I must start by saying that I like Christmas music. I like Christmas. It is fun and magical and and all that good stuff. But I know so many worship leaders who hate Christmas because of the difficulties in planning worship.
First you have a mass of people who turn into uber traditionalists at Christmas. Even if a church is modern, there are plenty of people who suggest traditional Christmas hymns are the only way to go. There is a connection to tradition around Christmas that is just very hard for many people to abandon, even in worship. Then there is the barrage of Christmas music that is released every year in hopes of modernizing the sacred Christmas music. Sometimes these songs hit, and other times they can be a bit of a mess. Lastly, there are the new original Christmas songs that have begun to spring up. The issue with these is their short life-cycle and their lack of usefulness anytime outside of December. Everyone knows you cannot sing about baby Jesus outside of December save for the final Sunday in November.
Our church introduces about 15-20 songs a year, and to give away two of those precious new songs to a 3-4 week lifespan is a bit annoying. Because of these factors it oftentimes feels like the choice is to abandon the musical philosophy of the church, concede to a mediocre and oftentimes awkward reinventing of sacred music, or introduce a brand new song that no one will ever get too attached to because the lifespan is far too short. So what is a worship leader to do? Here are a few tricks to make your Christmas music season bearable and even enjoyable.
1. Sing regular worship music as often as possible.
Always remember worship is primarily for God. While I believe it is able to function as a draw for many people, this is its secondary purpose. So worship God for the totality of who he is. Don’t stop singing of his grace, and the power of the cross, and his omnipotence etc. etc. just because it is the Christmas season. Sure, add a few songs here and there that focus on what an amazing gift the birth of Christ was, but not at the expense of praising God for all He has done.
2. Dig deep into some theology to find out what the Christmas season means for humanity.
The story of Christmas that we tell is a fantastic and magical story. But theologically speaking we sometimes forget what all the hoopla really means. Even all those beloved Christmas traditions of Christmas trees, and candlelight, and all that good stuff is symbolic of what God coming to make his home among men means. The ramifications of the Christmas event are endless and hold such power for us that they themselves can be celebrated. Isaiah 9 lays out many of these wonders that happen with the birth of Christ (Mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace). All good stuff we can sing about. Wrap the songs we sing regularly in a Christmas vision and you have an even more impactful worship experience.
3. Spend lots of time looking for great Christmas music for your church.
While it is hard to come up with relevant sounding, sing-able Christmas stuff, it is out there. The good news is that so much music is released every year, the law of averages says there will be something good. The bad news is that because there is so much you have to do some leg work to get there. Ask other worship leaders what they sing. You will be surprised at what some have in their back pockets for a good time around the perceived black hole of modern Christmas worship.
4. Get some Jingle Bells and go for it.
The easiest way to get through the Christmas music scene is to just keep singing the regular music and add some jingle bells. They are so ingrained in the landscape of Christmas pop music that they make anything sound like Christmas. They are the equivalent to WD-40 on everything else.