My Top 5 Christmas Carols


Confession time – I’ve been listening to Christmas music in my office since November 16 and I’m still going strong. The music of Christmas is absolutely beautiful not only in melody, but also in lyrics. You find in Christmas carols some of the most deeply enriching theological language available to you. Unfortunately, much of this language is buried in stanzas 3-5 so we rarely have the chance to sing it out to the Lord and each other.

Still, it’s there, and when you combine the language with the season with the melody, you get one of the best parts of the holidays. What you’ll find below, then, is a list of my top 5 Christmas carols:

5. O Come O Come Emmanuel

This is a slow, mournful tune that reminds us that everything was, and is, not okay. It’s easy for me to forget sometimes that before the birth of Jesus, there was 400 years of divine silence. What must the people have wondered during that time?

The promises of God hung in the air, but surely there were many who wondered if they would ever be fulfilled. This song, as you sing it, has the sense of longing that comes along with it. And as we sing it today, in between the two appearances of Jesus, we feel the longing all over again:

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

4. O Holy Night

One of my favorite parts of this song is the truth that the soul is weary, and it is. Not just the soul, but the whole world pines away in sin and error. But in the middle of weariness, we look to the stable and manger and know there is hope born in the most inauspicious of ways. This was a holy night, the night when Though the words are powerful, I chose this one primarily for the music. It’s pretty incredible.

3. O Come All Ye Faithful

I chose this one because of it’s simplicity and familiarity. The chorus reminds us that at the most base levels, what is required of us is to love God with all our hearts, souls, and strength. When we sing, “O come let us adore Him!” we are not only testifying to the worth of Jesus, we are exhorting and encouraging each other to come back to the heart of all of life. We were meant to adore Jesus, and for everything else to flow from that adoration. May it be so.

2. Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Unlike the previous entries, these last two have a faster tempo, which I love. Whenever I hear “Hark the Herald” I think about what it must have been like for the shepherds. I mean, seriously – can you imagine the sheer terror of seeing the sky erupt into this chorus of heavenly warrior? Only a quick tempo can match the pace of a racing heart.

This song captures that kind of excitement – that heaven bursted with the refrain. The angels audibly echoed the song of glory to God. And here’s my personal favorite part of the entire song:

Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Immanuel
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Immanuel

1. Joy to the World

To me, it doesn’t get any better than this. Joy to the world… why? Because the Lord has come. The song is a call to embrace the cosmic kingship of Jesus Christ. And for those who believe in Him and the promises of God, the only appropriate response to His coming is pure, unadulterated joy. With His coming we see the reversal of the curse of sin that has infiltrated every corner of our existence. With Jesus, all the bad things come untrue:

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found.

So what about you? You want to pick a fight about this list?

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