Prime Cuts: Your Name, Offering, What Can I Do
Worship leaders are often in a vexing bind when it comes to Christmas. On one hand, with only four Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is a tall order for them to introduce brand new Christmas worship songs within such brevity of time. This is because once when the congregation starts getting familiar with these new worship paeans, the season is already over. On the other hand, it becomes such a bore if worship pastors churn in perennial carols such as "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" year in and year out. Being a veteran worship leader for decades, Paul Baloche's latest "Christmas Worship" has the panacea such a dilemma. In his acclimated wisdom, Baloche tackles this issue in a couple of ways: first, instead of overwhelming congregants with brand new songs within such a short time span, Baloche has taken some of the more familiar worship songs and tailored the words and melodies to accommodate Christmas.
Most of us who have bought Darlene Zschech's recent "Revealing Jesus" CD or have been in churches long enough would be familiar with Baloche's signature hit "Your Name." Instead of constructing a new Christmas song from scratch, Baloche has transformed "Your Name" into a Christmas piece with a newly composed first verse that speaks of Christ incarnation and a coda towards the end with worshipful lines that exalt Jesus our Emmanuel. Baloche gives the same treatment to the title track of his 2003 album "Offering." Arguably one of Baloche's most powerful worship song he had had written in his career, "Offering" has the empyrean quality all worship songs should be measured by: a dynamic build up to a chorus that makes us want to put every fiber of our being before the throne of Jesus Christ. Another song that gets a Christmas-fied makeover is the Baloche and Graham Kendrick penned "What Can I Do." Ardent fans would have recognized that this song first surfaced on Baloche's "A Greater Song" as well as on Graham Kendrick's recent "Worship Duets" offering.
Second, the other option that Baloche offers to the conundrum worship leaders faced over Christmas songs is that instead of regurgitating the same old carols year in and out, Baloche has taken them and augment with sections of newer songs. One of the album's crowning moments is when Baloche meshes "Joy to the World" with "Shout for Joy," a song he co-wrote with Lincoln Brewster. Not only do the two songs share the same theme of joy, but the effortless bridge between the two songs is brilliantly organic. Label mate All Sons and Daughters bring in a folky element to "King of Heaven" which is tagged on the traditional "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Yet, in such a hybrid of new songs and traditional carols, Baloche is a genius in mixing the two together. For the Kathryn Scott led "This is Love," the carol "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" only gets a brief appearance towards the bridge of the song. On the other hand, with "Angels We Have Heard on High (Deo)" Baloche's newly written parts get a lesser billing.
Yet, this is not to say that there is no room for completely new songs to surface in Christmas worship settings. Baloche does showcase a couple with "Follow That Star" and "Prepare Him Room.'" Fans may well recall that "Follow That Star" first featured on Rick Warren's 2008 "The Purpose of Christmas" project. "Christmas Worship" is more than just a deftly crafted and put together record. But enveloped within these songs is the wisdom and expertise of one of worship music's most endearing warhorse. Worship leaders and those of us who love to worship would definitely do well to lean in and learn as we witness this veteran in action.