Organ pipes in the Sanctuary of First Church in Cambridge. A wrought iron chandelier hangs in the foreground.

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Advent wreath with two candles lit

Birds at the Dawning: Our Advent Song

December 10, 2020

Give me light in the darkness, light in the darkness,
light in the darkness to sing my soul awake.

Over the past few Advent seasons, we have sung these words as part of our Advent liturgy. They are set to a beautifully simple tune that, upon hearing, feels instantly recognizable and comfortable. It’s the kind of tune that stays with you, bubbling up at different moments of the day — a pleasant earworm.

Songwriter Betsy Binstock wrote the tune with beautiful words celebrating moments in the day. Peter and Mary Alice Amidon arranged the song with three-part harmony that adds depth and warmth to the already lovely tune. I first learned the song from the Amidons at a family music & dance camp. I promptly bought up all their books of choral arrangements to bring back to First Church.

When we were putting together a short liturgy for Advent candle-lighting a few years ago, I remembered the song and tried out some Advent-themed words. I taught the congregation the tune, and the choir provided the harmony. It has become a beloved part of our Advent tradition.

I am so grateful to Betsy and Peter and Mary Alice for the gift of this song.

Here is a video of “Give Me Birds at the Dawning,” performed by the Guilford (VT) Community Church UCC Choir, directed by Peter Amidon.

Advent blessings,

“Give Me Birds at the Dawning,” written by Betsy Binstock and arranged by Peter & Mary Alice Amidon, is found in “Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith and Community Choirs,” © 2016, Amidon Music Publishing. The words have been adapted at First Church in Cambridge to fit the Advent season.