Seven Principles for Selecting Christmas Worship Songs

It’s that time of year again when worship leaders plan services for the Christmas season.  Each year we have the opportunity to use the traditional carols and some newer Christmas worship songs.  When it comes to Christmas carols and worship songs, they are not all created equal.  Here are some principles to consider when choosing songs for Christmas worship services.

1.     Check the biblical accuracy of the Christmas song.  Does the song text agree with Scripture?  We take this for granted since we have sung many of these Christmas songs for years.  When it comes to a new song, read the lyrics first to determine the biblical accuracy before you listen to the music.  If the song text does not pass the test, don’t listen to the song and be “hooked” by the music.  All of your worship songs should first pass through a theological filter. 
2.     Run from songs with vague lyrics.  Is the message of the song clear? If you cannot decipher a song lyric’s meaning, your congregation will most likely not understand it either.  Why spend time in your service singing something that does not clearly present truth?
3.     Resist the desire to choose songs because of sentimental attachment especially if the words are weak.  Perhaps this Christmas song with weak lyrics needs to be retired from congregational worship at your church.
4.     Balance Christmas hymns and songs that have strong theological content with those that are more simple songs of praise.  Give your congregation a good diet of song texts (not all meat or all dessert). 
5.     Look for Christmas songs that explain why Christ came to earth.  Find songs that are not only focused on the birth of Christ but tell the whole story. You will have many guests at Christmas services that need to know that Jesus died for their sins, was resurrected and now reigns victoriously over sin and death.  They need to see their need for a Savior not just the babe in the manger.
6.     Choose Christmas songs that can be easily sung by the congregation.  Some songs function better as solos or choir songs.  Look for songs that are simple in rhythm and not extreme in vocal range. 
7.     Avoid the secular songs of the season.  There is so much about the Christmas season that leans toward commercialism and Santa Claus.  We need to keep the focus on Christ. 

The pastor of the first church I served as a worship minister used to anxiously wait for the Christmas season to pass because he said people were not focused on the Gospel but on the many other distractions of the Christmas season.  We must strive to keep Christ in Christmas especially as we plan our services.  Will your Christmas songs be full of the Gospel this season?  As a worship leader, you can have a great influence this Christmas as you plan worship for your congregation. 

Greg Brewton is associate professor and chair of the Department of Biblical Worship at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.