Last night’s concert went well. We sold out and turned people away at the door, which is a testament to the way that our community supports the arts.

Today’s song is “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” an advent hymn which I will be singing in a trio at 8:30 this morning. Click the link for sheet music and midi. Charles Wesley wrote the words, and this tune is by Rowland Prichard. It is sometimes sung to other tunes, but this one is elegant and pretty, and the alto line has a couple of dramatic moments. The tune rejoices in the name “Hyfrydol,” so it won’t surprise you to hear that Prichard was Welsh. He was a loom tender’s assistant, making flannel in Wales. I don’t know whether he ever suspected how much pleasure his work — the music, that is, though I suppose the flannel was nice, too — would provide to people through the centuries. If not, then that is probably a reminder to us all that we never know what effects we have in 11 the world.

The other thing I’m singing this morning is William Rowan’s “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” I am singing tenor on this, but I do not know the tenor part. I hope that I will be able to get some idea of it before I begin singing it in church today.

And this afternoon there is another performance of Messiah.

It is the first Sunday in Advent today.

In general, I like to have Christmas preparations done before Advent, so yesterday we finished up what we could. #2 son and I went to this house, which is the place to order your Buche de Noel and buy some fine cheeses for Christmas Eve, and we went to the meat market to order our tray. The kids can pick these things up on the morning of the 24th. I don’t cook for the 24th — a good thing, since we never know what musical commitment Christmas Eve will involve until practically the last minute — but I do intend to bake, and to buy fruits and vegetables.

Mt. Sequoyah We also went up to the this place, where we had heard there was some sort of event taking place. It turned out not to be true. We went through the 1000 Villages shop looking for stocking stuffers anyway, but came away empty handed.

We enjoyed shuffling through the leaves and being whipped around by the wind anyway.

And we went to buy Christmas tree accoutrements. Our stand kept letting us down, and the lights had burnt out last year, and we needed candy canes and Advent candles.

The girl who checked us out was also singing in Messiah, which shows what a small town we live in.

So we have the Advent wreath ready, but it is sitting in a welter of knitting and papers and a pumpkin rather than actually being ready.

And the tree is up and mostly decorated, but not entirely. And the stockings are hung but the mantelpiece is not otherwise decorated. Fayetteville, AR

I have no rehearsal either tonight or tomorrow night, so I will be able to finish those things up.

The point of Advent is to prepare for Christmas spiritually. The point of Christmas, if you are a Christian, is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This doesn’t mean that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday. The historical person, Jesus, was almost certainly not born in the winter. We’re not celebrating His birthday, though, but his birth. His existence. His choice to become one of us.

So when you use Advent to prepare for Christmas, you are preparing yourself spiritually for this celebration. It is a time of contemplation, a time to set aside things that might hinder your celebration, like bitterness or materialism or selfishness. It is a time to mend relationships and to think more about others than about ourselves.

You might have noticed that many people make this time of year a celebration of bitterness, materialism, and selfishness. If you are not a Christian, you might still like to consider observing Advent this year, just as you might choose to observe Christmas. If so, you will want to live a little more simply, choosing simpler foods and spending less on yourself than you normally would. You might choose to give more to others, to spend more time than usual in quiet contemplation, to choose to let go of old hurts that keep you from celebrating fully with your family, to give up ideas about how the holiday should be that make you disappointed with how it is.

Just a thought.