Annual Christmas on 5th Street event to feature second musical Advent service
By Grace Gaddy
For the second year in a row, Christmas on 5th Street will feature a rising new tradition, “New Anthems for an Old Story” — a musical Advent service to celebrate the season and the coming of a King.
The 40-minute service will start at 6 p.m. today in Armstrong Browning Library and will feature a harmonious blend of choral and instrumental music, prayers with local ministers, Scripture readings and times for reflection. B.A.S.I.C., an ecumenical chamber choir from Central United Methodist Church in Waco, will also contribute to the event, with both solo performances and selected songs and hymns for congregational participation.
Melodies that will fill the air were written and composed largely in part by two of Baylor’s own: university chaplain and dean of spiritual life, Dr. Burt Burleson, and his friend and colleague, Carlos Colón, artist-in-residence at Armstrong Browning Library and a resident fellow at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.
Burleson penned the lyrics for the new songs, and Colón composed the music — the fruit of a vision birthed the summer of 2009.
“We started working on it about two years ago,” Burleson said. “The idea was, OK, let’s get something ready for [the season of] Advent at Baylor. Let’s help Baylor begin to think about Advent as a community.”
He said the season of Advent marks a momentous time on the church’s calendar, but very little music exists to specifically highlight and reflect on that season. This is something Burleson and Colón seek to change, since the season of Advent — which underscores the hope, longing and anticipation for Christ’s coming — forms Christians’ understanding of Jesus, “and how his story becomes our story,” Burleson said.
“You need to know what it’s like to need Christ to come again in fresh ways into your life and into our world,” Burleson said — “to get in touch with what it was like for people to long for a Messiah.”
So the service will provide a time to do just that.
“We get in touch with that, we slow down, we remember our need for a Savior,” he said.
Because in the midst of the bustling holiday season, it is needful for Christians to slow down and reflect on that moment in history — and all that it meant — when a Savior was born into the world, Burleson said.
Trying to do that musically was a different story, however. Colón remembered sharing their idea over lunch, the one that struck a chord for them both.
“We started talking,” Colón said. “I’m a composer and Dr. Burleson is really good for words,” so accordingly, the two decided to put their passions to work.
“Our idea was, ‘Let’s create something that can be used by the church,’” Burleson said.
And Colón agreed to help, contributing his gift in music.
Burleson explored the Scripture, pulling text from such passages as Psalms 80 and Psalms 25, which speak of themes in accordance with the Advent season, like longing and hope for restoration.
“Carlos and I feel like these kinds of themes these scriptures, these moods and these meanings are going to take us where we need to go as a community of faith,” Burleson said. “And we need to let the wisdom of the church take us deep into the story, deeper and deeper. So that’s part of my hope.”