Cameron’s top ten Christmas songs

Over the last three weeks I’ve been to a huge number of carol services, carol sing-a-longs, Christmas parties involving the heavy use of carols, Christmas concerts and, of course, church on the four Sundays of Advent. I can cope with the busy-ness of Christmas. For musical reasons I’m over it for 2008.

Still, while at a community carols night I was at last night I found myself wondering what my favourite Christmas song was. ‘Tis the season to compile top ten lists, so I present to you:

Cameron’s Top Ten Christmas Songs.

The criteria is simple—I looked at the lyrics, tune, presentations I’d heard… and it all comes down to whether or not I like it enough to go in my top ten. They didn’t have to be religious—merely related to Christmas somehow.

So here it is.

10. O Come all ye faithful

This one is a good, traditional, no nonsense Christmas song. The tune is very singable, the lyrics are solid and it doesn’t get old after fifteen carols services.  However, it stands out to me because of an incredible arrangement we have on an accompaniment CD. Christmas Day is one of the few times I’m glad to be without a pianist at our church—we get to sing this version of the song! When we exhort ‘Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation…’ I’m sure the angelic host is actually jealous of the music we have.

9. A starry night

I’ve only heard this song a couple of times. It was written by Joy Webb, a famous Salvation Army sing writer from a few years back. My brother-in-law Colin detests the song, and he told me I’ve got to put it on my list because it’s so horrid. I don’t think it’s that bad, but if it annoys him, it’s got to be good. (Colin’s birthday’s on Christmas Day, so I suspect there are unresolved issues that need to be addressed through copious amounts of carol singing.)

8. O come Immanuel

This is just a really nice song that captures Advent beautifully. It speaks of the hopeful expectation for a Messiah. I heard a Rebecca St James recording of this some time ago, and I’ll find myself humming her version of it some time every Christmas.

7. Mary did you know?

This is a fairly recent song written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry. It ponders exactly what Mary knew about the son she delivered in Bethlehem. The theology is fascinating:

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy
You’ve kissed the face of God?

6. Carol of the birds

There seem to be a few songs by this name, but the one I want to mention is a beautiful song by John Wheeler and William James. It’s a nice break from the usual wintry fare we are expected to sing. Here in the Southern Hemisphere we’re in the middle of summer. Whilst it doesn’t refer to Jesus at all, every time I sing it I can’t help but think that Jesus came for all creation, not just humans. You can find the lyrics to this song here: Carol of the Birds.

5. Carol of the drum

This one is better known as ‘The Little Drummer Boy.’ It brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it. Few of us have gifts worthy to give a king, but Jesus doesn’t expect us to give gifts we don’t have.

4. Happy Xmas (War is Over)

John Lennon is quite unpopular in many Christian circles. Maybe it was the drugs. Maybe it was the dream that there would be ‘nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.’ Or maybe it was the assertion that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus Christ.

Still, the idea that peace on earth might actually be a good thing for everyone regardless of their skin colour is very attractive.

3. The stable door

Unfortunately this carol isn’t known outside the Salvation Army. It has a hauntingly beautiful tune and some exquisite lyrics.

Open wide the stable door,
Monarchs rich and shepherds poor
Wait to tread the holy floor
Where lies the son of God.
See they bring him gifts of gold,
Tender lambs from Judah’s fold,
As with awe their eyes behold
The infant Son of God.

2. Six white boomers

This is Australia’s answer to ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.’ It might surprise a few people to see it included here, but every time I hear it I think that this has to be the greatest Christmas song ever written. Here’s a link to the song, which is sung (and written) by Rolf Harris.

1. O holy night

This is the one Christmas song I like more than ‘six white boomers.’ The tune is beautiful, and I absolutely love singing it. In fact, it’s probably been the most commonly sung song in my shower this year. There have been many beautiful arrangements and presentations of it over the years. The band arrangement I play of it is a challenge to play, so it never gets boring.

And let’s not forget the lyrics. This has to be one of the best examples of lyric writing I’ve seen in many years. Every time I hear the song I discover something new, and as far as I know it only has three verses.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before the lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before the lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!


So, do you agree with my choices? Are there any I’ve missed out? Are they in the right order? Please let me know what you think, or even try writing your own list and let me know!

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