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Contemporary Christmas, Traditional Hymns

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  • Contemporary Christmas, Traditional Hymns

    Lets be honest, We're all asking this question this time of year. How do I bring traditional Christmas hymns into a contemporary service?

    While we all love new worship songs, we cant forget about the great traditional Christmas hymns. If it is true at any time of the year, the classic Christmas hymns bring out the nostalgia in your congregation... And the good kind of nostalgia, the kind that reminds them that Christmas is about "the Christ".

    But Christmas is tough on us contemporary service worship leaders. The Classic hymns are, at no other time, more cherished than at Christmas. Even the most modern, latte drinking, post-modern, missional, seeker-driven, dark rimmed glasses wearing congregation would love to sing a few bars of "Silent Night".

    So the questions...

    What classic Christmas hymns transition best into a modern worship setting?

    What instrumentation/inspiration do you use?

    How do you bring the real Christmas message to the secular audience through song and worship?

    How can we make this CHRISTmas special for our congregations through worship songs (the hymns they love)?

    All of us contemporary worship leaders struggle with this. We don't want to throw away the classic Christmas songs, but we don't want to sing for nostalgia's sake.

    Let's discuss.....(i could really use your help)
    Last edited by nvdrake; 11-30-2010, 05:42 AM.

  • #2
    I wrote about this recently on My Blog. Here it is...

    Christmas as a Season of Worship

    At Nags Head Church, our goal every Christmas is to challenge people to not fall into the trap of nostalgia. Too often, when it comes to Christmas music, we tend to sing more because of those warm fuzzy feelings than to actually worship God (for more on this topic, read my post about "The Problem with Christmas Music and the Church").

    So, instead of just playing the same old Christmas classics every year, we attempt to put together a setlist that includes songs from all three of the following:

    1) Old songs with a new arrangement or a few new lyrics.
    These songs can challenge people to not just go through the motions of singing a familiar song without thinking about what they're singing. It makes the worn and old seem fresh and new.

    2) New Christmas songs.
    Too many worship leaders see the Christmas season as a time to mentally check out and give their bands a break from learning new music...a shame since there are so many great new Christmas songs being written by people like MercyMe, Chris Tomlin and others. New Christmas songs can help your church create new traditions.

    3) Worship songs that may not have been specifically written as Christmas songs.
    Too many Christmas carols are seen by many people as tradition and not worship. Challenge your people to think about Christmas as an incredible time to worship by painting a picture of the Christmas story with "worship" songs that you might also be singing at other times of the year.

    With those things in mind, here are some of the songs that we're using this Christmas season (along with the authors, in case you want to give them a listen).

    Angels From The Realms of Glory - Downhere
    How Many Kings - Downhere
    Gloria - MercyMe
    Glory in the Highest - Chris Tomlin (We actually have been using this song as a Christmas song for several years before Chris wrote the third Christmas verse a year ago)
    Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy) - Chris Tomlin
    My Soul Magnifies the Lord - Chris Tomlin
    Rejoice - Chris Tomlin (we also add the chorus from "O Come, O Come Emmanuel")
    O Praise Him - David Crowder
    Shout for Joy - Lincoln Brewster
    O Come Let Us Adore Him - Matt Redman/Passion

    Practical Worship

    Please Pray For My Wife


    • #3
      I'm not going to disagree with Nate's post above, but I do want to offer a different perspective.
      I am not a traditionalist. But if we look at the Old Testament in particular, we find several times that the people were to make memorials of some type so their children would learn, and the adults would remember something God had done. So there is scriptural basis for a certain amount of well-placed tradition.

      And I think that Christmastime is a season when some tradition, even in church music, is a good thing. Let me illustrate. When my children were elementary school age, I started putting a few sugar cookies in their Christmas stocking. Now I have grandchildren that age, and the sugar cookies are one of the most anticipated highlights of Christmas for all of the family.

      In the same way, I think it is good to use some traditional Christmas songs in their original format. There will be some sentimentality involved, but there will also be a strong sense of wellbeing that could be missing if there were nothing familiar about the church Christmas music. People look forward to re-living the happy memories of past Christmases, and the traditional carols are an important part of those memories.

      So don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Use some new songs, use some remakes of the old songs, and leave some of them as they have always been. You have 51 other weeks to "stretch" the people. Let them enjoy Christmas.