Christmas Worship

By | Categories: In Review, Music, Picks

paul christmasPaul Baloche
Integrity Music
Worship leader Pick

A brave question is asked by consummate worship leader Paul Baloche with his first Christmas offering, Christmas Worship. The question is, “Do our cherished Christmas carols encourage passionate sprit and truth worship? If not, then should we do something about that?” To some the question could be akin to asking, “Does the Mona Lisa need a mustache?”

With Christmas Worship Paul Baloche sat down with such eminent writers as Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, George Frederick Handel, and John Francis Wade and then invited some of this century’s most influential hymn crafters into the room: Jason Ingram, Lincoln Brewster, Graham Kendrick, Glenn Packiam, and Kathryn Scott. Paul, together with these artists, furnished classic hymns such as “Hark the Harold Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” among others, with singable choruses that complement the themes of each hymn and raise their overall emotive power, fit for the modern musical sensibility.

And the overall result is the Christmas album every worship leader must have in their arsenal.

Matching his non-seasonal releases, Baloche created this with his colleagues in mind (as well as their congregations)—Christmas Worship is a worship-leading tool, completely unique in its purpose and approach. Songwriting, song selection, song augmentation, and even the addition of a worship choir on many tracks makes this release the most congregationally intentional Christmas release we have ever come across.

As he’s done before, Baloche also put new settings to a few of his original songs. “Offering” has been given a Christmas treatment before, and is represented again here flowing from a contemporary worship arrangement into a gospel choir sonic-explosion of praise.  We also receive a revamped “Your Name” with incarnation-inspired verses and bridge. And the Kendrick/Baloche classic “What Can I Do?” where Baloche left the chorus intact but completely retooled the verses, is just as powerful as the original.

While it’s filled with Christmas songs that have a bit of the season’s musical touches, Baloche and co-producers (Michael Rossback and Ben Gowell) also made sure the sounds avoid Christmas cliché—the overall tone conveying a wintery, yuletide Montana ranch rather than your typical winter wonderland. The driving guitar and jingling bells are spare, yet lovingly accent just the right notes, and the mandolins and kick drums fill just the right spaces, while the stringed arrangements amplify the true glory of the incarnational message that spans the centuries, both in content and in collaboration.

Less a single artist’s take on the Christmas season and more a collective of worship artists and leaders joining to serve worshipers everywhere, Christmas Worship will, without doubt, infuse new life into our seasonal services for years to come.

Jeremy Armstrong
4.5 stars





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