Christmas is for Worship

A worship leader recently asked "I'm struggling a bit... anyone have any new Christmas music that is actually worshipful... and not just Christmas-y?" I love Christmas music, but so much of it has become so ‘seasonal’ and not ‘worshipful’ - how I long to live in the wonder of God with us!"

Relate?

I remember an old Kent Henry recording entitled "Christmas is for Worship" and how sometimes we struggle to feel like we connect with the Lord during the beautiful songs of Christmas.

So what works well for congregational worship during Advent?

Advent, not just Christmas
The world doesn’t celebrate Advent. They celebrate Christmas…or some commercialized, sentimental version, devoid of the wonder-of-the-Savior-of-the-world-arriving-in-frail-human-form. In 2018, Advent starts on December 2nd. Not the day after Thanksgiving or when you first see Christmas trees in stores. Immerse yourself in the holiness of the waiting, preparing, and longing of Advent. Let your songs follow the expectation of Advent into the joyful celebration of Christmas.

Our voices
Because many of our Christmas songs are hymns, it works great to whittle them down to the basics of our voices when we’re arranging them. This strengthens them and causes us to concentrate on the words we’re singing rather than the jingle bells and Tubular bells.

Leadership
Christmas songs don’t lead themselves in corporate worship. Maybe when you’re at a party, or an assisted living facility, or when you’re out caroling bundled up in scarves. But when you’re in a moment of gathered worship, you must LEAD them well. "Please stand and sing with us" is really, really different from "Let’s stand and sing this familiar carol. And as we again sing the story of the sacrifice Jesus made in coming and living among us in human form, let’s go beyond the story and enter into miracle that celebrates the generosity of God. Allow your hearts to worship Emmanuel."

Intermingle
Paul Baloche is the master of this. Artfully mashup worship songs or choruses with Christmas hymns, bringing the two worlds together.

Great Songs
There is a palpable difference between using a song like Away In A Manger versus O Come, O Come Emmanuel for corporate worship. One feels more like a nursery rhythm or children’s song versus a passionate prayer. Choose intentionally.

Focus
Rather than just cruising through the song in a stock arrangement, bring attention to a section that can take the congregation deeper. You won’t find this in Mariah Carey’s version of O Holy Night, but there’s a section in the second verse that says "He knows our need; to our weakness is no stranger. Behold your King, before him lowly bend!" Imagine singing that song, and reprising those phrases slowly and even more intimately with "You know our need; to our weakness You’re no stranger, we behold You our King, before You lowly bend..." in a subdued, prayerful arrangement that draws us from singing about Jesus directly to Jesus. And then roll into Great Are You Lord (You give life, You are love, You bring light to the darkness...)

Context
Many of the hymns of Christmas are stories, recounting the events that led up to the birth of Christ. It’s no wonder you have a difficult time connecting if you are just singing stories. Give your congregation something with say "Wow, that’s amazing! Jesus thank You, we love you!" after singing the story. Think of The First Noel. What if you paired up an anthemic chorus with the theme of His Kingship to sing in between some of the verses?

Rinse and Repeat
Nobody is as tired of what you did last year as you might be. This is the only time of the whole year that you do these songs. It’s completely fine to just use song ideas and arrangements from past years. Relax already!

Friends
Asking other leaders is exactly how this Fertilizer got started. Reach out to your friends who lead at other churches and find out what’s worked for them. Here are some ideas I’ve heard:
Everything Is New (Joel and Amy Davis)
God With Us (All Sons And Daughters) 
Adore (Chris Tomlin)
He Has Come for Us (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) (Meredith Andrews)
We Have A Savior (Hillsong Worship)
He Shall Reign Forevermore (Chris Tomlin)
Peace Has Come (Hillsong Worship)
A Thrill Of Hope (Album) (Central Live)
The Peace Project (Album) (Hillsong Worship)
Joy To The World (Life.Church Worship)
Noel (Lauren Daigle)
Born Is The King (It’s Christmas) (Hillsong Worship)
Here Comes Heaven (Elevation Worship)
Receive Our King (Meredith Andrews)
Oh What A Glorious Night (Sidewalk Prophets)
Joy To The World (Francesca Battistelli)
Gloria (MercyMe)
Or click here to listen to the whole YouTube playlist

-Dave

Ps. If you missed the webinar, you can get the replay here. Nicole beautifully said this:

"Jon & Dave are both really generous in resourcing the body of Christ with what they've learned leading worship teams. How To Lead Your Team to Better Practice Habitsis more overflow of that generosity. In this webinar, Jon shares practical principles that he created simply out of necessity, but have proven to bear fruit over the years. Dave shares his pastoral heart in bringing out the best in each team member, with stories and resources that will equip you to do the same. Both of these guys have been influential in shaping the foundation of our new church plant worship team, and I look forward to utilizing more of what they offer as we grow. "

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