This is part 2 in a series I’m writing this Christmas, exploring the lyrics and melodies behind some of my very favorite holiday songs. Read part 1 here: “We’ll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet.”

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Happy Sunday, all.

This year, my pastor asked me to write and read a poem for our church’s annual tree lighting event. Not being particularly in love with the sound of my own voice, I found a way around it by deciding to compose a little piano background piece to accompany someone else reading it. That said, I’m not really a prolific songwriter, so in the end I stole a piano ditty that appeared on JJ Heller’s delightful Christmas album, “Unto Us,” and made it my own. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing — pairing words with music. The whole thing worked out almost exactly as I imagined.

I’ve received some lovely feedback about this piece of poetry, so I wanted to share it here with you. For an optimal reading experience, I highly encourage you to hit play on the song track below: “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It’s a haunting, tender piano interlude… which is, of course, my favorite type of Christmas song.

Thanks in advance for reading, and have a beautiful week, my friends!

A Liturgy for Advent

Tonight, we stand at the threshold
of advent—
a time to retell ourselves a familiar story;
a story of mystery,
divinity turned infant,
God with us,
the prologue to our redemption.

On one of the bleakest and most beautiful nights
light pierced the darkness,
and a world that was asleep and soaked in sin
slowly awoke
with the sound of a baby’s cry.
It happened in secret,
as many of the best things do,
under the cover of the night sky.
Perfection himself, cuddled and quieted,
began his life as one of us.

Tonight, we stand in awe
of this baby and this story that keeps on retelling itself,
we, who have heard the bells on Christmas Day
and are here to tell about it.
Without him, our lives are hollow,
bare and asleep, like winter
With him, our lives ignite
as we step out of the shadows and into royalty.

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring
What a miracle to be here right now
in this time and place,
raising our voices together
to remember you.

Rejoice!
Take peace!
Celebrate the coming of the Christ-child,
our deliverer,
whose great act of love marks the advent of our Christmas.

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Post-tree-lighting carols outside my church — aka a Hallmark Christmas movie. Photo credit: Natalie Pagel.

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Bailey-12  Bailey Gillespie works as adjunct faculty and Director of Academic Engagement at William Jessup University. She lives near Sacramento, California and loves connecting with people over health, creativity, and faith. Recently, her writing has appeared on Real Hope RisingVoice of Courage, and The Rabbit Room. Read more at baileygillespie.com or follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.