I am the worship pastor for Redeemer Church in Omaha, Nebraska and this past Sunday was the last Sunday before Christmas. Now, much to the disappointment of my wife and the surprise of others, I only included one Christmas carol in our Sunday worship set list ("Angels From the Realms of Glory"), though I did include a couple songs that we sing during the rest of the year that focus on the incarnation ("Here I Am To Worship", "Love Came Down"). My dilemma is as follows:
There seems to be a shortage of Christmas carols that are theologically accurate, deep and significant and lyrically well-written as worship is considered. While most of the Christmas carols carry a lot of sentimental religious significance for most of us because we sing them every year around Christmas, I find at least some of them wanting when compared with the songs (both hymns and modern worship) that I choose for services the rest of the year.
My criteria for such songs is as follows:
- Theological accuracy
- Theological depth and significance (In other words, even if it's true, is it weighty?)
- Theological breadth (In other words, do we have to wade through a bunch of sentimental lines to get to one nugget of truth?)
- Lyrical beauty (In this I often focus on the refrain. Are we repeating a line that bears repeating and encourages worship?)
Of course, anyone inclined to disagree with me will simply say I am picking songs that prove my point, and they may have an argument. However, I find carols such as "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing", "Angels In The Realms of Glory" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" to be the exception rather than the rule.
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas carols. I still remember distinctly my frustration and surprise the first year I tried to find good Christmas carols to incorporate into a worship set. Most Christmas carols seem to be a genre to themselves, even when compared with the hymns from the same time period. There is, in general, more poetic imagery simply there to set a tone than to communicate something theologically significant. Much of it is a retelling of a historical event, but again, not in the theologically deep ways that we find in the hymns regarding the crucifixion and resurrection.
Feel free to respond but please be nice in the conversation, I am being intentionally incite-ful as much as insightful in this post. After all, I'd love to be proven wrong and have more songs to use in church next Christmas.