One of my favorite things to do every year is to sing Christmas Carols. There’s nothing like getting together with a small or large group of children, teens, adults, or even senior citizens to join in together in a familiar Christmas song.
I love the line in the movie Elf: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” When we sing familiar Christmas songs, everybody knows the tune and the words and you don’t even have to think about it . . . just sing! It’s kind of like when a community sings the Our Father or another song they know really well like Here I Am, Lord. Those are some of my favorite moments of praise and worship.
Every musician wants to have this happen at a Liturgy. We just start a song and immediately there is full, conscious, active participation. Well honestly, Christmas is the one time of year when this is so easy to achieve. Even the people who don’t really like to sing will join in on a familiar Christmas Song Like Silent Night or Angels We Have Heard on High.
Although it’s only happened a few time personally to me since I’m almost always playing music myself, I have heard of many other people who have gone to Mass on Christmas eve and felt like they couldn’t sing because there were all these “new” Christmas songs that they just didn’t know and they couldn’t participate. I know sometimes as musicians we get tired of singing the same song over and over again however, I think we are a lot more tired of them than some members of the congregation are.
My advice is this: During the Christmas Season, sing the Christmas songs that people really know well.
Sure it’s okay to add in a few new songs that can deepen the experience and the meaning of Christmas, but be careful not to sing too many new or unfamiliar songs at Christmas. Instead of doing a lot of new Christmas songs, maybe rearrange a few of the carols to make them sound a little different, but be sure not to change the melody around so that people don’t even recognize the song they are singing. Add in some different grooves or instrumentation and maybe take out some chords to make the tune feel more contemporary.
Another idea is to do a medley of some songs together. This can be very effective, especially with teens. A new example of this is an arrangement of the traditional Carol What Child is This combined with How He Loves, By John Mark McMillan (performed by David Crowder) you can check it out here.
Christmas is such a great time of year and it has very deep meaning for many people. May we do our best to celebrate the season with joy, peace, wonder and awe of the majesty of our God. May we all grow deeper in our love for the Christ child as we celebrate his birth.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:5