on not singing carols yet

The other day I was mentioning how much I treasure the season of Advent. I especially appreciate the counter-cultural move of refraining from singing Christmas carols until the season of Christmas (the twelve days that begin with Christmas itself). At University Hill Congregation we begin singing carols on Christmas Eve. Before that we do not sing for joy at the birth of the Messiah. Before that we sing in longing, we sing in expectancy, we sing in preparation. In this way Advent reminds me of so much of life these days - longing, expectancy, preparation for the world and the lives God intends and promises. When I mentioned my delight in marking time during Advent a student at the theological school asked: "What do you say to those who want to sing Christmas carols during Advent."

My immediate response was: "I invite them to look for another congregation." I didn't mean it flippantly. It is just the reality of life at University Hill. After decades of refraining from singing carols in Advent this is how it is with us. We have discovered a rich Advent musical tradition that we delight in. Yes, the carols are on in the mall and on the radio but the fact that we wait to sing them when we gather as the church is a powerful reminder that the joy of the celebration of the Incarnation is in direct relation to our deep longing for such impossibly good news. Over the past few years I have posted a few thoughts about Advent. Here they are ...


  1. What a lovely idea. I love the rationale behind it.

  2. This is why I love the dark songs of advent...the songs that seem to spring from the darkness of pre-solstice celebrations. Ancient music of cold and wet fields and dark forests and long nights. These are much more the mood and atmosphere I experience in the wait to Christmas Eve. I am always ever delaying the joy. And it is so much riper for the waiting.

    1. This is why I love the hymn "In Silence We Wait" (words by John Parker) so much. Through praying in the darkness, we wait for the coming of Christ--maybe not really with joy, but with a bit anxiety about the unknown future.

      After celebrating the Advent with "not singing the carols" at UHill for two years, I feel it quite odd to hear Christmas songs almost everywhere in Taipei now...Christmas is quite festive and commercial-oriented here...

      I do wonder how the message of delayed-carol-singing--which seems quite counter-cultural nowadays--could be spread out in order to remind us of the deeper meaning of the Advent.