I know, Advent has already started, but it runs four weeks and that means you still have plenty of time to appreciate this hymn, which fits 2020 as well as any Advent hymn ever. I invite you to pause, scroll down to the lyrics, and hit the “LISTEN“ link so you can hear Sara Kay give a hauntingly beautiful rendition. It’s the first track off my CD. (When you click the link, the audio clip will open in a new tab and you can simply click back over to this tab to follow the lyrics.)
The words affirm the very real anguish in our world and make clear that God enters our world, our church, our lives in the midst of ache and anguish. In a world so deeply twisted by suffering in multiple ways, it’s honest, authentic, prayerful to move through Advent with hunger for hope on our lips. This hymn invites that, without forgetting that Advent invites us toward Christmas. And, as I remind us in the final verse, the true expectation of Advent is not to commemorate a birth that happened some 2000 years ago; it is to anticipate the birth of Christ in our lives today.
Note: I give you my permission to reprint the words for use in worship. I also have a pdf of the hymn in Finale with the text and the melody line. The music, however, is not mine; it’s Marty Haugen’s and the copyright is held by GIA. I’m happy to share the pdf on email request–so long as you assure me that you will register your reprint of the music through OneLicense or another copyright service. In any case, if you use the hymn, I’d love to know that. Request the pdf or notify me of your plan to sing it at drw59mn(at)gmail(dot)com.
LISTEN (When you click the link, the audio clip will open in a new tab and you can simply click back over to this tab to follow the lyrics.)
The Place Where Advent Starts
As the darkness stretches over / all the daylight, all our lives
In the depths of expectation / where the heart sees, you reside.
Dare we beckon to the hunger / fill our frame and feed our soul
In this dim-lit struggling world / that our feasting be made full.
As we wait with restless longing / for your kin-dom fully come
Rise the cries of warring nations / beats the pulse of terror’s drum.
“Comfort now, my people, comfort,” / spoke the prophet long ago.
“Still my peace comes to this world / midst its bombs, its spears and bows.”
As the earth cries out in anguish / less for birth than bitter toil;
As the poor, their fortunes falter / as the ill, their spirits spoil.
Steel our vision, so that we see / full the depth of broken hearts;
For in this place—hungry, hopeless / yes, in this place, Advent starts.
Hasten now, come quickly to us / ’fore our spirits faint with fear.
Be the light in deepest darkness / be the hope that draws us near.
In your advent, may we waken / live the life you call us to:
Every deed a Christmas manger / ready now to welcome you.
Text: David R. Weiss, b. 1959 (text, © 2011 David R. Weiss)
Tune: Marty Haugen, b. 1950, JOYOUS LIGHT, (Joyous Light of Heavenly Glory – © GIA Publication)
Alternate Tune: BEACH SPRING (The Sacred Harp, Philadelphia, Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service, Lutheran Book of Worship 423 – public domain)
Permission is given to photocopy The Place Where Advent Starts for use in worship.
Author’s Note: This hymn text originally took shape in December 2010, during a 14-day hunger strike, as I moved deeply into my own hunger. Advent is surely the season in which we “deck the halls” and “trim the tree” as we get ready for Christmas. Our homes are filled with Christmas Carols (even if we’re supposed to be waiting until Christmas) and (hopefully) the scent of fresh cookies. And YET, for so much of the world Advent is not merely the four weeks prior to Christmas, it is the gut-deep hunger for justice and for wholeness that swallows entire lives. Unless Advent begins in that place, Christmas is not a cause for joy.