy to the World” until Christmas Eve. It’s just awkward to sing it any earlier. Your congregation will get the contradiction. They’d rather wait until Christmas and belt that sucker out.
4. I live on the Atlantic Ocean. Even here, on the ocean, no one gets “I Saw Three Ships”. Stay away from “I Saw Three Ships”.
5. Teach people a Spanish or foreign language hymn before you use it in worship. That’s not cool to foist something on people sight unseen.
Richard Lowell Bryant