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In October this year, the DJ on my local classical radio station shamelessly played the suite from The Polar Express, and I almost got a tear in my eye. The shared feeling between broadcaster and listener seemed to be: Christmas, could you possibly come sooner?!

I couldn’t possibly have greater anticipation for Christmas this year, at the same time as, more than ever, I want it to last.

My favorite carol for this time of year, in the weeks before Christmas is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The words are simple and seared in my memory, and the tune is haunting in its insistence that we must wait. The holiday celebration hasn’t arrived yet, but oh, how we long for it to come.

Whatever one’s faith tradition, the words of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” are ones of a human longing for respite from suffering and captivity—sad constants in the human experience. The singer begs Emmanuel (which translates to “God with us”) to come and “ransom captive Israel / who mourns in lowly exile.” In many ways it feels like a very 2020 carol, as we long for the festivities of the end of the year (and for it just to be over already)!

Despite the melancholic minor key, the song ends on a positive note. “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.”

I love how even-keeled the song is; how stable and meditative, the melody; how easy it is for me to call it to mind, and how within-singable-range the notes are.

In the following playlist, I chose The Piano Guys’ instrumental version of the song, along with other meditative tunes for the season, that just may equip us to tap into that feeling of longing, even if just for a beat, before the revelry comes.