Advent Circle Music


We live in a visual culture.  We’re daily assaulted with images, icons, logos, movies, hashtags, GIFs, Jpegs, clips, and memes.  I’m not against them, and our visual culture does hyper-highlight one sense among the several that we use to navigate life.  Our hearing can be resoundingly deafened by our visual stimulation, potentially deafen us to the transcendent experiential power of music.


A big part of Advent and Christmas is the music.  We joke about it being played too early. We have multiple radio stations that play it 24/7.  We all loathe or love at least one Christmas song.  At least I know I do.  [Please don’t make me ever listen to Mariah Carey sing “Jingle Bell Rock” again!]


How might music and song speak to you, prepare us, illuminate us spiritually in the Advent Journey? What wonder or wondering within you can only be expressed in music?


I recently discovered this version of one of my favorite Advent Hymns, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by the Punch Brothers. It’s a regular part of Christian worship in these first weeks of Advent. The poetic lyrics, sprung from prophetic scriptures, paints a wider picture of the ancient anticipation of the messianic leader to be born and eventually deliver the people from exile and bondage. I hear great hope in it. It’s performed in a way that teases out musical tension, the tension of the past, the waiting, the longing, the hunger, the hope… which then explodes open with the singing of the last rejoices. Listening to it teases out in me my own anticipation and hopes – not just for this season, but for the justice and peace promised for all the world.


What anticipation/hope is stirring within you…maybe about upcoming encounters and get-togethers, about the division in our nation and neighborhoods, about the justice-peace-love hungered for by the world?





You can use listening to music as a way to expand your spiritual practice, and deepen your meditation…


Audio Divina (holy listening) is a another spiritual practice: a derivitive of lectio divina.  Ironically Audio Divina can deepen the sacred silence we need for contemplative prayer and meditation. When practiced regularly, the mystics talk of how it helps us to listen to life in a deeper way.


Prepare for your prayer by finding a quiet place and take some time to settle yourself into stillness and rest in silence. Become aware of the sacredness of this time you have set aside. Breathe in an awareness of God’s presence, breathe out distractions and worries. Slowly allow your focus to move from your head down into your heart. See if you can visualize this movement of your attention and awareness shifting.


First Hearing: Listen
Play the piece of music once to enter into its landscape. Notice the sounds of the notes and silences between them, rest into the movement of the music. Be present to how it rises and falls in your body and imagination. Allow the music to fill you, breathing it in. Slowly become aware if there is a dominant sound or image or feeling that is calling to you in this initial experience. Allow a few moments of silence to follow and savor that image or feeling rising up in you.


Second Hearing: Reflect
Play the music a second time. This time while listening allow the sound or image or feeling that first called to you to draw you more deeply into the experience of it. Allow it to unfold in your imagination. Notice how the experience of listening to the music touches your heart. What memories does it stir in you? What are the feelings rising up in your body? What images are you aware of? Continue to listen with your heart and become more deeply aware of how the music is flowing through you and what is being evoked. Rest for a few minutes in silence following the end of the piece, resting in what has moved in you.


Third Hearing: Respond
Play the music a third time. This time focus on how your heart wants to respond to being touched. What is the invitation present in the unfolding of sounds, images, memories, and feelings for you today? How is God speaking to your life in this moment through this music? What is the “yes” within you that is longing to be expressed? If you feel comfortable, take a moment to express with your voice what you are experiencing in your body. It might be a simple sound or a line from a song or something you have created in the moment. What does your “yes” to God sound like this day?


Resting with God
Spend some time resting in silence and releasing the sounds, feelings, and images that are stirring in you. Close your eyes for a few minutes and rest in the stillness in simple awareness of God’s presence. Allow yourself some time to simply be. Open yourself to a sense of gratitude for whatever has been revealed and offered in this time of prayer.



When you have come to the end of your prayer time you may want to play the music again and just experience it anew from the other side of this time. If you keep a journal, write down some reflections on your experience, making note of the music and what stirred in you.


I’m reprinting these concise instructions from an article on patheos.