A Few Christmas Songs Worth Checking Out

I know it’s late in the season, but I wanted to post some of the more solid Christmas songs, mostly for congregational worship, that I’ve come across this year. From my experience, Christmas carols are a mixed bag. Some beat around the “gospel bush” and hint at a universal brotherhood, while others clearly proclaim the good news that a Savior has been born to rescue rebellious sinners. I lean towards the second.

Every year I’m on the lookout for new songs that express the wonder of the Incarnation in a fresh way. Here are a few that I’ve found this year.

On Christmas Day – A song by Matt Osgood from www.RESOUNDworship.org that contains finely crafted theology in a 12/8 feel with an anthemic chorus.

This is our God, seen by our eyes
The love of the Father made known in Jesus Christ.

The lyrics highlight the seeming paradoxes of the Incarnation. Vs. 2 is one example:

The hands that once split night from day
Now feebly clutch a blade of hay,
This is Immanuel.
Majestic king, now small and weak,
The Word of God must learn to speak,
This is Immanuel.

CD: Glory in the Highest – Chris Tomlin
Chris has the uncanny ability gift of recording albums that make you want to sing. It could be the live congregation that provides clapping and moments of a cappella singing. It could be the contagiously singable melodies. Whatever it is, I found this to be one of the Christmas albums that stirs my heart to worship the incarnate Son of God. My suggestions for the congregation:

My Soul Magnifies the Lord – An uptempo song drawn from the Magnificat (Lk. 1:46-55), Lk. 2:11-14, and Is. 9:6. Filled with biblical imagery, the chorus explodes into an expression of gratefulness to the God who has done great things.

Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy) – As you might have guessed, this is the standard Christmas carol with a new chorus, drawn from 1 Pet. 1:8. While you might wonder if Joy to the World needed a chorus, this one provides an opportunity to sing of the unspeakable joy that rises in my soul and never lets me go. Like many Tomlin songs, it will have to be lowered if you expect your church to sing it without passing out.

Light of the World – A Matt Redman song filled with Scriptural references including 1 Pet. 1:12, Is. 53, Eph. 2:14-16, Jn. 1:3, and Jn. 8:12. Reminds us of the prophecies that preceded Christ’s birth and the cross that followed it.

CD: On the Incarnation – Daniel Renstrom
Eight songs, half of them original, performed and written in a creative, theologically aware manner. Great for listening, arrangement ideas for familiar carols, or special music. A Christmas CD that can be played all year round. “Comfort Ye” is a beautiful ballad that contains these lyrics:

In Christ we know hope for the hurting
In Christ we know love for the lost
In Christ we know no other one can save

I know there’s plenty I just haven’t had time to listen to, so please add your thoughts on what songs, old or new, you’ve come across that effectively communicate the miracle and meaning of the Word become flesh to redeem us from our sins.

15 Responses to A Few Christmas Songs Worth Checking Out

  1. YellerDaisies December 9, 2009 at 12:42 PM #

    Behold The Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson

    It starts with Moses and the Israelites need for a Savior and goes through into the gospels (including the Begats). VERY, VERY good Christmas cd. One of my favorites.

  2. Trish Greene December 9, 2009 at 12:52 PM #

    Hi Bob!

    I love the song “Joy to the World” and was looking forward to singing it this season. However the elder in charge of the worship ministry had some concerns about the lyrics, particularly the second verse with the phrase “Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!”. His thoughts are that the Savior is not reigning the world currently but is going to reign, as when He comes back to collect His congregation during the end times. He is concerned that we would be misleading the congregation. I have never heard of any kind of opposition to singing this song before, so this kind of threw me for a loop.

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this, if we are just reading too much into the lyrics or if this is a valid reason not to sing “Joy to the World”.

    Thank you for your input and your help!

    • Bob Kauflin December 9, 2009 at 1:51 PM #

      Trish,

      Thanks for commenting. A few thoughts on singing “the Savior reigns.”

      1. Heb. 2:8 says “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” That sounds like Jesus doesn’t “reign” yet.
      2. Eph. 1:20-22 says, “he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” That makes it clear that Jesus “does” reign.
      3. Joy to the World has been sung for decades without anyone being confused about the meaning. In one sense, jesus reigns over creation right now, but he is still allowing demonic activity on the earth. When the end comes, all opposition will cease and he will reign forever.

