Why Sing Christmas Songs?

Christmas is coming! Many churches around the globe are singing new and old Christmas songs and hymns this time of year. Some sing more than others, some scrooges toss out the melodies of Christmas altogether (just kidding…kinda). Is this all just based on the preferences of a leader or coming from theological conviction? I seem to get questions or advice regarding the songs we sing more at this time of the year than any other so I decided to write this article to address it.

I’m prone to enjoy the applause of man rather than rest in the approval of Christ so it’s important for me to sort out why I make the decisions I do so that I can be driven by conviction rather than just a feeling. At the end of the day, I’m not attempting to strike some impossible balance between the preferences of those who enjoy the melodies of Christmas while still respecting those who don’t so much. I aim to choose songs that I believe the church needs to sing, not songs that I think the church wants to hear. That might make me sound harsh, but I only have a small window of time with God’s people each week and I want to make it count for eternity. This is a guiding principle for me year-round, not just at Christmas.

So what is a “Christmas song” per se? For the sake of this article, I’ll define Christmas songs as songs that center around the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the implications of His incarnation. It’s really that simple.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus, the second member of the Trinity, left the comforts of heaven’s throne and clothed himself in human flesh. Christ is fully man and fully God simultaneously. This is what theologians call the hypostatic union.

You’re probably thinking, “This all sounds fancy and neat, but why does it really matter?” If Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, some would argue, at least He was a good teacher and an example to be emulated. This argument falls flat as soon as the Scriptures are opened. Jesus Himself claimed to be God. If the incarnation is a farce, then Jesus wouldn’t be a good teacher. He would be, as CS Lewis would conclude, a liar or a lunatic. To put it plainly, if Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, Christianity is a load of garbage. The incarnation is central to our faith as disciples of Jesus.

Not only is the incarnation of Jesus central to our faith, but it should also be central to our wonder and worship. Theologian JI Packer said that the incarnation might be more of a miraculous claim than the atonement or the resurrection. He said, “The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man..and that he took humanity without loss of deity so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as he was human.”

So why would we sing Christmas songs? A better question would be, how could we not sing Christmas songs? How could we not marvel at the news of our Savior’s birth? Even the angels (who were in no need of rescue I might add) burst out in song in front of a few dirty shepherds in a field.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:13-14).

So whether our churches are singing great old Christmas Hymns or newly written ones, we had better sing about the incarnation. Without it, we have nothing, but with it, we have everything.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Share the Platform – 10 Years Series

This is the second post in my blog series entitled, “10 Lessons From 10 Years of Worship Ministry.” If you didn’t catch the last post, you might want to check it out as it sets the stage for this one. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

2. Share the platform.

My buddy Rob is a long-time student pastor. Early in his ministry, he was interested in preaching. As he approached his pastor about it, he was told, “This is my pulpit, Rob.” This is my pulpit? While this is an incredibly arrogant thing to say, there are times that I non-verbally say the same thing. Let me explain.

Leading worship 50 out of 52 Sundays a year is tough. It’s exhausting, right? Standing in front of God’s people prepared to lead them week in and week out, in season and out of season is difficult. What’s more difficult is leading worship 40 out of 52 Sundays. It’s difficult because it means you have to share. It’s difficult because it means you don’t get applauded. It’s difficult because it means you must develop others.

The first five-ish years in ministry I felt so inadequate as a worship leader that most of my brainpower and energy was spent on self-development. While it’s healthy for leaders to constantly get better, I wanted to get better partially for the applause of man that came with it. That was toxic, not healthy. I expected my church to make disciples while I didn’t. I was just like the parent who says to their children, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

“But God gives more grace” (James 4:6).

By God’s grace, I began to give leadership away. I now realize (most days) that I will never arrive as a musician, as a communicator, or as a theologian. Assuming that one must “arrive” before bringing someone else along is a lie that keeps us from making disciples. No one receives enough pre-marital counseling to really be ready for marriage, no married couple reads enough books to be ready for the task of parenting (can I get an “amen”?), and no worship leader leads worship enough to be ready to multiply themselves.

But God, in His kindness, is ready to extend grace that is sufficient for the tasks he calls us to. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). The truth is, my inadequacy only makes the gospel shine brighter (2 Corinthians 12:10). I don’t have to arrive as the perfect worship leader, because there is only one perfect worship leader and he has “Lord of Lords” tattooed down his leg.

Worship leader, the church needs to see that there are many singers, but One Savior, a plurality of leaders, but only One Lord. Sharing the platform can start by giving away a song, a Scripture reading, or a whole service. God calls you to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11). What are you waiting for? Start small, but start somewhere. Share the platform.

Diagnostic Questions:

How many times did you lead worship in the last year? 

Who are you intentionally praying for, preparing, and giving leadership opportunities to? 

Reading Further:

I understand that some of you may have the incredible blessing of not only leading worship but being paid for the task of worship leading. Perhaps like me, you have had leadership above you or around you who have expressed concern that you would have others lead in your place. Rather than bowing to the pressure in a sense of false submission, why don’t you graciously explain your heart for developing others? Perhaps it would be best if you set goals with your pastor or supervisor for how many weekends others could co-lead with you or how many Sundays you could not even touch the microphone. Establishing a healthy worship culture and a culture of development won’t happen overnight, but praying and planning can start right now.

