As we come to the final days of this decade, the Christmas season stands at the last festive occasion before we say goodbye to the first ten years of the 21st Century. Since Christmas is one of two major events for the Christian church, we are blessed with a huge plethora of Christmas music to aid us in our worship of the King of kings. In comping this list: I focus on albums that are deliberately Christ-centered and are distinctively Christian. And I also try to focus on albums that can provide fresh vocabulary and renewed opportunities for worship, both as the church and as individuals. So, hopefully, this list can also provide suggestions for pastors, song leaders and worship pastors to explore as they prepare for this important season of the church's life.
You don't need the latest computer gadget or the trendiest drum sequencing to impress. The artistic pull of nylon over wooden instruments can equally cause decibels of emotions to vibrate in the soul of a careful listener. Kevin Williams' brand new instrumental seasonal album "Acoustic Christmas" is testimonial to this. Taking the adage that less is more to heart, "Acoustic Christmas" flourishes only on a hand full of assorted wooden instruments such as violin, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, snare drums, bass, and guitars. As a result, what you get is a warm, relaxing, and a tad nostalgic offering where Williams indulges us with his creative renditions of 12 Christmas classics (with no originals and no obscure carols).
Chris Tomlin's Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship is the go to album as far as congregational worship over the festive season is concerned. Though the market is saturated with seasonal outputs every year and though it's almost mandatory for every artist to release a Christmas album somewhere along his/her career, few are the Christmas songs made for congregational worship. Tomlin whose pen has supplied the vocabulary and scores of countless worship services with staples such as "Love Ran Red," "Our God, "How Great is Our God," he is back with his festive debut Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship. The titular is most revealing, this is an 11-track record made for the service of the church. This is arguably the CD's chief strength.
Over the years, Hillsong worship has had released a number of Christmas. But 2014's "We Have a Savior" is the most distinctive. Eschewing their usual big stadium approach to their music, this is more a foolish detour. And unlike some of their latter Christmas albums that are infiltrated by too much secularism, this one as the title dictates is solely focused on Jesus. Songs led by Darlene Zschech, Brooke Ligertwood, Matt Crocker and Rueben Morgan are still worthy of checking out this Christmas.
Beautiful is an understated description of CeCe Winans' latest Christmas album. Just like the theatrical sounds of a Disney movie soundtrack, this album is nothing short of stunning. The sweeping orchestral sounds, the wistful melodies and Winans' soaring R&B-tingled vocals, this album is a classy festive offerings delivered with a blanket of heart warming sounds. The beauty of the record resides not just in its sounds, but also its lyrical content. While many in Winans' professional stature would be quick to abandon their religious roots and opt for a more democratic secular album, this album is unapologetically Christ-centered.
The birth of Jesus can bring great upheavals. Luke 2:3 tells us that when King Herod first heard about the news of the birth of the Messiah, he together with the whole city of Jerusalem were disturbed. Sara Groves' sophomore Christmas record "Joy of Every Longing Heart," tries to take snapshots of how the news of Jesus' birth has impacted the people of the town of Bethlehem. In each of these 9 songs, she brings us into the narratives of the wise men, shepherds and even the angels as they wrestle with what the birth of Jesus means for them. She jostles our jadedness with the many surprising melodic twists in her renditions of her traditional carols. And she expands our imaginations with her newly crafted narratives in her original compositions.
The album cover of Darlene Zschech's new Christmas album is most telling. There's no snow-covered mistletoes; there's no picture of Zschech cozying up by a fireplace; and thank goodness there's no pic of dear old Saint Nick. Darlene Zschech has wisely savaged Christmas music from the North American stereo typing and hijacking. And this is reflected also throughout the musical content. On this record, you won't hear schmaltzy strings and synth-created bells chiming endlessly in the background. Rather, this album has an intimate backing that is reflective and nurturing.
If you have been to church long enough, you would know all the overwrought clichéd answers to the standard religious questions people often asked. One of them being: what's the meaning of Christmas? It's not so much about Santa, his reindeers and his sleigh. Rather Jesus is the reason for the season. Though the answer is spot on; it's so superficially and thoughtlessly recycled that the varnish of how the truth impacts us has long been eradicated. Carolyn Arends, being a gifted and seminal writer herself (in fact she has just released her new book "Theology in Aisle Seven"), is not into trite platitudes. Rather, these are songs with shafts deep enough that they will keep us mediating. They are acerbic enough that they pierce the soul to get us to worship God with fire again. And they are piquant enough that when Arends sings about the little details of life, we can't help but nod our heads with a smile expressed across our faces.
In a genre where songwriters write on a whiff: churning out paltry lyrics worthy only of a twelve year-old, Andrew Peterson is a scribe of note. Instead of approaching his writing palette with an empty mind, Peterson comes equipped with a heart immersed in Scripture and poetic expressions. Like a modern day C. S. Lewis, his songs are theologically rich treasure troves worthy of mining. One of Peterson's tour de force efforts is his debut Christmas "Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ."
Elegance finds its voice in the new Colllingsworth Family's (TCF) Christmas recording. Everything that is needed to create a rich nostalgic sound of an old fashioned Christmas record is here. From the Carpenters-esque stacked vocal layering to the luxuriant-sounding string orchestration, this record exudes a gorgeous romantic swirl that makes the season sparkle brightly amidst the mistletoe and ivy. But these songs not only evoke the sentimentality of the season, they also invite us into the story of Christmas with fresh creativity. When it comes to the familiar carols, TCF doesn't just sing them karaoke-style. Rather, with a deft touch, they have string many of these festive songs together reworking them over newly written string-sections. When it comes to the originals, which occupies about a third of the canon, they are all first-rate entities standing toe to toe with the classics.
Everything that Matt Redman writes is for the church. Even for this Christmas release, all the 11 tracks here are tailored to aid the church in her corporate worship. In this regard, worship leaders who are looking to resource the church with newly crafted tunes over the Advent and Christmas will find this record a treasure trove. Moreover, "These Christmas Lights" is also an audacious effort. Unlike other Christmas records, Redman's scribal skills are interwoven into every track on this album. Though he utilizes some traditional hymns but they are often integrated with his own compositions making this album a rare kind of its own. This essentially means that all the tracks here are new; you won't hear yet another version of the Biblical uninformed "We Three Kings" or the ultra-cheesy "Baby It's Cold Outside."
Tags : 10 best christmas albums of the 2010s christmas albums 2019 kevin williams Cece Winans Darlene Zschech Chris Tomlin Sara Groves Matt Redman hillsong worship collingsworth family Andrew Peterson carolyn arends carolyn arends christmas album