      One reason for the confusion is that Watts wrote the hymn based on Ps. 98 which is more about the end of all things than Jesus becoming a baby. If there’s any doubt, someone can always introduce the song and make it clear what’s meant by “the Savior reigns.”

      Is that helpful?

  3. Zach Nielsen (Vitamin Z) December 9, 2009 at 1:02 PM #

    We are doing Glory Be, by Sojourn and Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) by Chris Tomlin for our Christmas Eve services. I think they are both great songs.

    Trish,

    Do you go to a church that has a Dispensational understanding of eschatology? If so, that might have something to do with it. Bob probably has some insight here.

    z

  4. Trish Greene December 9, 2009 at 2:15 PM #

    Thank you Bob!

    That is very helpful! Hopefully my elder and I can re-discuss this song again, taking into consideration the points that you have brought up.

  5. bondChristian December 9, 2009 at 5:40 PM #

    I’d never ever considered that in “Joy to the World.” As explained, I don’t necessarily think it’s a valid reason to not sing it at all, but perhaps that’s more a personal decision. Thank you, Trish, for bringing it up.

    I know I’m constantly guilty of singing songs without fully taking into account the meaning of the lyrics. This is a good reminder to stay sharp, particularly around this Christmas season where we might be using songs we don’t usually use.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  6. bondChristian December 9, 2009 at 5:50 PM #

    Oh, I got caught up in the conversation and forgot the answer the question. Since last Christmas, I’ve been into “How Many Kings?” by Downhere.

  7. Drew Scott December 9, 2009 at 9:31 PM #

    Hey Bob! Great topic – I’ll be watching for the good stuff to come out. I have this same treasure hunt for new congregational Christmas songs every year. I’m actually not doing any new songs this season because our choir’s Christmas music is SOOOO different. While I’m shaking their tree, I need to make sure their stockings are still hanging on the chimney with care.

    You ought to mention SovGrace’s Savior CD. Christ the Lord is Born Today has been well received here as a full congregation song.

    Aaron Shust quietly released a Christmas EP with a promising song called <God Has Come to Earth.

    I’m hanging on to Stuart Townend’s When Love Came Down and the Getty’s Jesus, Your Name from their Incarnation project for future Christmases.

    Finally, Travis Cottrell’s Jesus Saves would be a great Christmas song, even though it isn’t limited to Advent.

    Love you, man. See you at t4g.

  8. Lisa Shoemaker December 9, 2009 at 9:38 PM #

    So glad you mentioned Daniel Renstrom’s album. I discovered this a few weeks ago when planning for our Dec 6 service. I, too, love it and will play it year round!

  9. Roger December 10, 2009 at 12:15 AM #

    I’m rather fond of The Glorious Impossible (Cartee) this time of year. There’s a good post on Fred McKinnon’s “set list” site with an email copy from Cartee that discusses the lyric – http://www.fredmckinnon.com/myblog/2009/11/05/exploring-the-lyrics-of-glorious-impossible-by-carl-cartee/

    Cartee borrowed the title from a book title by Madeleine L’Engle. Great song and one our congregation likes to sing, albeit down a few half steps from Cartee’s great recording.

  10. Sloan December 16, 2009 at 9:19 AM #

    Thats so funny… I am doing most of those songs over this Christmas!

  11. Tim December 19, 2009 at 8:29 PM #

    Are you looking for new songs this year or just good Christmas songs? I have always liked, “One Quiet Moment,” by a writer named Bob Kauflin…

  12. Devan December 19, 2009 at 8:46 PM #

    um… just so you know… “Light of the world” was written by Tim Hughes, and not Matt Redman. Also known as “here i am to worship”

    • Bob Kauflin December 19, 2009 at 9:48 PM #

      Devan, actually, that’s a different song.

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    […] it “beat around the ‘gospel bush’”? Bob Kauflin just posted on his blog some suggestions for new Christmas songs. This quote struck me: “From my experience, Christmas […]

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