Tag Archives: advent

An Advent Playlist: What Would You Add?


Got to talking on Facebook the other day about Advent albums—in theory, this should be its own thing, as a season separate from Christmas, but it’s often folded into the behemoth category of Christmas music.

I only knew of one album of Advent music, but of course, many friends schooled me on the other great ones out there. So I’ve been building a bit of a playlist, which people have asked for.

Here you go—sorry there are no links, but I’m doing this quickly since we’re celebrating a certain seven year old’s birthday today. A quick Google or iTunes search will get you there.


Advent: Piano Solos, Jim Morgan. Especially these tracks: Rejoice, Divinum Mysterium, Hyfrydance (my favorite)

Advent at Ephesus, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. I dumped the whole album onto the playlist because it’s such lovely choral music.

Midwinter, Peter Mayer. This singer-songwriter hits just the right Adventish tone on this album of original music, though a few tracks are explicitly Christmasy. So you should avoid Stables, Christmas Morning, Heavenly Child, and Make My Christmas Day until later. But don’t forget to add them to your Christmas playlist because they’re beautiful. I dream of using Where Is the Light with a church choir someday. It’s rousing!

Advent, Vol. 1 and Advent, Vol. 2, The Brilliance. These were recommendations, haven’t downloaded them yet. Same with Advent by Tangled Blue.


Thanksgiving, George Winston, December.

Each Winter As the Year Grows Colder, Marty Haugen. Haven’t found a version of this that I love, but the words are wonderful, very Adventish.

God, Beyond All Names, Bernadette Farrell. I like the Trinity Episcopal Church version. I could listen to these lyrics all day. And it has a fun alto line.

Veni Emmanuel and Of the Father’s Love Begotten, both from Winter’s Solstice III by Wyndham Hill

Beneath the Trees, William Ackerman, Winter Solstice

There is No Rose, Chanticleer, A Chanticleer Christmas

Lo How a Rose E’er-Blooming, Jennifer Knapp and Margaret Becker, The Hymns of Christmas

O Come O Come Emmanuel, Pentatonix, PTXmas

Gabriel’s Message, Sting. He has a couple versions of this (most recently on his Winter’s Night album) but I like the original 1980s version from A Very Special Christmas.

Enjoy! What have I missed?


photo credit: chrisotruro via photopin cc

What Time Is It? The Six Year Old Knows.


The final Advent reflection, sent this morning to my email list. If you’d like to subscribe and haven’t, click here. Blessings of the Season to you…

I love so-called “Freudian slips”—those mistakes in speech that often uncover an unexpected meaning or layer of humor. But I’m not sure I want to give Sigmund Freud the credit—rather, these flubs often seem the work of that holy trickster, the Spirit of God.

One of my favorites happened several years ago at a church conference. During a prayer before communion, the speaker meant to say “love is stronger than death.” Instead, whether because of a typo in the script or an error on her part, she said, “love is stranger than death.”

And I thought, Yes. That’s the heart of the Christian story, isn’t it? Love does not follow the rules as we understand them. Love has its own illogical logic, that of grace and new life. It’s truly strange, is it not, that the God who created nebulas and quarks and manatees and sequoias decided to pour into the flesh of a human being, live for a time, die without putting up a fight… and then three days later, that person’s heart starts beating again, neurons begin firing, breath pumps in and out of resurrected lungs. It makes no sense. It is strange.

And it’s here at Christmas that that strange love has its beginning—with an unmarried peasant girl, a confused fiance, a birth in a cave, and a bunch of simple shepherds, mouths gaping open at the holy surprise of the thing.

God became a human being. Amazing.
And that’s the story we participate in this Christmas.

Today James gave me another slip of the Holy Spirit. For some reason, we were talking about what time it was, and he said, It’s heaven o’clock.

Whether he meant to say seven, or eleven, or was simply making a rhyming joke by saying “heaven,” I’ll never know, because he saw my absolute delight at the phrase and repeated it again and again. That’s what time it is, in this season of Advent expectation, as the hour grows close when Christ will be born in our hearts again. It’s God’s opportune moment. It’s kairos time. It’s heaven o’clock.

I told the small crowd at our Blue Christmas service last night how perplexing it is to me, that the first day of winter would also be the day that the days start getting longer. I understand it geologically. But spiritually it seems all wrong. You’d think that (here in the northern hemisphere anyway) the coldest season of the year would also be the one with the least amount of daylight. But no—all winter long, even while many of us experience colder and colder temperatures, the light is returning, bit by little bit each day. It’s a holy disconnect, but one I find tremendously hopeful. Even when we feel discouraged or spiritually cold, even when we shiver against the darkness and pull our blankets and cloaks tight around us, the light is making its slow, relentless way back into the world.

Check your watches, folks—it’s heaven o’clock. Love makes its way toward us again. Thanks be to God for that good, strange news.

I wish you all a most Merry Christmas.


photo credit: YlvaS via photopin cc

An Interactive Advent at Tiny Church

“Mommy, I really like it when we do something in worship, not just sit and listen.”

That was my darling daughter several weeks ago, reminding me that it’d been a while since I’d planned an interactive component in worship, aside from the standard singing/praying/speaking stuff we do every week. Sure, those things are experiential too, but she was talking about something tactile. Children in particular appreciate this, and folks of other ages do too. (And at Tiny, the people who don’t need or appreciate it are still game to go along.)

Here is what we’ve been up to. We’ve kept it pretty simple this month—and as you will see, I’m borrowing liberally from other sources. The good thing about these activities is that they create an artifact that can be displayed in the sanctuary or fellowship hall.