Lead People – 10 Year Series

Over the next couple of months, I am planning to do a blog series that expands on a blog post I wrote entitled “10 Lessons From 10 Years of Worship Leading.” Here’s the first of ten, if God allows (and if my Enneagram 7-ADHD-self doesn’t get bored or distracted and move on to something else).

If I could travel back in time, I would tell the 21-year-old me to get a haircut and some different glasses. I would also say this, “Don’t just focus on leading song, lead people.”

1. Lead people. 

There is a night and day difference between just leading songs and leading people.

I can remember the early days of my worship leadership. I spent hours learning songs, memorizing arrangements, developing and adapting chord charts, and recording sub-par YouTube videos in the guest bedroom of my house. I longed to be excellent and not come across as lazy in my preparation. I was focused. I was diligent. I was…obsessed. I praise God for those early years as I grew exponentially in skill, talent, and vocal control.  Sometimes I’ll go back to an old recording and be amazed at the growth God has brought about. There is much to be said about the importance of developing familiarity and tone with an instrument or your voice, but my approach was lop-sided. You see, I focused a lot of time on song leading, but little time on thinking of how I could leverage every element of the worship service to shepherd the people of God.

When I was 21 years old, leading worship for a new church plant of about 30 people, I was given the title “pastor.” I wouldn’t have been able to articulate this then, but I can tell you that I viewed myself as a worship leader who just so happened to be a pastor rather than a pastor who just so happened to lead worship. More than my young age or lack of experience, it had to do with what I valued.

Peter reminds those of us who have the pastoral responsibility as worship leaders to “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2).

For me as a volunteer and then bi-vocational worship pastor during those early years, I can tell you that I wasn’t in it “for the money.” I thought I was above this exhortation Peter gives as I wasn’t leading for “shameful gain.” The truth is, I was in it for the shameful gain of man’s approval. I was addicted to people telling me how talented I was. I loved getting to be in front of others and for all my hard work of preparation to be seen. I know that I loved Jesus in those early years but I was immature. I was more interested in leading songs than leading people. Sadly, I still am sometimes. Praise God for the grace to repent from simply leading songs to leading (shepherding, serving, and loving) people time and time again. You and I can rest in the approval of Christ and lead people to experience the greatness of God through Christ by the power of the Spirit. Worship leaders, let’s not just lead songs, let’s lead people.

Diagnostic Questions:

Are you spending the bulk of your time prepping your instrument and voice? 

Do you take time to prepare Scriptures and words that you might exhort and encourage God’s people with? 

Do you think about how your songs fit together to lead people in celebrating the gospel or do you just think about flow/feel of songs moving from one key to the next? 

These are just a few questions to ask yourself as you seek to not just lead songs but people.

10 lessons from 10 years of worship leading


As I prepare to wrap up my 10th year in worship ministry, I’ve decided to share 10 different lessons that I have learned.  There have probably been a thousand, but I don’t know anyone besides my mom who would read that. Maybe you are an aspiring worship leader, or you have been in the midst of worship ministry for quite some time.  Whatever the case, I hope this can be a grace to you.


1. Lead people. —Anyone with talent (or in some cases, just a little confidence) can lead a song.  Lead people. Lead them to worship through grief and sorrow, through joy and victory, through the mundane and the apathetic seasons of life.  You get to point people to encounter the greatness of God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lead people.

2. Share the platform. —The church needs to see that there are many singers, but One Savior, a plurality of leaders, but only One Lord.  Sharing the platform can start by giving away a song, a Scripture reading, or a whole service. God calls you to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11).  Share the platform.

3. Substance over style. —When the church gathers, they don’t need you to wow them with your abilities, they need to be wowed by the gospel.  Lead your team and your people to see that Jesus is better than their preferences.  

4. Two words: humble confidence. —Quit trying to sell yourself to people and start pointing people to Jesus. Humility, as C.S. Lewis observed, is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.  In God’s kingdom, we don’t walk with swagger or a limp. Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11). So give up on yourself, place your confidence in Christ and run headlong into the calling set before you.

5. You are a theologian. —Tony Merida said that our songs are portable theology.  The songs you lead are shaping the way people think about God and who He is.  The lyrics you choose to place in the mouths of God’s people will impact all of their lives.  “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” – Gordon Fee

6. You are a child of God. —Before God calls you to ministry, he calls you to intimacy.  Do you want to give the church your best? Before standing up before the congregation to lift your voice, sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his voice.  

7. Sometimes less is more. —I’m all for turning up the sound, pulling out all the stops, and worshipping the Lord with many sounds and instruments. However, sometimes we need to dial it back and remind ourselves and those we are leading that the Scriptures are sufficient to guide our worship.  If you feel like the church can’t worship God without a full-band, you are deceived.

