Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent Tunes

A friend at the church office sent me a link to an article posted on "Relevant" magazine's website in which the editors picked their favorite spiritual Christmas tunes. (Read it here.) The story is complete with a free playlist of the songs that you can listen to over and over simply by creating an account with Lala.

In the spirit of great Christmas music, I've created my own Advent playlist for you on Lala. It comprises a couple more obscure hymns (imagine that!) than "Relevant's" list, is far less trendy, and excludes Relient K's "I Celebrate the Day" (great melody; the theology is just a little limp), but there are one or two overlapping songs. Unfortunately, there were also a couple of songs I wanted to include that Lala doesn't have...

1. Third Day's Christmas Offerings is consistently good. This song sticks out to me because it's one of my favorite carols in general.

2. I admit, Sufjan Stevens is "weirdly weird"...or "beautifully weird," depending on who you talk to. But I fell in love with "Once in Royal David's City" when we sang it at Third during Advent a couple of years ago. And I've come to love Sufjan's quirky version of this neglected hymn on his Songs for Christmas album.

3. Amy Grant's Breath of Heaven is old school, and maybe a little cheesy. But ever since I played Mary in a Christmas musical at Vale Baptist (the musical was called "The Perfect Gift," and I can still sing a great rendition of "No Room for You"), I have loved imagining what it must have been like to be the mother of Jesus. So something about this song gets to me!

4. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel might be my favorite all-time Christmas hymn. Bold statement, I know. But yall know I love songs that talk about Israel--there's something powerful about reflecting on God's hesed, or "covenant faithfulness" to His people. Rosie Thomas' version of the song is, I think, inspired. I usurped this one from "Relevant's" list, and I just love it!

5. I first heard Jars of Clay's rendition of Little Drummer Boy in my Grandpa Corwin's minivan back in middle school. It's still the best version of the classic I've ever heard. Very back-in-the-day Jars sounding.

6. Union grad Chris Rice's "Welcome to Our World" is a long-time favorite that ties manger to cross beautifully. Lala's version (from an album with a title too lame to mention...) is a letdown compared to the track from Deep Enough to Dream. If you're going to purchase it on iTunes, I'd highly recommend the latter.

7. Emmanuel, from Chris Tomlin's Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs for Worship, doesn't sound especially Christmasy, but you've got to love the rich lyrics.

8. Of course I can't resist including some Caedmon's Call in any playlist! City on a Hill produced this compilation album last year, and Caedmon's Babe in the Straw is a favorite.

9. Hillsong put out a Christmas album a couple of years ago called Celebrating Christmas that to be honest, I could take or leave but for this one song. O Rejoice is this powerful invitation to behold the God-man. It's easily my favorite modern Christmas song. Lala doesn't feature it for some reason, but you can listen to the full MP3 here.

10. Sandra McCracken sent an e-mail the week before last announcing a new album she'll be releasing in the next few months--it's a sequel to The Builder and the Architect, which was a hymns project. The new album includes a Luther hymn called This is the Christ, and as a Christmas treat, she offered a rough version of the recording to fans via Noisetrade. You can download it for free just by forwarding the link to five friends. Just scroll down the left-hand side of this blog to find the widget. I've loved the song and can't wait for the rest of the album!

11. I couldn't have been more thrilled on Sunday when the Walnut Hill praise band broke into Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus during the offering. Since I've been reading a book by that title (see previous post), I have meditated on the words of the song some this season. After singing it in church on Sunday, I decided to look for an audio version to download. I found several that I really liked--Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockles do a great rendition on Tomlin's Christmas CD and Red Mountain Church, one of my favorite hymns resurgence groups has a beautiful modern arrangement as well. But my favorite is by Daniel Renstrom, a relative newcomer on the worship/hymns scene. His album was produced by Nathan Nockles, and from what I can tell it's really solid. It reminds me of the worship band at West End--just that beautiful blend of rich, old songs put to really quality guitar-driven music. You can listen to a clip of the song here.

So there you have it: my favorite Christmas tunes. I hope they inspire you to press in to the heart of God this Advent Season!


mowens said...

My list:

Anonymous said...

I love your Christmas playlist. Particularly, "O Rejoice". Please add these to my iPod. Kevin

Chelsea said...

Hey, Dad,

Most of these are already on your Pod on a playlist called "Christmas Favorites." Glad you like them :)

xo, chels