Advent Week 1: Carol of the Bells

Since I’m absolutely a music geek and since Christmas is my favorite holiday, I think it’s time to celebrate the music of the Christmas season.  I fall into the category of stuffies that abhors playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving (unless it’s that one tide-over moment in July when you just can’t take it anymore), so it’s music I don’t get to hear that often.  I could go into all the implications this has on the fact that Advent itself is a Latin word and the season is about waiting, but I won’t.  Maybe.

So these four weeks get to be an exploration of four of my favorite Christmas-season songs, and we’ll see what God wants to do with that.  I imagine it will work out somehow.  First up we have my absolute favorite, Carol of the Bells.  There are about eight million different versions of this, from the jazzy electronic ones to the incredible productions of walls of sound that just sweep you up in the onslaught of bell wonderfulness.

But one of the reasons that I like this song so much (besides the fact that we sang it every year for our Christmas concert in college) is its simplicity.  Simplicity doesn’t mean this is easy; this is a song best done at breakneck speed with the sopranos screeching their heads off and the basses grumbling down below while the tenors and altos get surprised by the moment they have to sing something other than “Ding, Dong”.  But it’s also best done with just voices, with just the headlong rush into a song that EVERYONE AND HER MOTHER will know if you screw up.

I suppose it would be too easy to have a “this is like life” or “this is a spiritual correlation” moment, so I’ll refrain from that, too.  But I will say that, at the beginning of a season of waiting, it’s wonderful to have songs like this that are just sprints to something that both asks you to “throw cares away” and tries to convince you that this “joyful tone” is going to every home.  It’s not. Not everyone has a happy Christmas–but everyone has the hope for a happy Christmas, the belief that this year, this month, this day will be better, brighter, filled with bells of silver that ring in the purest tones.

My first week of Advent was pretty awesome, actually; I finished a paper that I’d been having serious trouble with, I achieved the National Novel Writing challenge for the first time, I survived the family rituals of Thanksgiving, I had an incredible conversation with Interpreter about things I would never have brought up with any other friend, save perhaps my cousin Hopeful.  It was a pretty stellar week—but not for all.  A friend of mine lost his mom, another friend lost her dad; a woman I worked with for a while died, as did several other friends of friends whom I don’t know, but whose absence is felt even in my life through the sadness of those who did.

And in the good week, I remember all of the other weeks that I have railed against the life I’m living and the things being asked of me, and I hold this carol close and get lost in the promise of it, simple as the first lit candle in the darkening year that begins again, and again, and again.

What are your favorite carols?  I’d love to hear, and I hope you’ll stick with me for my other three suggestions.


Make pomegranates out of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, and attach them to the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them.  The gold bells and pomegranates are to alternate all the way around the hem. Aaron will wear this robe whenever he enters the Holy Place to minister to the LORD, and the bells will tinkle as he goes in and out of the LORD’s presence.  (Exodus 28:33–35, NLT)

3 thoughts on “Advent Week 1: Carol of the Bells

  1. […] I liked the doors that opened when I did the the series of four Christmas songs for Advent last year, so I’m bringing the idea […]


  2. Haha, I’d love it if it were so! I imagine he was quite a dancer in his day, and it’s definitely a song to move to.


  3. Ron Johnson says:

    I like your choice of scripture text! Maybe “Carol of the Bells” was Aaron’s theme song.


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