I’m very sorry if mentioning Christmas when it is still November is a big no no! But if you are involved with your church’s music, I’ve no doubt Christmas has begun to be prepared for, particularly if you have choirs and whatnot! We are putting our tree up this week, and I’ve pretty much all my shopping done. (not meaning to brag of course… )
But one thing I know we as church musos can struggle with on the run up to Christmas, is feeling anything beyond busyness and tiredness and boredom with the same old carols, particularly if you have multiple services and extra things to organise. And then maybe we make it to Christmas day, and we crash physically, and also realise we haven’t spent much time actually thinking of the wonder of Jesus birth at all.
I hope this playlist might help. Sometimes for me, listening to christian music is a real discipline- I almost have to force myself to do it so my head and heart are being reminded of truth, because I’d rather listen to other more interesting secular music most of the time! So maybe use this playlist for yourself, as you drive or as you cook or run, to love Jesus more because of what he did – becoming the inconceivable wonder of the fullness of God in a helpless baby. Seriously blows my mind, even more so when I look at my own kids and their utter dependance.
Usually with these seasonal playlists, we divide things into ones that would be good for your church, and ones for you personally. With the first category however, it is a little harder to define around Christmas time. Often Christmas draws our non-christian friends and family to church in search of that tingle of carols and candles, and it is perhaps a bit inappropriate to throw in a new, modern Christmas song that will confuse them or make them feel uncomfortable. This is totally your call of course, all churches are different and maybe in your area you don’t get many more than your regular church family so you can teach a new one with no problem. Or teach one through advent to your regulars before carol services kick in, or use one as a solo. Whatever the case may be, the below breakdown has been split into 4 blocks for just this once, and hopefully it is still helpful!
Potentially new ones for church – the first block of the playlist
Come and Stand Amazed – Citizens . This is a rework of an old Dutch carol (translated by Klaas Hart), but not one that’s commonly sung in it’s traditional form, so it would feel brand new. The production of this track might kid you into thinking it’s too complicated, but strip it back and it’s so simple, and the words are awesome. Citizens have added a little final 2 line refrain to finish it off too which i think works well. Definitely an easy teach.
Rejoice -Aaron Shust. This uses the verses of ‘good Christian men rejoice‘ with a syncopated rhythm, and a new, fairly easy chorus. It is a good one for choir with solo, (there are choir parts available at a price online, might be one you’d like to do yourself) or you can try and teach it to your congregation if you are game for a little challenge! Regardless, it does make you want to rejoice, so have fun in your car singing it!
Prepare Him room- Sovereign Grace . Again this is a few years old and you probably know it well, but is another great one for choir and solo verses, or you could teach the whole thing to your congregation with some time.
Sing we the song of Emmanuel – Matt Boswell and Matt Papa . This is the best christmas song of this year for me probably. It has an easy, getty-ish feel that our congregations always seem to pick up easily, and GREAT words. Definitely one to check out.
Who would have dreamed – Sovereign Grace . I think this one definitely lends itself to solo/choir more than congregation. I did it with a youth group a few years back too and they loved it, it has that slight cheesy pop balled feel that they can handle! It’s also pretty easy to teach, as it’s basically 3 lines of music repeated.
Come thou long expected Jesus – King’s Kaleidoscope . This is another old hymn but with a different tune. I’ve never tried this in church, so I’m not sure how it would go, but the words are epic and the tune is simple enough, and with a strong band, perhaps you could give it a go! And if not, please take some time with it yourself. I can’t listen to the last verse without almost crying.
Saviour in a Manger – Emu. This is brand new a few days ago, and is a really sweet wee Christmas song with great words, especially verse 3. ‘ A treasure for the longing soul, his peace within our hearts. We sing the glory of the Son, our Saviour in the the manger.’ It would work well as a solo.
Reworking trad. carols – second block
The next section has a few Carols reworked in some way, but with trad. tunes still. They may or may not be transferable to your context, but could at least give some inspiration as to how to spice up an old carol a little. This might be worth doing to maybe one carol in a traditional carol service, particularly if you have a young congregation.
Just for you – third block
A few of the ones in there that stand out:
Baby Boy- King and Country . I really like this track. It talks of the incongruous reality of our hope and joy, and rescue from despair coming in the form of a seemingly little helpless boy.
I heard the bells – Casting Crowns OR the Brilliance . There are two settings of this old poem in here, both very different, so you can pick which you prefer! It’s a poem i love, written by a man who was going through incredible loss and despair, and who at first feels like the bells at Christmas were mocking his pain. But after a while he is able to remember that actually they herald the only hope he could have- the fact that ‘God is not dead nor does he sleep‘, and has promised peace and rescue. Amazing stuff, especially if Christmas is a hard time for you too.
Arrival – Hillsong Worship. This is a good track. It is a little overly wordy, but basically is trying to capture the magnitude of God in a tiny baby, with all the humility and wonder involved in that. The last line of the chorus always sticks with me ‘all hail the infinite infant God.’ So much in there. And it has an epic bridge section that will make you go wow.
Trad. and medley – final block
It’s not a Christmas playlist with some more old school carol settings, so the last section has a few awesome medleys (the ‘Oh Hello’s’ ones are awesome), and of course, some Rutter. Is it even Christmas without some Rutter?! You can decide! And finally the Point of Grace “carol of the bells/what child is this‘ is incredible for that tingle.
Enjoy, and I hope this season is a hopeful, heart-joy-filled one for you and yours.