How Christmas Can Steal Worship

2. SHARE THE ORIGIN—There’s a correlation between singing familiar old hymns and singing traditional Christmas hymns. They both carry a sentimental power that touches people in positive and negative ways. Some people struggle with worshiping with hymns that they sang in the past that may remind them of a church that was dead or legalistic. I have found that when I share the origins of those songs and heart of the songwriters, it helps people look at it with new vision. The same can be accomplished with the traditional sentiment that comes along with Christmas hymns. The challenge with the familiar is we can forget what we are singing. If we’re not careful, we can sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” in the same way we sing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” Sharing the origin of a hymn, Christmas or not, can direct hearts back to the heart of the song. When we think about the words we are singing, we are more likely to go deeper. In this case, we are more likely to worship.

3. USE WORSHIPFUL CHRISTMAS SONGS—This is really simple, but you cannot expect God to come down in your midst while lifting up “Jingle Bells.” As much as I dread preparing for this time of year, I always look forward to worshiping God with the song “O Holy Night.” It’s one of the most worshipful songs we can sing. As worship leaders, we should pray over the set list every week. We should seek God’s leading as we pick songs. Christmas should be no different. Examine your heart and examine lyrics as you choose songs. Make sure they are God-glorifying and inspiring for worshipers.

4. USE CHRISTMASFUL WORSHIP SONGS—This is a great way to reach a balance of Christmas and worship during December. A classic example of this is “Here I Am to Worship” by Tim Hughes. It starts off with the Christmas story: “Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness.” “Let Us Adore” by Hillsong and “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin are also good. These are effective and familiar, especially if you help people see the correlation with Christmas. If you have any other song suggestions, please comment below. I’m always looking for these in December.

5. FIND NEW VERSIONS OF OLD CLASSICS—Sometimes a new take on an old Christmas song can bring a fresh experience. Every year I’m looking for new versions more than I’m looking for new songs. Establishing a new Christmas song is much more difficult than bringing a new version of an old Christmas classic. It works well because the people don’t have to learn a new melody. They may have to learn a new time signature or a new feel, but because the melody remains, they can engage quickly. Last year, I introduced Lincoln Brewster’s “Joy to the World,” which was fun and new, but still accessible for everyone there. You can really have fun with this. You can also keep things familiar, while bringing something fresh.

6. LOOK FOR MEDLEYS—Something that I am trying for the first time this year is using a medley with a Christmas hymn and a worship song. I’m using an idea off of Paul Baloche’s new Christmas Worship album. He took his song “Shout for Joy” and put it with “Joy to the World” and it works great together. What’s great about this is I will be introducing the regular version of “Shout for Joy” at the beginning of December, which will be a song I use throughout the year, and then using the medley right around Christmas time. It will be new, but still familiar. Again, if you have any other medley ideas, let me know!

What are some other tips you have experienced that help balance Christmas and worship?  

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Gary is the Worship Arts Director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, Ohio. He is also a blogger and a songwriter with a passion to serve the church. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have been married since 1999. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @garydurbin or on Facebook at