“My Heart Shall Sing” Preachers’ Notes and more

Advent Blog

Start reading here to learn about our series, “My Heart Shall Sing,” discover details about observing an extended Advent, read ideas about how to adapt your Advent wreath, and more.

Singing Black Spirituals in Mostly-White Congregations

We Barn Geese are so convinced of the value of Black spirituals that we believe they’re worth singing even in the complicated context of mostly-white congregations. Also, we are pretty dang white ourselves. So we recognize that this gets complicated.

Welcome to “My Heart Shall Sing”

What shall we do in this Advent season, as the texts draw us deeper into revelation, deeper into endings, deeper into the new beginnings ushered in by Christ’s Advent? We shall sing.

Extended Advent Orientation

This series encourages your community to observe Advent for up to seven weeks this year, though it can certainly be used for a four-week Advent too. Our materials are organized by date to make it easy for you do what works best for your context: whatever Sunday of Advent you’re on, and no matter how…

Hymn Commentary

This hymn commentary is written especially with musicians in mind. Organists may find it helpful as they prepare their materials for an upcoming Sunday. Choir directors might use it to prepare devotions for the choirs they direct. Preachers and liturgists may find it handy in preparing their Sunday offerings too.

At the end of each date’s entry, you’ll find an italicized portion of text that can be cut-and-paste into your congregation’s bulletins to provide context for the hymn tied to that Sunday. You might also find resources for further learning about each hymn.

Preachers’ Notes

“My Heart Shall Sing” Playlist

Not sure how a particular song is supposed to sound? Looking for some sermon-inspiration music? We’ve compiled solid versions of each song in this Advent series. Happy YouTubing!

Adapting the Advent Wreath

The most immediate challenge of an extended Advent is how to count the weeks. The average Advent wreath can accommodate four candles. Also, the average Advent wreath was donated in memory of someone, and switching to something completely different might be tricky. Here are a few Advent candle options, with or without the existing wreath.…

November 7: “Latin American Bread Prayer”

The revelatory apocalypse of Advent is happening all around us. Everywhere, worlds are ending in the quiet way the widow of Zarephath’s might have. The end is near — perpetually — for so many.

November 14: “My Lord, What a Morning/Mourning”

The double meaning we find here does more than simply demonstrate just some mild poetic confusion about a hymn (or elucidate the trickiness of deploying a homonym in the oral-aural atmosphere of the worship environment).  I believe it also elucidates a deeper tension at the heart of the Christian faith. 

November 21: “Come Now, O Prince of Peace”

What if peace–the process–isn’t very peaceful at all? What if peace leads us into recognizing the ways in which we are caught in systems that keep us trapped in feedback loops of violence, violence against bodies, minds, souls, nations, creation?

November 28: “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”

Planetary bodies, sunlight, nighttime, seasons: these are signs of time that God controls, not you. Signs that you cannot change, because God sets them. Signs that you must only watch for. “Be alert at all times,” Jesus instructs. God will use the signs to tell you, on God’s time, that … it’s time.

December 5: “Freedom is Coming”

The song “Freedom is Coming” triumphantly declares a transformation that is both happening and not yet fully realized. As a freedom-song of the South African anti-apartheid movement, and eventually a freedom-song sung throughout the world, “Freedom is Coming” is all about helping people to imagine something that can be but isn’t yet.

November 7: God Bless to Us Our Bread (Latin American Bread Prayer)

As [Jesus] taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They…

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