Week 1: HOPE: We didn’t do anything this year on the first Sunday of Advent because it was communion Sunday, and that’s plenty experiential! (It was also Thanksgiving weekend so I kept things low-key re: worship planning.) But last year we had people write things they were hoping for on colored paper, and we collaged them onto a large poster with the word HOPE printed on it. The letters of HOPE were in outline, and the hopes filled in the letters, if that makes sense.

Week 2: PEACE: I used strips of paper from an old falling-apart hymnal and had people write prayers for peace on them and put them in the offering plate. These were made into a paper chain that decorated a small tree that’s on our communion table:

An Interactive Advent at Tiny Church

Week 3: JOY: Again, I had people write on strips of paper—this time it was an occasion of joy they have experienced recently, and instead of hymnal strips we used different colors of construction  paper. These will be assembled on a piece large butcher paper to form a tree like so:

An Interactive Advent at Tiny Church

Week 4: LOVE: In lieu of a sermon we will do something interactive as the message. In the past we’ve done an impromptu Christmas pageant, or a processional of different Christmas symbols (nativity scene, poinsettia plant, bells) and explained the meaning behind each symbol. This year we will adapt the ABC’s of Christmas which I saw on Fidelia’s Sisters a couple years back. I think we’ll have the various lines printed on individual pieces of paper for people to pick up when they come in. Then when the ABCs come they will “popcorn” up from within the congregation.

Epiphany: The children in the Upper Room are putting together a torn-paper collage like so:

An Interactive Advent at Tiny Church

I hope it will be finished by Epiphany. We intended to have everyone work on it at our Christmas potluck last weekend but time got away from us!

Advent Crafts, Field Tested: This One Made My Day

Nathan Proctor, Associate Director of Music at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, sends the following message that made my day:

I was inspired by your blog post on creative ways to up-cycle the blue hymnal. I lead a children’s choir of around 30 first and second graders and yesterday we created ornaments from pages from the old hymnal.

The children had a great time working on this project- there was lots of singing in the room as they looked at the Christmas songs. We let them choose their favorite Christmas or Advent song to use on their ornament- lots of requests for Away in a Manger and Go Tell it on the Mountain. They even thought about important words they would like to have showing.

Emphasis mine. This is exactly what I had in mind, and I could not be more thrilled to read this message.


They loved the project! I plan to tie on some ribbon and include a note to their parents telling where the music came from before sending them home on the first Wednesday in December.

It was a really happy, joyful project! It was such a sweet time with the kids that I wanted to email you right away today to thank you for the fun idea.

Thank you for the great suggestions and ideas!

What can I say, Nathan? Thank you so kindly. And check out the children’s handiwork:




The only downside is that I’m totally in the Christmas spirit and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet…  😉


Upcycle the Blue Hymnal: Five Easy Advent Crafts

Like many Presbyterian churches, Tiny Church recently purchased a set of the new hymnal, Glory to God. (I love it.) Now, of course, we have stacks and stacks of blue (1990) hymnals we are no longer using.

We’ll keep a set of them, but we’re starting to talk about what to do with the extras. Are there fledgling church communities or nursing homes that could use them? Undoubtedly… though I suspect many of these organizations will be inundated with offers of old hymnals since there’s a lot of us suddenly trying to unload these things.

If and when we find a new home for the hymnals, there will be some random extras that are in such poor condition that they can’t be passed along. I myself have 2 or 3 hymnals floating around my house and study, and they are not fit to donate.

So… how about upcycling the copies that have lived a good life and are ready for some transformation? Old sheet music is beautiful and historic and a lovely material to work with. It’s good stewardship to give these old books new life.

Presenting: five easy Advent crafts using the blue hymnal!

I enjoy doing things with my hands, but I’m not skilled. So my suggestions are meant to be simple enough even for the craft-challenged. Got an Advent ministry event coming up? Sunday School lessons to plan? Potluck dinner in need of an activity? Here are my five best suggestions for EASY crafts with the blue hymnal… or any other sheet music or pretty paper. (Of course, I recommend you use hymns 1-60 for these crafts: Advent and Christmas.)

Stamped Music Ornaments

Upcycled Vintage Book Paper Holiday Ornament Tutorial

My girls and I are in the middle of making these right now and they are pretty and simple to make. The circles of music are so pretty, and the snatches of lyrics are festive. I got a set of Christmas-themed stamps and some burlap ribbon and we’re good to go. We’re putting sheet music on each side so there’s no “wrong” side.


Clear Globe Ornaments


This picture is done with a wedding invitation but it would be easy to create strips of hymns and coil them inside the ornaments. Add a decorative ribbon and you’re done. Here’s one set of plastic ornaments I found.

For this project and the one above, it would be nice to have a small tag explaining the source of the music… especially if these are gifts.


Advent Poems


This is a craft and a contemplative activity rolled into one—great for a Quiet Day or prayer gathering. Take a favorite Advent/Christmas hymn (or maybe a non-favorite) and read through it for words or phrases you might string together to make a new poem. Circle those words and doodle the rest of the page as shown.


Paper Chain


Oldie but goodie! Use strips of hymnal pages to make a garland for the tree or a Christmas “countdown” chain. I can report that vertical strips of the hymnal are a good length for stringing together.


Paper Trees

CONFESSIONS OF A PLATE ADDCIT Easy Vintage Paper Trees_thumb[5]

Scroll to the bottom of this page for instructions. This is the most complicated of the five options here, but still not all that challenging.  


I’ve started a Pinterest board with these and other ideas for upcycling the old hymnals. With each liturgical season—Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost—I will choose my favorites and create a post just like this one. In the meantime you can follow my “upcycling-the-hymnal” board (or all of my boards).

Speaking of ways to connect, starting later this month I’ll be writing weekly email articles including tips and inspiration to have a “Sabbathy” Advent. Sign up for those here.