The Songs of Christmas

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 

Luke 2:13-14

Technically, this is probably as close as we get to finding song in the first Christmas story. I imagine if a heavenly choir of angels was praising God, the closest description a shepherd might conjure up when retelling the story later would be that they were singing. Song is simply lyrical words set to music, but song can impact the human psyche deeply. Movements are linked to songs. Protests are often set to song. And across an untold number of Christian churches every week, praises are set to song.

It is true that song can lead to mere sentiment, which can be misleading when divorced from Truth. There are songs we hear at this season that are associated more with cultural events and childhood memories than with any sort of Christian Truth. But God has also blessed the Church with tremendous lyricists and composers who have captured the wonder of the Incarnation in song so that our souls, so beat down and deadened by the cares of everyday life, might be quickened unto praise and wonder. From the 4th century, Christians have been singing about Christmas, and I hope it is a tradition that will continue. Below is a list of songs, old and new, that have captured the wonder of Christmas in my heart.

O Holy Night

I love this version by David Phelps, but I love any version of this song that is sung relatively simply with a piano accompaniment. The last verse speaks of His coming to break the chains of sin and oppression.

What Child is This?

This is a beautiful rendition by Josh Groban. This hymn is one of my favorite Christmas hymns to sing with our church. We use the traditional lyrics for verses, so we sing, “Nails, spears shall pierce His side / The cross be borne for me for you / Hail Hail the Word made flesh / The babe the son of Mary”

O Come All You Unfaithful

A clever twist on the traditional “O Come All You Faithful”, this beautiful song by Sovereign Grace Music is full of good gospel truth. SGM has produced some of my favorite modern Christmas hymns and I encourage you to look into some of their others songs as well.

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Matt Boswell and Matt Papa co-wrote this great gospel hymn that spans the entire narrative of Jesus’ earthly life from birth to resurrection. It’s a great hymn for corporate worship and it’s how we kicked off our Christmas season.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

While technically not about the events themselves, this classic hymn embodies the hope that Christmas imparts to believers. This modernized version by Casting Crowns is one that I love.

Sing a Song of Bethlehem

The Spencer family introduced me to this song which I was later surprised to find in our hymnal. The verses take us through 4 significant places in the life of Christ from Bethlehem to Calvary. I thought it was a neat way to think through the life of Christ.

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