It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Christmas season means we sing Christmas carols, right? Doesn’t Christmas season mean that our job gets easier? For those who seek to pastor a congregation through music and the arts, this season can be at the same time both unifying and frustrating. Many who strive weekly throughout the majority of the year get to December and mail it in. “Ah, my work is done. Time for Christmas carols.”
Then comes the inner struggle, at least for myself, of working to start every planning session with the Word of God, and base everything we do in Scripture. Easy, right? Reference an Old Testament prophecy here, talk about angels and shepherds, then sing a few carols. As my three-year-old would say, “Easy-peasy.”
Yes and no.
I love this time of year because, for the most part, as others have noted, even the broadest of musical styles have a common hymnal, if you will, for the Christmas season. That doesn’t mean, though, that your work is done, or even easier. It just means that it’s more speciﬁc.
Allow me to provide an example of how I balance this tension in the Christmas season. Our pastor is currently preaching through the Christ-hymn in Colossians, teaching on who Jesus is. This Sunday his text is Colossians 1:18-20, and he’ll be preaching on the truth that Jesus is Lord of the Church. He’ll give three reasons that point to Jesus’ worthiness for this role: 1. Christ is the ﬁrstborn from the dead (v. 18), 2. God’s fullness dwells in Christ (v. 19), 3. Christ reconciles sinners by the blood of His cross. Not much room in there for what can be a kitschy time of Christmas carols sung by rote memory.
So, seek out Christmas songs (and/or others) that point to the greatness of God in Christ. Here are the songs we’re singing this Sunday and a brief reasoning why we’re doing so.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: Verse One references the reconciliation that is available between God and man because of Christ’s birth. Verse Two acknowledges Christ as Lord and calls the singer to “Hail the incarnate Deity!” Verse Three references Malachi 4:2 and points to Jesus as the “Sun of Righteousness, risen with healing in His wings.”
O Come, O Come Emmanuel: The entirety of this song is a prayer asking God With Us to be all these different things (which He is), to guide us in such a way (which He does), and also offers a reminder to rest in the truth that He will do what He promises.
What Child Is This: A series of questions and answers in this song point to Christ as King, as the One who bore our sins on the cross (if you sing the entirety of all three verses), and it calls all of us to praise Him with all that we are.
O Come, All Ye Faithful: Following the questions posed and answered in the previous song, we’ll ﬁnish our singing with a song of adoration, once again reminding ourselves that Jesus is the “Word of the Father, now in ﬂesh appearing.”
So, sing Christmas carols! But sing them intentionally, in light of who God has revealed Himself to be in His Word. Even when it seems your music library may be limited, work hard to be thoughtful. Let Scripture guide your worship even in seasons that may be more “predictable.” And point out why you’re singing these songs. For our good and for His glory.
Garrett Wooten serves as the Worship Arts Pastor at Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, TX. He and his wife, Brittanie, have been married for 8 years and have two boys. Garrett is a student at Southern Seminary working toward the Master of Arts in Worship Leadership.