It’s almost Christmas! With that, comes Christmas music– music is one of those things for me that can make or break my holiday spirit. This year I was determined to have a good holiday season, so I started listening to Christmas music a bit earlier than most years.
Of course, when it comes to Christmas music there’s all the traditional songs that tend to make the holiday special and remind us of timeless tradition. But then, there’s some lesser known Christmas songs that I believe can really enhance your Christmas spirit– because they certainly do mine.
While I love traditional Christmas music, there are 5 songs that I absolutely need to listen to over the holidays, and they aren’t the traditional go-to Christmas songs. For me however, they’ve become part of my own personal tradition- and really have a way of moving something deep inside me. In case you aren’t familiar with these, I wanted to introduce you to my top 5 favorite Christmas songs in hopes that they’ll make your Christmas brighter too.
5. Our God Is With Us (Steven Curtis Chapman)
This song comes from one of my favorite all-time Christmas albums, and is one that I find profoundly moving as it reminds me of the of the implications of the incarnation:
“But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness,
There comes a great announcement: we are never alone!
For the maker of each heart that breaks, the giver of each breath we take
Has come to earth, and given hope its birth.”
I’ll often find myself singing this song in the car and mediating on the truth that we are never alone because of that first Christmas, and will usually be overcome with emotion as that truth sinks in. This is why it’ll always be in my top 5: I need that reminder.
4. Heirlooms (Amy Grant)
This song comes from the single Christmas album that I just couldn’t do without– send me to a desert island and allow me to bring one Christmas album, and this one is it. It’s special to me because growing up this was one of the only albums (and I actually mean “album”) we had, and I’ll always remember my mom breaking it out at Christmas and putting it on the record player. My favorite song from that album is called “Heirlooms” and is a reminder that family and faith are among the most important things in life– and should be at Christmas as well.
3. Magnificat / Mary’s Song: (Christy Nockles)
This song is one that has only come to me in recent years, and has quickly made the list of songs I absolutely need to listen to at Christmas. What I love about this song is that it’s really just scripture set to music. When The Blessed Mary finds out that she will be the mother of the Messiah, scripture records for us her response– and it’s a beautiful poem with countless gems that we have often failed to see. I’d invite you to open your Bible to the Magnificat (starting in in Luke 1:46) and listen to the song as you read the original words of Mary– it’s a powerful, powerful passage of liberation– which is the central theme throughout the entire Bible, reaching its climax with the incarnation of Christ:
“He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent empty away.
He has remember his servant, Israel,
And we will remember him always. Always.
Praise the Almighty God, He’s done great things for us!
His mercy is free for those who fear his justice,
May generation to generation loudly proclaim his fame.”
So, listen to this beautiful song and spend some time thinking about how Mary saw this child in her belly as the promised liberation of the lowly:
2. This Is All I Have To Give (Todd Agnew)
This song actually comes from the same album as #3, and reveals part of the incarnation story from the position of the man who adopted Jesus– a perspective we rarely consider or talk about. But what about Joseph? This uses beautiful imagination to help us wonder what that moment must have been like for the man often standing in the shadows of the Christmas story– it’s a beautiful song that I, as a dad via adoption, find especially powerful:
“I always hoped you’d have my eyes,
Maybe a bit of skill of my hands…
But as I look into your eyes,
I see that your hands created mine.
This is all I have to give:
You can share my home and bear my name.
This is not how you should live,
The Song of God has become the Son of Man,
And this is all I have to give.”
Have a listen, and consider this alternate perspective of what must have gone through Joseph’s mind:
1. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
For some reason, I was completely unfamiliar with this song growing up– maybe it’s a new one for you too. What I love about it beyond the message is that it is steeped in rich history before it was turned into a Christmas hymn set to melody. The song is astoundingly beautiful in Latin (Veni, Veni, Emmanuel) and equally beautiful in English. Perhaps the most powerful versions of this song are those of Celtic flavor, which is why Enya’s is one of my absolute favorites– a mix of English and Latin. However, I’d really recommend checking out some other versions on YouTube, as this song has many beautiful renditions. The key reasons why this makes the top of my list are: (a) the rich history of the text (b) the stirring melody that often accompanies it, and (c) it expresses this central theme of liberation which is absolutely crucial to understanding the story of the Bible:
“O come, o come, Emmanuel,
To free your captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Oh, Israel,
To you shall come Emmanuel.”
Those are the top 5 Christmas songs that I absolutely need to listen to at Christmas– songs that get me in the spirit to not only enjoy the season but more importantly, facilitate a spirit of worship as I prepare to celebrate the moment where God became flesh and walked among us.
I hope listening to them will enhance your holidays as well, as together we celebrate the incarnation.
Continuing in the comments: what are some of the songs that you find especially powerful at Christmas?