Thursday, December 25, 2014

My last blog was a prelude to what this post is all about.  I have been accused of being a bit of a Scrooge.  Far from the truth.  I love Christmas!  My love for Christmas doesn't start until after Thanksgiving though.  Sure, I'll get a few things as gifts for the kids before Thanksgiving, but only if I'm out with Janda.  But, I'm usually waiting until what I believe to be the appropriate season for all things Christmas related.  This is also including my Christmas music playlist.  

Typically, I'll come up with a list that I post to Facebook throughout the Christmas season.  This year, I changed things up.  I wanted more depth to the list.  Something that caused me to work just a little harder than posting what the current song being listened to.  You know, the type of work that causes a little bead of sweat to run down your forehead.  And unlike Lebron melting in an non AC'd arena, I am pushing through the heat of getting this done.  Apparently, I am a little like King James returning to Cleveland as I find myself back in Marysville, WA - home for 21 years.  Speaking of a king, I'll get to the list of Christmas songs for the year.

Christmas Song List 2014 consists of songs with meaning to me.  Creating a list is always a fun task no matter the subject.  But, to compile a list specific to a season narrowed by a prerequisite of emotional significance makes it just that much more difficult.  That said, here is a list of Christmas songs that hopefully shed a little light into why I love this time of year.  Additionally, I hope you can take your own little stroll down memory lane and discover/rediscover what Christmas should and is about.

Growing up, my mother loved Christmas.  To this day, her love for Christmas has grown to new levels I never recall experiencing.  One thing is certain though, Christmas isn't the same without watching a little Rudolph and singing along with Burle Ives.  Song number 1 will always bring memories of sitting down, watching Rudolph and singing, "Holly Jolly Christmas."

Another song invoking those childhood memories isn't my typical desired genre.  Heck, it isn't even from an artist I listen to anymore.  Should I say, I don't listen to them except during Christmas.  Yes, the first ever concert I went to was headlined by this artist.  Yes, they are a very gifted songwriter, musician and singer.  Yes, at one time they were on a constant rotation on my record player (kids, ask your parents what a record player is...and you still won't believe that anything like that existed).  No, I have no reason to not listen to their music other than I just don't enjoy their music.  But, even after a career in music spanning five decades, and a song that maintains it's place on my Christmas play list, Amy Grant's "Tennessee Christmas" will bring me back to the many Christmas' spent in the old farm house I grew up in.

Another song that is older than my kids comes a song I love.  Sure, it made its way onto a couple Amy Grant Christmas albums, but as covers of Michael W. Smith's version.  I'm not sure when this song was originally released, or by whom, but it is the voice of  Mr. Smith that is forever etched in my memory.  I can't say I'd consider it a Christmas song.  However, those who developed the whole "WOW" collection of all things Christian music decided it is indeed a Christmas song and placed it on their 2002 Christmas album.  I must admit that every time I hear the song, I do immediately think Christmas.  For a simple song with minimal lyrics, "Emmanuel" says more than anything I could ever say.

Next up on this list is a classic.  Song yearly by many generations and in various settings, this song tells a story.  It wasn't until this past Sunday that I learned of the whole evolution of this song.  Had I not been attending church with my brother at his church, I can't say I'd have learned of the depth of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and all that surrounds the song.  Of all the versions you can listen to (and there are many I enjoy) The Civil Wars take on the song captures the chant feel that was a part of the songs centuries old start.

As I deliberated how to mix the flow of the songs, and how best to transition from old to new(er) songs, I soon realized there was no way to have a brilliant segue.  Thankfully, Joy Williams and John Paul White have made that transition much easier.  Hopefully, your still moved by their take on the fourth song.  If you are still moved, then please, go grab a tissue or two for song number five.  I know, these are only Christmas songs, but when you can have a song made into a movie, have said movie debut on The Hallmark Channel and suddenly find your song topping charts across the nation with no regard for genre/market/format, then you have done something right.  That something right came in the heart grabbing, tear jerking original from the guys in Newsong.  "The Christmas Shoes" stirred emotion in me the first time I heard it.  That was the same year I had the privilege to perform a human video for that song with Ethan for our churches kids performance.  Fast forward to 2011 - I was looking a the real possibility of celebrating my last Christmas with my family.  Cancer is a scary word and a scarier reality to live with.  To this day, I cry every time I hear Newsong's original.  So many artists have their own version that I enjoy, but none of them get to me like the original.

Another favorite of mine does take us back to my high school days.  And yes, that does mean this isn't an exactly new song.  But as you search for your favorite version of "Mary Did You Know" your sure to find artists from original artist Michael English to Pentatonix's newest version, or one of several from Mark Lowry to even Cee Lo Green.  Yet, I have always enjoyed listening to the version from Christian hard rockers Spoken.  Yes, guys used to rockin on stage show their softer side and it is a beautiful sound.  Even more beautiful than the sound is the message of the song.  I often wonder about the emotions Mary went through, and this song captures the questions I'm sure some of which were asked by Mary and, yes, even Joseph.

Another song that I absolutely have to listen to at least a half dozen times is actually a cover by a group of guys I listen to periodically.  Of course, the irony in the song is that it is a cover from a group of guys.  "All I want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey is a good song.  When a group of guys cover the song, and I find it better than her version - genius.  Thank you, House of Heroes, for making every Christmas with this song that much better.

My next to last must listen to song in this list has quickly become a family favorite.  The mark of many artists from years ago was their ability to tell a story in the song.  Not many artists today are able to do that.  I don't know if many artists even try.  But one group captured the story telling ability in this one song.  Capital Lights, though no longer together, have forever captured Christmas popularity with "His Favorite Christmas Story."  At first listen, you might hear a catchy little tune and miss the story.  Go ahead and give it a good listen a couple times through and you'll hear of a love story that was sadly missed by two people in the right place at the unfortunate wrong time.  You might need a tissue for this one too.

Finally, to end this long list for eight songs, I bring you the reason for Christmas.  In between the hustle to buy gifts, eat food, spend with family and for many others to miss their lost loved ones, there is really one reason to celebrate Christmas.  Relient K has always been a band that can provide catchy tunes.  They have also been one of those bands on my must see bucket list.  And then they came out with "I Celebrate the Day."  It is a song that stirs my thoughts and motives as to what I'm doing, and what I'm teaching my kids every Christmas.  And, am I really celebrating a season, a day, or more?

That's it!  Eight staple songs on my Christmas playlist.  Eight songs that mean more to me than most songs.  Songs that speak life to me.  I pray they have blessed you.  Mostly, I pray that as you celebrate Christmas this year, you reflect on what you are celebrating and why you celebrate.  May you find a joy that words can't explain, and a contentment that no matter what you go through, God is in control.

Merry Christmas!

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