We couldn’t think of a better artist to talk to with regards to the season of Advent, than our friend, singer-songwriter Rick Lee James. With his early 2016 reelase, Hymns, Prayers and Invitations (buy), and the single “Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting, Longing),” what a great foundation and example for this timely topic. Read how the season of Advent has come alive for James, and a little more back story about his current single.
CCM Magazine: When did the Advent season come alive for you?
Rick Lee James: I’ve loved Christmas for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think I even realized Advent was its own season until I was an adult. I guess I always assumed that Advent was just an ancient way of talking about Christmas, but it really is so much more than that. Over the last 10 years Advent has changed not only how I see Christmas but much of my theology. The season itself really came alive for me when I realized that it is a foreshadowing of the second coming of Christ. We wait during the season of Advent for the Savior to be born in a stable, but that waiting only makes sense in the light of Jesus’ return. For me, Advent is no longer about waiting for Christmas, it is about waiting for the coming Christ who will return and make all things new.
CCM: What inspired you to write “Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting, Longing)?”
RLJ: I was wanted to co-write a song with a friend of mine, Ted Rastatter, and it seemed like the only time we had available was during Advent. I don’t think we intentionally started out to write an Advent song, we just wanted to try and find a way to tell the story of Jesus life. We met in an empty side room at the Un Mundo Café in Springfield, Ohio with guitars in hand and just started writing and sharing ideas. I remember thinking the song was taking on a very hymn-like feel and after a couple of hours working on it together we both took our versions home and polished them a bit. I think his version had a more piano driven feel of a ballad, and mine had more of a rootsy feel, but it worked either way. When we both felt like it was complete we each shared it in our local congregations. It just seemed to resonate with our people and because of the emphasis on the birth, life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus, it works as well at Easter as it does during Advent.
CCM: How do you see this song impacting the listener?
RLJ: People have told me that lyrics have given them hope in times of waiting. As believers we live in the already and the not yet of the Kingdom of God and I feel like ‘Advent Hymn’ really emphasizes that. The song has taken on new meaning for my wife and I this year because on the week that the music video was released, my wife suffered a miscarriage for the second time. If there has ever been a year that we have longed, waited, watched and hoped for Jesus presence in our circumstances, it is this year. We have several people in my local congregation who are also currently experiencing great. It’s amazing to see them singing the words of this song with their hands lifted in the air, eyes full of tears, proclaiming the hope they have in Jesus, even while they are walking through the darkness. I hope this song is helping people to stare down the darkness and say, you are not Lord, and you will not win. The light of the world is Jesus and He is Lord!
CCM: What are your hopes for this Advent Season?
RLJ: I hope that we can find a way to be united as the body of Christ. Our hope is that one day all the nations of the world will be united under one head, who is Jesus. I’m hoping that during Advent, those of us who are artists and ministers, can fund the imaginations of people with images of the new world that Jesus is bringing about. Our task as artists is to be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths for Him.” So I guess my hope is that the church will really live out the Kingdom in the here and now, on earth as it is in heaven. Advent is a great place to start all over again and be renewed in that vision.
WATCH: Rick Lee James – ‘Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting, Longing)’
READ: Q&A with Rick Lee James
READ: Rick Lee James – ‘Hymns, Prayers & Invitations’ album review
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