Sunday, November 30, 2008

Prepare the Way

Happy First Sunday in Advent! Today begins the waiting... The waiting for the birth of one special child. All around the world, people are lighting the first candle and singning song about longing and waiting.

I fondly remember my first advent in small town Sweden. I went to second grade in a red painted school house with white trim. Our elderly teacher had us all bring candles to school, which we lit while we sang hymns and she read selections of the Christmas story. I'm pretty sure we ate clementines and gingerbread cookies, as we listened in awe.

Another favorite childhood advent memory is the concept of the advent calendar. The advent calendar is a pretty significant fundraising item in Sweden. Organizations from the soccer team to the local church sells them to raise money for one cause or the other. Some have chocolate, others contain winning lottery numbers, while yet others simply delight with pretty pictures. Sweden also has a special TV series for kids each year called "Julkalendern" (The Christmas Calendar). It lasts for 24 days, counting down the days until Christmas. This year, it is called "Skägget i brevlådan" or "The beard in the mailbox." Interesting...

I celebrated this day by singing my favorite advent hymn, "Bereden Väg För Herran" or "Prepare the Way," at Brookfield Presbyterian Church. I sang the first verse in Swedish (much to the delight of the descendants of Swedish immigrants in attendance) and finished up in English. I sang a non-traditional version with a folktune from northern Sweden. For this version of the song, do take a listen on YouTube. The congregation was so appreciative and made me promise to come back. The response made it so worth it.

I'm planning to include this song along with a series of my favorite Swedish hymns on a recording next year. I'm recording a few of the songs while in Sweden this Christmas and the rest in Nashville in January. It's going to be my birthday present to myself. More to come...

Sing for Joy!

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