As First Things reminded you last year, there’s a War on Advent going on. Although nearly a week remains before the Feast of the Nativity, our society has been blasting Christmas music since before Thanksgiving. True, Francesca Murphy recently noted that different kinds of Christians do Christmas in different ways, and if you fall into the Christmas-tunes-before-Christmas camp, we’re not here to judge. Still, if you do prefer to keep strictly to Advent music during Advent, the First Things staff have rounded up another playlist of hymns and carols for you to enjoy during the final days of this penitential season. May you have a blessed third week of Advent as you prepare for Our Lord’s coming.
1. The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came
This Basque folk carol sets the story of the Annunciation and Magnificat to a lilting thirteenth-century Latin tune—a fitting meditation for the season in which we ponder yet again the mystery of the Incarnation and wonder over the fiat of that “most highly favored lady” Mary, mother of God.
2. The Cherry-Tree Carol
In this medieval ballad, listeners are invited to imagine a conversation between Joseph and the “Queen of Galilee,” Mary, before Christ’s birth. When Joseph rebukes Mary as he struggles to accept her strange pregnancy, the unborn Christ aids his unbelief with a miracle.
3. Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending
Penned by Charles Wesley, these exultant verses from the Methodist tradition point us to Christ’s second Advent—and to the glory of the communion of saints who will “swell the triumph of his train.”
4. Veni, Redemptor Gentium
St. Ambrose of Milan’s plaintive Latin chant includes both penitential reflection on the Incarnation and a passionate prayer to Christ for His return:
O equal to the Father, Thou!
gird on Thy fleshly mantle now;
the weakness of our mortal state
with deathless might invigorate.
5. Nova Nova Ave Fit ex Eva
This medieval English carol provides us a lyrical reminder that with the Virgin’s “Ave,” the disobedience of Eve is undone.
6. “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted,” from Handel’s Messiah
Although the Messiah is properly a Christmas delight, Advent—especially the week of Gaudete Sunday—is an acceptable time to revisit this virtuosic tenor aria from the oratorio’s opening. Accompanied by Handel’s majestic strains, the prophecies of Isaiah are fulfilled in St. John the Baptist as he makes straight the way for Our Lord’s coming.
7. On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry
Finally, this poetic rendition of John’s cry in the wilderness, composed by Charles Coffin (1676–1849), is another ideal hymn for Gaudete Sunday and the third week of Advent.
Ramona V. Tausz is a junior fellow at First Things.