Editor’s note: The Vinyl Preacher is a weekly podcast in which co-hosts—and ELCA campus pastors—Matt Keadle and Zach Parris discuss Sunday’s lectionary texts and create playlists of pop songs to listen to on the way to or from worship. It is supported by the Lutheran Campus Ministry Network and the ELCA. Here they present a song-per-week playlist for Advent, Year A.

Advent, week 1:

“Redbone” by Childish Gambino

“Keep awake!” Jesus urges us in Matthew 24:42. “Stay woke!” rapper-singer Childish Gambino cries here. Layers of history and meaning lie beneath that sentiment, and the sense of foreboding is palpable. Now is the time to keep our eyes open for danger; now is the time to stay ready for the route
to redemption.

Depending on your cultural location, the message may be played out. Advent again? Another season of being woke, acting woke, performing wokeness? Maybe the challenge this season is to shake off our groggy cynicism. The clarion call rings out, like the title of this Childish Gambino album: Awaken, My Love! (Matt Keadle)

Advent, week 2:

“We Were Wild” by Esmé Patterson

In the second week of Advent, we are driven out into the wilderness, beyond the walls of safety and the known world. Only when we are sufficiently lost do we find our true bearings, pointed in the right direction by one clothed in camel’s hair and eating locusts and honey. The good news is found in the wild.

Folk singer-songwriter Esmé Patterson is best known for her twisty takes on classics like “Jolene” and “Eleanor Rigby.” The title track of her album We Were Wild soundtracks our journey into the wilderness. She sends us on this apocalyptic path with joy, playfulness and the affirmation that “we were wild and we were meant to be.” (Zach Parris)

Advent, week 3:

“Waiting for Tonight” by Jennifer Lopez

In Matthew 11, John the Baptist is locked up in Herod’s prison, but word of another in the wilderness has reached him. He sends a messenger: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3).

Lopez has a response to John’s question. “Waiting for Tonight” was released in late 1999, accompanied by a music video counting down to Y2K. Like Patterson, Lopez invites us to dance amid the fear at the edge of the unknown and the magnificent future God is bringing. We are waiting for tonight. (ZP)

Advent, week 4:

“I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash

Lyrically, Cash’s classic is a pledge of faithfulness and devotion. But the palpitating rhythm and his tremulous voice sound like he’s barely hanging on, walking that line with a cold sweat.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent belongs to Jesus’ parents. This child is already turning their lives—and their relationship—upside down. But in Matthew 1, God’s messenger speaks to Joseph in the fitful sleep of a new parent, saying: hold on. 

“I keep my eyes wide open all the time,” Cash sings at the opening and closing of the song. Joseph’s story, too, ends with an awakening: God is with us. Keep awake. (MK)

Matt Keadle
Matt Keadle is pastor of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Los Angeles and Lutheran campus pastor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
Zach Parris
Zach Parris is pastor of Lutheran Campus Ministry at the University of Colorado Boulder.

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