Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas as a Season of Worship

At Nags Head Church, our goal every Christmas is to challenge people to not fall into the trap of nostalgia. Too often, when it comes to Christmas music, we tend to sing more because of those warm fuzzy feelings than to actually worship God (for more on this topic, read my post about "The Problem with Christmas Music and the Church").

So, instead of just playing the same old Christmas classics every year, we attempt to put together a setlist that includes songs from all three of the following:

1) Old songs with a new arrangement or a few new lyrics.
These songs can challenge people to not just go through the motions of singing a familiar song without thinking about what they're singing. It makes the worn and old seem fresh and new.
2) New Christmas songs.
Too many worship leaders see the Christmas season as a time to mentally check out and give their bands a break from learning new music...a shame since there are so many great new Christmas songs being written by people like MercyMe, Chris Tomlin and others. New Christmas songs can help your church create new traditions.
3) Worship songs that may not have been specifically written as Christmas songs.
Too many Christmas carols are seen by many people as tradition and not worship. Challenge your people to think about Christmas as an incredible time to worship by painting a picture of the Christmas story with "worship" songs that you might also be singing at other times of the year.

With those things in mind, here are some of the songs that we're using this Christmas season (along with the authors, in case you want to give them a listen).

Angels From The Realms of Glory - Downhere
How Many Kings - Downhere
Gloria - MercyMe
Glory in the Highest - Chris Tomlin (We actually have been using this song as a Christmas song for several years before Chris wrote the third Christmas verse a year ago)
Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy) - Chris Tomlin
My Soul Magnifies the Lord - Chris Tomlin
Rejoice - Chris Tomlin (we also add the chorus from "O Come, O Come Emmanuel")
O Praise Him - David Crowder
Shout for Joy - Lincoln Brewster
O Come Let Us Adore Him - Matt Redman/Passion

What are some songs that you're using this Christmas to point your people toward worship?


(Bump) The Problem with Christmas Music and The Church

This is a post I wrote in November of '07...I thought I'd bump it in case anyone missed it.

I love Christmas music. I began listening to "Jingle Bells" and "O Holy Night" several weeks ago. The way I see it, the department stores (and their incredibly early commercialism) are finally catching up to my family and our traditions. My mother would pull out the Christmas music well before Thanksgiving, and we had a very nice collection. Old records of Bing and Nat, updated classics with Steven Curtis Chapman and Amy Grant, and even a little bit of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra filled our house and car with the sounds of the season.

Anytime I hear any of those recordings, or even any recording of some of those songs, a warm and welcome sense of nostalgia causes a flood of memories to flash through my mind. Christmas music is such a beautiful and fun part of doubt everyone has distinct memories of Christmases past (whether good or bad), and, my guess is that most of us relate many of our Christmas memories with the music of the season.

And, therein lies the problem with Christmas music and the Church. I've discovered over the years that, it's very easy for us to sing our favorite Christmas carols at church in December and never allow for anything more than that warm nostalgic feeling. We can get so caught up in the warm feelings that worship never really takes place...worship is our primary purpose when we gather together on Sunday mornings, not singing Christmas songs.

And, I think this problem goes way beyond Sunday mornings. Christmas (or any holiday season for that matter) can, as a whole, seem more like a nostalgic and whimsical dream than a reality. The commercials, the movies, the shopping, the parties, the food and's a huge thing that can seem to pull us out of our everyday lives, including our everyday worship. Singing songs, hanging out with friends, giving gifts, and even reading the Christmas story (Jesus) can become the ultimate goal instead of means to a greater end. (that's partly why January can feel like such a depressing month).

I've discovered some ways to help our people (including myself) understand how to worship during the Christmas season. But, first, have you ever thought about this or recognized this in your church before? What are some ways that you use the nostalgia and joy of the season to point people back to worship?