My Favorite Advent Songs
On Sunday, November 27, 2022, we start the new church year, the season of Advent, the preparation period for Christmas. I list here ten of my favorite Advent hymns and songs, in no particular order.
1. Gå Sion, din Konung att möta
"Gå Sion, din Konung att möta" (Go to meet your King, O Sion) is a Swedish Advent hymn made by Erik Nyström in 1893. Though it is especially song during Advent, only the first verse speaks about the arrival of Our Lord. Second verse speaks about Christmas, and the song as a whole presents Our Lord's life as a whole, His birth, Passion, death, and resurrection. The song is also very happy and rejoicing, the chorus telling us to be happy in the Lord and to pay tribute to our King.
2. O Come Divine Messiah
This Advent song was composed by a French priest Fr. Simon-Joseph Pellegrin (1663-1745). His collections of French carols were published in 1708 and 1711.
3. Nyt sytytämme kynttilän
This is originally a Swedish Christmas song titled "Nu tändas tusen juleljus" by Emmy Köhler (1858-1925). The Finnish version heard here is a text variant to Köhler's composition, made for children, and tells how first, second, third, and finally the fourth Advent wreath candle is lit, and how light grows bigger and bigger and Jesus is nearer and nearer.
4. Avaja porttis, ovesi
In the Nordic countries this hymn is the real opener of the new church year. It's opening verse is from Psalm 23:7: "Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in." It originally comes from Germany, and was included in the Swedish Lutheran hymnal in 1694, and of Finland in 1701.
5. Kolme yötä jouluun on
This Advent song is titled "Three nights until Christmas" and tells about the Christmas preparations on the final days of Advent. It was made by Petter Ohls (1948-2022), a Finnish composer whose most well-known works are popular childrens' songs. It was recorded for the first time in 1990, and has remained one of the most popular Christmas-time songs in Finland ever since.
6. Bereden väg för Herran
The title means "Prepare ye the Way for the Lord." The start of the opening verse is taken from Isaias 40:3-4: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low." The text was made by Frans Michael Franzén in 1812. The origin of the melody is unknown but is possibly from an old German folksong. The song has also suffered from censorship. The words which described the people of this world living in "sinful lust and passion" being in need of a Savior were removed. It originally had the seventh verse which said that "Jerusalem is desolate, its Temple fallen down, its priests are dead, and its scepter is no more," but that Christ's kingdom endures forever.
7. Elva nätter före jul
The words of this song were made in late 1920s in Sweden by Birgitta Ahlberg (1904-1984), who also wrote several novels. The title means "There's eleven nights until Christmas" and tells how Lucia goes around spreading the joyous message of Christmas. The melody is from an old Finnish folksong "Minä seison korkealla vuorella" (I stand on a High Mountain), which tune was also made to a patriotic Song of the Nation in Finland in the late 1800s.
8. Ljuset i advent
This is a modern Advent song, made by Gunnar Persson in 2005. It tells how the proceeding Advent brings more and more light in the dark nights, when we wait the birth of the Savior.
9. Låt mig få tända ett ljus
Börje Carlsson made his text ("Let me light a candle") into the melody of Mozart's lullaby, and it was first recorded in 1972.
10. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
This untimely classic Advent hymn is based on the "O antiphons" song in Vespers seven days before Christmas Eve. Since the 1800s it has become the most famous Advent song in the English-speaking world, and is often sung especially on the First Sunday of Advent.