Building Christmas worship sets is one of my least favorite parts of the holidays. The jaunty uptempo vibe often doesn’t match the rest of the service. Do you go with waiting themes for Advent or jump right into the Christmas tunes? Do you just fully commit to Christmas and abandon the normal set? Do you mash them together with awkward transitions?
I’ve done all of the above and honestly, it really depends on what your church is going for. Whichever way you go, I’ve chosen a number of songs that can work and hopefully you’ll find some inspiration for your Christmas sets.
Christmas-themed original songs can be refreshing and unexpected. Noel by Chris Tomlin and Lauren Daigle is a really beautiful original song that focuses on the gift of Christ and an invitation to come and see Him. Its minor tone on the verse feels like a sister song to O Come O Come Emmanuel and the major chorus feels both celebratory and awe-inspired. It’s a perfect fit with an Advent theme. Matt Maher’s blessed us with a few Christmas songs recently. Hope for Everyone and Glory (Let There Be Peace) are both welcome themes in 2020. Hillsong has also knocked it out of the park in past years with We Have A Savior, Born is The King and Seasons.
Phil Wickham’s version of Joy To The World hits all the right notes for a worship set. Combining the original melody with updated instrumentation, a singable chorus that feels more like an interlude than a distraction, and choir-belted tag of Joyful Joyful, it feels both special and traditional. Chris Tomlin’s Silent Night is a beautiful arrangement with some interesting chord changes, and Meredith Andrew’s take on Come Thou Long Expected Jesus is upbeat and fun to play.
Praise and Worship
Paul Baloche struck gold for worship leaders with his Christmas Worship Volumes one and two. They feature his classic worship songs mashed up with traditional Christmas songs and they work really well together. A few even reimagine the worship lyrics to fit the Christmas theme better. It feels both fresh and familiar and that’s a worship leader’s best friend in the Christmas season. Some standouts are Hark The Herald Sing/King of Heaven and the Christmas version of Your Name. Lincoln Brewster has done the same, albeit with more challenging guitar solos. Our God/O Come All Ye Faithful is an excellent example. Chris Tomlin’s Here I Am To Worship, Elevation Worship’s Here Comes Heaven, and All Sons and Daughters’ God With Us are also sneaky Christmas songs and can fit in any service.
If you’re looking for something special to do this Christmas, a performance instrumental can both entertain as well as set the Christmas tone. Lincoln Brewster’s Miraculum is a 6 minute shred-tacular. We’ve got a full tutorial as well as a few simplified options if you can’t nail the really crazy parts. You still need to be a competent guitarist to even start that one. For intermediate guitarists, we’ve also got acoustic renditions of Little Drummer Boy and Silent Night, as well as a beginner version of What Child is This. While we don’t have an instrumental for the keyboardists we do have a solo piano version of A Christmas Alleluia by Chris Tomlin that is a bit of a show piece.
Whatever approach you take, let me encourage you to embrace the season. Maybe you find yourself overwhelmed or frustrated with the additional responsibility, but keep your eyes on Christ, care for your team, chase what inspires you, and be present in the moment. God is with us. Let’s celebrate.