Christmas is as busy as ever–but I do feel a much deeper appreciation for it and the Advent season this year. A combination of Douglas Wilson’s book God Rest Ye Merry, Ann Voskamp’s devotional The Greatest Gift, and Joy Clarkson’s hauntingly beautiful podcasts about Advent have made me fall in love with the rich and beautiful history of Christmas, and also the sheer wonder and glory of “Immanuel, God With Us.”
I’ve especially noticed this keener understanding of just how wonderful Christmas is while listening to the old familiar carols. Breathtaking proclamations like “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love!” are enough to make me teary-eyed even as I type them out. And here’s another one: “Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth! Hark, the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’ ”
Read those words and let them soak into your soul, and marvel over the deep, deep love of Jesus!
And on that happy note, allow me to share with you some of my favorite Christmas songs! I’ve included links to each song’s Amazon MP3 page, so you can have a listen…or even a purchase, if you like 🙂
Joy to the World!
You’ll notice a lot of Steven Curtis Chapman in this post, thanks to the fact that I don’t even remember a holiday season when we didn’t listen to his Christmas albums! His version of “Joy to the World”* is my absolute favorite*–although my first soprano range greatly appreciates Celtic Woman’s version as well*.
Our God Is With Us
Another Steven Curtis Chapman favorite*: “Our God is with us, Immanuel / And we will never face life alone / Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend / With us till the end / Immanuel!”
O Come All Ye Faithful
No one can beat Josh Groban and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on this one*. “Yes, Lord we greet thee / Born this happy morning / Jesus, to thee be the glory given / Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing! / O come let us adore Him / O come let us adore Him / O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”
Let It Be Christmas
This actually isn’t an ancient, well-worn carol; it’s an absolutely beautiful country music piece by Alan Jackson* that gained a place of honor as one of my favorite Christmas songs last year. “And let it be Christmas everywhere / Let heavenly music fill the air / Let anger and fear and hate disappear / Let there be love that lasts through the year / Let it be Christmas, Christmas everywhere.”
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Okay, I can’t decide if I prefer Idina Menzel’s* OR Steven Curtis Chapman’s* version better, haha! Both are wonderful and full of joy and anticipation, though. “Said the king to the people everywhere / Listen to what I say / Pray for peace people everywhere / Listen to what I say / The child, the child, sleeping in the night / He will bring us goodness and light!”
Mary, Did You Know?
I’ve heard several beautiful version of this song, but Kathy Mattea’s haunting alto rendition is a long-time favorite*. I’ve gained a much deeper respect and love for the Virgin Mary this year, and these lyrics really underline just how greatly favored she was: “Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? / Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations? / Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb? / That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I Am.”
(And yes, Mary did know. The Angel Gabriel told her, and she was no fragile young maiden who didn’t know what she was getting into. But this song does do a good job of encapsulating the enormity of her role in redemptive history.)
I Am Joseph (God With Us)
This is a non-traditional song about the other characters in the Christmas story and how we all relate to them in some form or fashion–again, performed by the great Steven Curtis Chapman*. “So let’s all gather at the manger / And bring all our hopes and hurts and fears / All of our unworthiness and shame / Knowing every one of us is the reason that He came.”
Comfort and Joy
This gentle, acoustic song by Alli Rogers* offers the sweet hope of the Second Advent–the day when Jesus will come back to Earth. “Tidings of comfort and joy / Comfort and joy / Ohh tidings of comfort and joy / Comfort and joy / We can be certain that He who was born on this day is the one who will wash every sorrow away / Certain that nothing is too dark or dim / For the light that shines from him / He is the true light / And he shines to say it’s all right…”
Sweet Little Jesus Boy
I had never heard this spiritual until two years ago when our church choir sang it as part of our annual Christmas concert. Then I heard Casting Crowns’ simple, heartfelt version*, and I’ve loved it ever since. “Sweet little Jesus boy, born in a manger / Sweet little Holy child, we didn’t know who You were / Long time ago it seems, You were born / Born in a manager Lord, sweet little Jesus boy”
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Another double feature here because I can’t decide who does it better: Casting Crowns*, or–you guessed it–Steven Curtis Chapman*! Regardless of who’s performing, though, this defiant stanza is always my favorite and often brings tears to my eyes: “Then rang the bells more loud and deep / God is not dead, nor does he sleep! / The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/ With peace on earth, good will to men!”
This song has always felt a bit overdone for me–probably because it’s so simple, there aren’t many ways to make it original. When I find a new and fresh version, I latch onto it…which probably why I love Taylor Swift’s unique and truly lovely rendition from her long-ago-and-faraway Christmas album* so much. “Silent night, holy night / Son of God, love’s pure light / Radiant beams from thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace / Jesus, Lord at thy birth.”
O Holy Night
This might be my favorite Christmas carol? Maybe? I don’t know–I change from year to year, and “Joy to the World” definitely won the Top Favorite Title for 2018–but “O Holy Night” is very dear to me. And you can’t get much better than Celine Dion’s jaw-dropping performance*…although Josh Groban’s is incredible, too*! “Long lay the world in sin and error pining / Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth / A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices / For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”
Angels From The Realms of Glory + Ode to Joy To The World
How could I end this post without something from The Piano Guys? These lovable musicians blow my mind with every album–and their most recent Christmas album is no exception. First, “Angels from the Realms of Glory,”* with vocals by Peter Hollens–but here’s the awesome thing: the melody is actually “Angels We Have Heard on High!” And secondly, “Ode to Joy to the World,”* an awe-inspiring combo of the perennial hymn “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” (the melody of which also happens to be my favorite Beethoven selection) and the triumphant “Joy to the World.”