This list was really hard. I grew up old-school Lutheran so I know a lot of traditional Christmas hymns. Then when I was in high school I was in my school's madrigal ensemble and we sang a ton of old Christmas songs that you don't really hear all that often which I love. On the other hand, there are also some fantastic newer songs from the last few years which I've fallen in love with. So, it was hard to pick only ten.
I tried to do some traditional as well as newer. I think someday in the future I'll make a list of my favorite Christmas songs that aren't as popular. (Example: The Boar's Head. It's a classic!) Not this year since I've already done two playlist posts this season. Maybe next year though. Just remind me. ;-)
Anyways - here are 10 of my favorite Christmas songs which focus on faith in no particular order.
All I Have to Give- Todd Agnew, Do You See What I See?
A couple of years ago I did a series on Todd Agnew's Christmas album Do You See What I See? It's one of the best Christmas albums I've ever heard and I personally feel like it captures the heart of Advent the best. This is the song he wrote from Joseph's point of view. I know there are a couple of other songs about Joseph out there, but this one is my favorite. I love how it's all about him feeling like he can't take care of Jesus. But you can hear how much he loves God, loves Mary, and loves Jesus. He wants to do his best. He wants to give everything he can - even if it isn't much.
Do You Hear What I Hear?- Bing Crosby
There's something about this song that grabs me. It's all about sharing the Christmas story, sharing the hope and the good news.
The First Noel
There isn't a particular version of this song I like the best, although for some reason I do really enjoy the NSYNC version. (Don't judge.) It simply tells the story. It's simple, but beautiful. Also, I vaguely remember them signing this song in a Pippi Longstocking movie.
God is With Us- Casting Crowns, Peace on Earth
This is my favorite song from Casting Crowns' Christmas album. The concept of "God With Us" is one of my favorites for the Christmas season. God doesn't just hang out on the sidelines watching us. At Christmas, he came to be WITH us. He became one of us. It's so beautiful. The lyrics are so beautiful too. "Love is raining on the world tonight. There's a presence here I can tell. God is in us, God is for us, God is with us Emmanuel." I share this song on this blog almost every year.
Little Drummer Boy- Bing Crosby and David Bowie
Like "All I Have to Give", this song focuses on how someone doesn't have much to give, but they want to give anyways. I know this story isn't actually in the Bible, but I love it so much. His gift is music. He gives what he has, which is all any of us can give. Also, this is a great arrangement and I love how two different artists came together to sing this mash-up. It's a classic.
There are a ton of different versions of the Magnificat (Mary's song in Luke 1:46-56). The words pull at my heartstrings and I love how Mary's reaction to the news of being pregnant with God's son is a song of praise. We always talk about Mary probably being afraid and such, which may have been true, but I think we sometimes forget that her reaction was actually joy. She just starts praising God for all he has done. This is the version Todd Agnew put on his album, but there are a lot of them. Some of the classical versions are beautiful.
O Holy Night
Technically, one of my favorite versions was when my friend Leah sang it as a duet for church a few years ago. However, I don't have a link to a video of it. So we'll go with my next favorite version - Lea Michele. Yes, I know it's Glee, but her cover of the song gives me chills. But even beyond her singing, it's the lyrics. How it captures the awe of Jesus being born. The hope we have now. The light in the darkness he brings. While Jesus is our best friend and we can go to him, but I think sometimes we forget how holy and amazing he is. We get caught up in the 6lbs 8oz baby Jesus stuff, we forget he's God. It's awe inspiring, and this song captures that.
Of course, Silent Night. Who doesn't love this hymn? But the story is beautiful too. I remember reading as a kid how a little German church's organ wasn't working on Christmas Eve (not sure how true that is or not...) so their assistant pastor and music director wrote this song and played it on a guitar. Again, it's the whole idea of not having much to give, but still giving everything. (I'm sensing a theme in my tastes...) Also, what captures Christmas more than Silent Night and signing it at a Christmas Eve candle light service?
It's all about wanting to come and adore Jesus. To come and worship him.
The older I get, the more and more I appreciate this song. It's the spirit of Advent. Of waiting for redemption. Waiting for God to come. Then rejoicing knowing he has come and will come back again. And I love how ancient it is and the history behind it and the connections to the O Antiphons. My favorite versions are done with strings (Lindsey Sterling's is fantastic!), and actually, Kelly Clarkson did a good job with it on her Christmas album. But I'm sharing with you Pentatonix's cover because it's beautiful and they have more than just the first verse.