Without doubt, Christmas music claims top honors in my collection. I collect it like some people collect fine wine, always looking for a fresh take on an old story and ever so grateful when I find it. I have Christmas playlists parsing out all kinds of pop, country, traditional, instrumental, and — my all-time favorite — originals.
It’s sadly ironic that one of our most important holidays can also be one of the loneliest, so overhyped and overproduced. We hope for a classic Christmas, enveloped in the glow of candlelight, surrounded by loving family, enjoying a festive meal and protection of a warm of hearth. We imagine a big pile of presents under the tree — debt free, please. We long to embrace those who’ve left aching holes in our hearts, return them to our perfect Christmas scene. Ah, if only Hollywood made Christmas to order.
But when we think about it, if we think about it, the birth of baby Jesus was anything but a Hallmark moment. It must have been lonely, a young woman delivering her firstborn without the benefit of family or even a midwife alongside. She labored alone, in a foreign town. She gave birth in a dirty and smelly stable. She and her husband were poor newlyweds, soon to become refugees. There wasn’t much to recommend Christmas that first Christmas.
Except, of course, the exceeding joy and gladness expressed from the highest of heavenlies in the good news of the birth of God’s son. Well, yes, there is that! It is just so easy to lose sight of it.
So it’s understandable if your Christmas spirit needs a lift. If you’re feeling lonely or alone, sad or sorrowful … or a bit frazzled, eager to refocus … or wondering, like Cindy Lou, if it’s all become a bit superfluous, then I hope you’ll listen in, my friend.
At the top of my playlist is a new release from a favorite artist, “Story of Stories” (Carolyn Arends, 2014). You’ll enjoy lots of fresh lyrics and melodies on her new album: Story of Stories, and an earlier album, Christmas: An Irrational Season (2004). The second is equally as good as the first, which set the gold standard in Christmas originals. If you like insightful lyrics, earthy acoustics and upbeat melodies, Carolyn Arends is singing your tune.
There’s no one who sings Christmas more directly into my heart. You can listen in on her website; some are also on YouTube: It was a Holy Night, Long Way to Go, Vacancy (2014); My First Christmas, The Lord’s Servant (2004).
I play Carolyn often but there are others in my originals mix you might enjoy. With apologies for the unavoidably cheesy videos or annoying ads … ;=) I hope you give yourself the gift of a few quiet moments to capture some fresh Christmas spirit.
- I am Joseph (God is With Us) (Steven Curtis Chapman, Joy, 2012)
- I Need a Silent Night (Amy Grant, The Christmas Collection, 2008)
- It Came to Pass (Andrew Peterson, Behold the Lamb of God…, 2004)
- It’s True (Sara Groves, O Holy Night, 2008)
- Joseph’s Lullaby (MercyMe, The Christmas Sessions, 2005)
- Labor of Love (Andrew Peterson, Behold the Lamb of God…, 2004)
- Born on Christmas Day (Brad Paisley, A Brad Paisley Christmas, 2008)
- Breath of Heaven (Amy Grant, Home for Christmas, 2002)
- Gather ‘Round, Ye Children, Come (Andrew Peterson, Behold the Lamb of God …, 2004)
- Hallelujah, Light Has Come (BarlowGirl, Home for Christmas, 2008)
- Happy Birthday, Jesus (Alabama, Christmas, Volume II, 1998)
- Long, Long Ago (Andrew Peterson, Bethlehem Skyline Vol. 2, 2010)
- Sing Mary, Sing (Jennifer Knapp, The Way I Am, 2001)
- Star of Wonder (We Three Kings) (JJ Heller, Wake Up the World, 2011)
- A Strange Way to Save the World (4Him, Christmas: The Season of Love, 1993)
- Wake Up the World (JJ Heller, Wake Up the World, 2011)
The spirit of Christmas is as fresh as North Country balsam laden with new fallen snow. I hope you experience it this Christmas.
~ Rene Morley
Bonus! Sharing out our favorite Christmas cartoon: The Small One. That’s 25 minutes of Christmas-like-a-kid in technacolor, circa 1960-something. :=)