Prime Cuts: Ever With Us, Oh Holy Night, Peace Be Still
The titular of Grace Chapel Worship's latest EP "Songs of Incarnation: Ever With Us" is most telling. This is not one of those Christmas albums where the artist in an effort to appease both the secular as well as the religious folks, throws in a few Christian-themed carols to keep everyone happy. The titular "Songs of Incarnation: Ever With Us" blueprints the record: this is worship album with a singular focus. It is to give exposition to what the Apostle Paul calls the mystery of God; the grand truth that our God has come amongst us in Christ Jesus. Every song on this 7 song EP represents a prism of this truth; all of which working together in an effort to get us to sing, worship, and thank our God who has come to be with us.
Grace Chapel Worship is led by its worship pastor Jonathan Allen and this EP is the follow-up to their 2012 full length worship live album "Freedom Songs." "Songs of Incarnation" features two originals coming from the team. The first, which is also the EP's lead single is the title cut "Ever with Us." Co-written by the church's pastoral care pastor Rick Cua and CCM's songwriter Mia Fieldes (Hillsong, Michael W. Smith, Matt Maher), "Ever with Us" features ZOEGirl's Alisa Childers on lead vocals. It is a pop-glossed ballad flourished with an explosive and inviting chorus that will get us marvelling in worship at God's great act of incarnation.
"Peace Be Still" is the other original. Calling to mind Hillsong's "Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)," this spacey ballad with its gorgeous sweeping piano swirls make this the perfect vehicle driving us to worship whether it's in a congregation or on our own. Sad to say, this is where the originals end. The rest are standard Christmas hymns with few surprises. But Grace Chapel Worship redeems them by giving each of them a contemporary and engaging read. "Joy to the World" gets a modern facelift with its crisp sounding electric guitar, banjo and keys sound. CCM artist Amy Morriss Lowry takes her time to nuance "Oh Holy Night" with meaning and power; while "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" has an old English vibe that is fetching.
At the end of the day, what's most rewarding about this EP is the heart behind the project. Every note struck and every syllable articulated reveal the team's heart to worship God. In this sense, this is not just your average Christmas CD, it's a worship experience that opens us up to appreciate the incarnation in deeper vestiges.