Music of Advent: Josh Bales

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Friday, November 29th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. This weekend marks the beginning of the season of Advent: The four weeks before Christmas set aside for faithful reflection and preparation.

Last year, we ended each of our Friday programs with an Advent music recording from college choirs and choral groups around the country.

BASHAM: This year, the tradition continues, but with a slight twist. Here’s World Radio’s Myrna Brown.

BALES: Father in heaven, thank you for this day. Thank you for what it means that we get to be together, to be with you. 

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: Josh Bales is a 38-year-old Anglican priest, who grew up Southern Baptist.

BALES: I was kind of brought up to think of the word “ritual” as a negative thing. I never heard the word “advent.” I never knew what liturgical seasons meant. That’s probably one of the reasons why the seasons of the church year, like Advent or Lent, why they mean so much to me. I’m coming at it from a fresh place, I think.

SONG: Lift up your heads, lift up your heads, lift up your heads

In 2018, Bales recorded his rendition of the German Advent hymn, “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye mighty Gates.” The hymn was written by Georg Weissel and first appeared in the 17th century. In 1855 Catherine Winkworth translated it into English. 

It’s a reflection of Psalm 24:7. Bales says while the hymn personifies Israel’s anticipation of the Messiah, there’s also a 21st century application.

BALES: But we’re also preparing ourselves for an event that has yet to take place, the second coming of Jesus. And all of that gets wrapped up in Advent.  So isn’t it crazy to sing with Israel from a Psalm, ‘Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates’ but now it has an utterly new layer of meaning on top of it.

Surrounded by Gothic-Revival architecture, Bales recorded himself at his church, the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando, Florida. On this project, Bales sings and plays piano, guitar, and banjo.

BALES: I basically keep up a root bass note, kind of the same all the way through the song. And it gives it a sense of tension and waiting and hoping. I think that speaks to me of the meaning of the song, too. 


BALES: Advent prepares us for Christmas the way Lent prepares us for Easter. And I find that if you don’t have that season of preparation, pausing and the waiting and hoping, then when Christmas day finally gets here, it’s simply not as special.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown.

(Photo/Josh Bales, Twitter)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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2 comments on Music of Advent: Josh Bales

  1. Dan Beaty says:

    Way to go Myrna Brown and The Work and Everything In It team!! Friday’s piece featuring Josh Bales and his rendition of ‘List Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates’ was absolutely perfect. I enjoyed last year’s similar focus, but hearing more of the story behind a hymn always interests me and, to be honest, I can understand the lyrics of a song SO much better when it’s performed by a single vocalist rather than a choir. I’d meet heard this song before, but Josh’s rendition of it just really captured me and I listened to him sing it several times. The message of this hymn spoke to me so vividly that I searched out the music (chords) for it so that I could share it with our small group of believers who meet Sunday mornings at the Limestone Country Flea Market before the work day begins there. Like Josh, I grew up sometimes going to a Southern Baptist Church also, and what he said about the season of Advent being a time of preparation like Lent is for Resurrection Day really resonated with me and I shared this and the story of the hymn with my Brothers and Sisters this morning. I’m really looking forward to this Friday’s feature now…I may well be learning a new song to share the next three Sunday mornings as well !!

    What a GREAT idea Myrna & may the Lord continue to bless you mighty as you His good work – thank you!!

    1. Myrna Brown says:

      Hello Dan!
      Thank you for your kind words of encouragement! I absolutely love how you started your note because we are a team and it takes a team to tell these stories. I’m so glad you have been enjoyng our series on the Music of Advent. Thank you for sharing how the segment has made an impact in your life. Grateful you’re sharing WORLD and that hymn with your family and friends. Hope you get to listen to the rest of the stories in the Music of Advent series and thank you for being a WORLD listener!
      Have a Merry Christmas,
      Myrna Brown

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