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Refreshing the Holiday Standbys

 

 
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Author: Phil Sillas
 
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Posted December 7, 2016 by

This article was originally published in the Nov 08 Song Discovery Digital magazine. For more great articles like this one, subscribe today.

Which Christmas movies are you go-tos? Every year when the thermometer starts to dip all the way into the ’60s out here in Southern California, I start feeling the need to pull out some of the ol’ holiday standbys.

Here’s my top five list (in no particular order):

  • Home Alone
  • On the 2nd Day of Christmas (Lifetime) (I have a Christmas song in it, so it always makes me a little nostalgic)
  • Elf
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (you have to hear Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” at least once in the season)
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Christmas is the time of year where we dust off some old stuff (like our movies), and put it on display. And it’s stuff we see every year, stuff that is anything but new to us, but somehow our old decorations and memorabilia help us connect with ourselves, our family and even God, in some cases. Of course, it lasts about a month-and-a-half and by the first week in January, most of us are ready to rip the lights off the roof and take a broad arm to that two-foot-tall singing Santa that we got from one of our Great-aunts. The point here, however, isn’t about becoming sick of those things; it’s about the strange ability we humans have to find special meaning in older things. This is important for us to inspect, because we are entering the season where you are going to be called on to bring out some songs that, quite frankly, you may be a little tired of—they may seem old. And here’s the shocker, some people in your congregation are going to be a little sick of them too.

All Things New
So, how do you shine up some of those songs and cast a new light on them? The first thing to do is take a listen to the new Christmas releases that are available. There’s no need to re-invent the carol, and every year there are wonderful artists who put a lot of work into, well, re-inventing carols. And though I fully support the purchasing of full Christmas albums, this is a great time to get on iTunes and do a little cherry picking. You can see a rundown of this year’s Christmas offerings right here.

Old With the New
Another way to bring some vigor to your carol roster is to use the medley form in our worship set. I’ll be the first to admit, when the medley is overdone, it can be quite distracting. It can feel like an elementary school choir concert filled with “Camptown Races” melding with “Oh Susanna” finally finishing with a rambunctious version of “God Bless America.” While that feel is something to be aware of, the unique aspects of the Christmas medley is that most of these songs have been sung autonomously for years and when a chorus of “How Great Is Our God” is artfully woven between the verses of “Silent Night” you may be surprised at the response of your congregation.

In the end, remember, these songs have stood the test of time for a reason. Most of them are filled with beautiful images and melodies. Your task is to make them seem like they were written yesterday. Give them a new light and their meaning will invite worship while you join together in song.


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