[notice]Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.[/notice]
If you keep in touch with trends in Worship, especially congregational singing, you’ll be aware that Christmas carols and songs are disappearing from the December worship
repertoire in many churches. In their place are the same Worship Songs that we have been singing throughout the year ~ songs of praise, worship, and love for Jesus. Songs that suit any Sunday song-list.
Worshipers are losing out on the treasury of Christmas songs that focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, when God became one of us so that we may become one with Him. They often ignore too the wealth of new Christmas songs, such as Michael W Smith’s “Sing Noel, sing Hallelujah” or even Townend’s more comprehensive “From the squalor of a borrowed stable”. Let’s explore and enjoy the real excitement of the Christmas season and all that it means for us, and for the world that doesn’t know Him.
For it is at Christmas (and Easter) that many maintain the tradition of church attendance. They come among us with the sentimental expectation that familiar carols will be sung. But if we disappoint them, they may give up this tenuous remaining link with the Church, the venue of God’s grace for them.
On a broader canvass, we are in danger of losing “the sense of occasion” in our churches. The same popular ‘worship songs’ are sung over and over again ~ whether it is Christmas or Easter, whether it is a Wedding or a Funeral. The contexts call for relevant songs that flow with the theme of the occasion. The variety of occasions should stimulate a variety of songs. These will keep us from wearing an ever deeper rut
of rote singing.
The headings to many Psalms show how the inspiring Spirit of God creates lyrics that fit specific occasions. The Jewish calendar lifted specific days out of the ordinary and made them festival Days ~ Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Booths and Dedication. Each commemorated an event and proclaimed a teaching, usually a Type fulfilled in the New Covenant.
The New Covenant, made sure with the Saviour’s scarlet seal, is rich with annual 0ccasions worth celebrating in song: the first Advent at Christmas, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascension Day, Pentecost, and looking forward to the second Advent. Those churches with deep historical roots (Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodist and Reformed) have liturgies that walk believers through ‘The Christian Year’. They learn God’s truth through Scripture, Supplication, Sermon and Song. Newer churches would do well to rediscover the Christian Calendar: praying, preaching and praising in ways that are relevant to each occasion through the year.
Let’s begin this Christmas to capture the Coming of Christ in relevant ways, especially in our songs. Traditional Carols, Hymns about the Incarnation and New Christmas Songs. Then more people will cease their longing for a white Christmas where Santa Clause reigns from Rudolph’s jingle-bell sleigh. Instead they will find forgiveness and a new life-direction following God who became one of us so that we might be one with Him.