Music of Advent: Jonathan Butler

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Friday, December 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Before we come to the end of our program today, I want to let you know we’re kicking off our December Giving Drive next Monday. Our theme, this year, is “team,” and starting Monday, you’ll hear more about that. 

Various ones of us will be talking about the importance of the team that stands behind us. 

It’s not one bylined writer or one voice—but a talented team of journalistic professionals that makes possible WORLD Magazine, WORLD Digital, WORLD Radio, WORLD Kids, and WORLD Journalism Institute. 

And behind the team is an army of support, people like you. If you gave last time, we’re going to ask that you renew your giving this time. And if you’ve never given before, we’re going to ask that this is the year you start something new. Biblical journalism, grounded in God’s word, is a labor-intensive endeavor, and we do it every day, and we count on you to come alongside us. 

No need to wait til Monday, or the end of the month, if you’re persuaded, why not give your gift today at Safe, secure, online giving at

Thanks for considering it.

Well, coming next, the music of Advent.

From now until Christmas, we’re ending each week with a musical selection.

Today, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and guitarist. He tells World Radio’s Myrna Brown about his rendition of one of the most well-loved Advent hymns of all time.

SONG: O Come, O Come Emmnauel and ransom captive Israel. 

JONATHAN BUTLER: When I sang that song, I literally was thinking only about how powerful the words were and the message of Christ. 

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: In Apartheid-era South Africa, Jonathan Butler didn’t grow up singing the 8th century Latin poem, turned song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. He was introduced to the Advent hymn as an adult. The youngest of 13 children, Butler’s family lived impoverished.

BUTLER: We didn’t have electricity or water. We had an outside stove that was wooden. 

Butler, the first black artist who broke barriers on White South African radio, says despite their lack of material things, his parents and siblings treasured time around the warm fire, celebrating the birth of Christ.

BUTLER: Christmas was colorful. Capetown was a vibrant city. And even where there’s great poverty, greater is the spirit. So, I really carry that and I wanted to carry that into this album.

And I was trying to just really deconstruct the song so you would hear the powerful words and the powerful, haunting melody that the song has. It just stands alone. I wasn’t thinking about anything. How can you with a song like that? You really have to be introspective and sing it from a pure place, you know?

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown.

(Photo/Jonathan Butler)

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.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.