This year offered an impressive set of Christmas releases by worship leaders and Christian pop artists. Here are the most notable ones, along with suggested songs for your worship setlists.
Goin’ Back to Bethlehem
Goin’ Back to Bethlehem is just like sitting on the back porch and singing songs of faith and Christmas with your family and friends … that is if your family and friends are skilled in beautiful harmonies and intricate acoustic guitar arpeggios. The music is timeless and the detailed layers are rich with subtlety. The attention the Brothers offer these mostly-original songs of faith and incarnation, both in prayer and music, make this a standout Christmas release. It’s a gift that will bless you and your porch-sitting family for years to come.
Top song for your Christmas set: “He Is Our King”
Christmas Worship, Vol. 2
A perfect release for worship leadership, Paul Baloche juxtaposes classic Christmas hymns with modern Baloche worship songs (with a couple of full originals as well). The style has an understated acoustic folky tone with touches of orchestral arrangements … and it’s just right.
Top song for your Christmas set: “Angels From the Realms of Glory/Emmanuel”
Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship
Chris Tomlin, one of the most prolific and powerful hymnwriters today, offers his take on Christmas worship music and adds a couple new songs to the collective hymnal with Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship. This Christmas release is a live, unassuming recording; it’s classic-sounding Tomlin as he humbly covers these songs with a worshipful tone.
Top song for your Christmas set: “He Shall Reign Forevermore”
Keith & Kristyn Getty
Joy – An Irish Christmas Live
The Gettys reprise their 2011 Christmas release, Joy, with this outstanding live recording filled with jigs, carols, hymns, and a good dose of joy. The musicianship is top-notch, the songs are powerfully crafted with an Irish flair, and the overall offering is a wonderful Christmas journey from start to finish.
Top song for your Christmas set: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/GreenGrass Reel Medley”
When Christmas Comes
Kim Walker-Smith’s signature vocals give the Yuletide hymns depth and beauty on this release from the Jesus Culture worship leader. In her deft hands, these songs become the prayers they were written to be. And the style is absolutely listenable with gorgeous piano drives and subtle orchestrated overtones.
Top song for your Christmas/Advent set: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
Campfire Christmas, Vol. 1
Rend Family Records
Get out your kick drum this year and let it drive the Christmas hymns a la Rend Collective. Rend wins the re-interpretation award this year; their takes on familiar songs are fresh and familiar at once.
Top song for your Christmas set: “For All That You Have Done” (to the tune of Auld Lang Syne)
John & Valerie Guerra
It’s Almost Christmas
If you are not already familiar with Jon Guerra’s charming and intimate musical style, Christmas is a great time to get acquainted. The addition of Guerra’s wife brings a rich, classic sounding vocal element to the mix and elevate the release to one that will be on heavy rotation in houses for years to come. Most of these songs are covers of popular Christmas songs, not hymns. But the approach is fresh and brings a much-needed update to seasonal music—don’t miss the amazing medley of “The Way You Look Tonight/I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
Top song for your Christmas set: “Lord Remind Me” (special music)
More covers of popular Christmas music, and less hymn-driven, It’s Christmas is MercyMe’s second take on the music of most wonderful time of the year. A mix of big band, rock, and pop, this release is beautiful … but slightly forgettable.
Top song for your Christmas set: “Joy”
God With Us
Laura Story plies her clear and rich vocal elegance to a collection of classic Christmas hymns and offers a couple of originals, “Just Another Christmas” being the standout in the style we have come to love from this worship leader and Christian songwriter.
Top song for your Christmas set: “Love Is Here”
A Jesus Church
Christ Is Born – EP
Distinctively featuring the vocal and musical style of Evan Wickham, A Jesus Church continues their tradition of offering a set of original Christmas music to bless the Church. Mellow and nuanced with an indie/modern worship style, Christ Is Born is cliché free and filled with powerful praise themed on the incarnation.
Top song for your Christmas set: “Realms of Glory”
Christmas Is Here
Swinging Christmas sounds, jazzy arrangements, and joy-filled strains are the ways Danny Gokey announces that Christmas Is Here. An American Idol alum, Gokey knows what a large audience wants, and in this case, its soulful music and stellar vocal craft.
Top song for your Christmas set: “Lift Up Your Eyes” (this would be a great original choral anthem)