Music for Advent during a pandemic

Here we are. We’re in Advent … during a pandemic.

Every year, holding out hope and waiting in the dark offers a profound spiritual power to me. During the darkest days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, I am consoled by the candlelight while I prepare for Christmas and pray about opening my heart and mind to the power of Christ. For me, Advent is really a joy!

But what about this year? The prayers, words, messages and meaning of Advent takes on a whole new dimension as we ponder the power of waiting, hoping and trusting during this hard COVID-19 pandemic. I’m waiting for much more than a cheery Christmas celebration with community and family. It’s not about cookies, shopping, parties, games, decorations or my favorite movies.

FSPA Novitiate Community celebrating Christmas in Chicago, December 2019.

What I am waiting for this year includes matters of life and death: I wonder how long it will take for daily death counts to decrease. I wonder about economic recovery. I wonder if people who have lost their food, shelter and jobs will have all they need. I wonder if the ill will become well. I wonder if the people who work in health care will persevere and have the strength and support they need to continue to serve those who are sick. And yes, I wonder about the coming of a cure — for the fair and just distribution of a vaccine, for health and healing for all people. I wonder how long it will take to return to some sort of sense of normalcy.

As I wait in the dark this year, my soul aches with the fierceness of the hope and longing that I am feeling. With hope so strong, music has a whole new might; the spiritual power of music is magnified. I can’t stop singing or listening to songs, it seems. I made an Advent playlist and no song is getting old. I offer my Advent playlist to you now along with some hope that the music might provide a little joy and comfort to you too.

As we listen and sing, let us pray. Let us give God our hopes, longings and restless hearts. Let us lean into trust and faith while we await the coming of the light; as we all wait for real relief from hardships and heartbreak.

Yes, much might be missing from Advent and Christmas this year, but this invites us to go deeper into the heart of it all: our loving God present to us as a simple and vulnerable infant, born in the most surprising of places. Come, Lord Jesus.

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