8. You aren’t entitled to your platform. —The only thing you are entitled to is hell.  The only thing that qualifies you for salvation is your sinful need.  Everything you receive in this life is grace. So the next time you step onto your un-earned platform to lead 10 people or 1,000 people in Scripture and song, remember that you are just one beggar telling other beggars where to find bread. 

9. Stand amazed. —When Jesus sent out his disciples in Luke 10, they came back utterly blown away by what God was using them to do.  Jesus told them, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  The source of our amazement is not in what God can accomplish through our gifts and leadership but in what Christ has already accomplished for us through His life, death and resurrection.

10. You’re not the worship leader. —Jesus is the true and better worship leader.  Only he can give people access to God. He lives to make intercession for sinners.  He alone is our great High Priest. By his blood, He leads His people into the presence of God.  Jesus is the Chief Worship Leader.

So there you go, 10 different lessons from 10 years of worship leadership.  I know there’s more. I would love to hear what you would add to this list in the comments below.

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This past weekend my wife and I, put on a garage sale (well, it was more of a driveway sale, but that’s beside the point).  Lauren worked her tail off all week to sort, price, and organize everything that we would sell and I basically was her work horse moving what she wanted where she wanted it.  She asked me to go through my entire closet and pick out clothes that I no longer wear or have need of which is a form of torture for me so I politely passed the buck by saying, “I trust you.”  That was her green light to get after it.  I’ve been so pre-occupied with writing and recording for a new project (more on that coming soon!) and finishing up a couple of online college classes that I was glad to have her sort for me. 

Fast forward to day two of the sale.  It was pretty slow on Saturday morning so Lauren asked if I wouldn’t mind sitting out in the garage where I could work on my paper and keep an eye on the sale (AKA make sure people don’t steal stuff) while she, my mom, and our boys went out and did some shopping.  Side note, it is the weirdest thing selling your stuff as you leave the house to go buy more stuff.  Just saying.

While I was typing away on my computer, a family showed up and began to look through some of my clothes.  As they unfolded them to get a good look at them, I started feeling, well, weird.  It was disheveling seeing a stranger hold up MY clothes to see if they might fit his taste and his dashing figure (see what I did there).  Honestly it was weird because I still felt a since of ownership with those clothes.  I mean those pants and I have been through a lot together.  I slightly felt entitled to them.  Even if I hadn’t worn them in over a year, they were after all, you know, mine.  To give up a pair of my pants for $2, two t-shirts for $0.75, and two dress shirts for a buck a piece felt wrong.  And to top it all off, the lady handed me a $5 bill instead of paying the $5.50 I was due assuming I would just take the $5 and not worry about my two quarters.  Sheesh.  I’m not bitter though.

I jokingly say all of this because I think that we look at many pieces of clothing in our life as things we are entitled to and to give them up for next to nothing makes us feel jaded.  Pastor, perhaps you feel entitled to your church.  Lay minister, perhaps you feel entitled to your program.  Maybe you have worked hard at your career for years, and if you’re being honest, your business card that has your title and position written on it is a huge part of your identity’s makeup. 

In some ways, we need to look at our careers, titles, ministries, positions, and possessions as a t-shirt.  There is a “time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away” (Ecclesiastes 3:6).  Yes.  Please put on your “shirt” and wear it gladly and humbly, but remember, you are as entitled to your shirt as I am to the $.75 cents I got for mine. 

The truth is, there is a greater identity to be had -one that will not be stripped away.  An identity that has been purchased for you and is being eternally kept in heaven for you. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:3-5

confession
Confession: I am reading through the Bible and have been in Leviticus for a week or two. This has been, as you might suspect, the hardest book of the Bible for me to walk through. It’s so easy for me to just say, “This doesn’t even matter anymore. Jesus paid it all. Can’t I just move on?”
So this morning it struck me as I was glazing over Leviticus 14, “The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed…” Anyone else feel my pain here? The struggle is real. As I was inwardly murmuring and faking my way through another time of Bible reading it hit me, “Am I even slightly impressed with the holiness of God?”

God’s chosen people, the Israelites, weren’t murmuring and faking their way through these rituals.  Those who were pursuing God must have been blown away by the opportunity to walk in relationship with a God so holy, so righteous, so mighty, so perfect. Now contrast the perfection, wisdom, and eternality of this holy God with the imperfection, lack of wisdom, and finite existence of man. It should wreck us that God would stoop down to speak with and listen to His people.

As I continued to reflect on the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament with this in view, the Holy Spirit stirred my heart to long for a right view of God. I want to tremble over the holiness of God. I want to weep over my sin. I want to cry over the lavish mercy and grace poured out for sinners like me through the terrible cross of Jesus Christ.
So whether it’s Leviticus or Romans, Numbers or Ephesians, may we tremble as we read God’s Word and stand in awe once again over the relationship God invites us into through Jesus Christ our Lord.

2-core-needs
Sheila Heen, Lecturer at Harvard Law School says that humanity has two core needs.

  1. The need to feel accepted or respected or loved the way we are.
  2. The need to learn and grow.

Christ obliterated need number one.  Get this: In Christ, we are fully known and yet fully loved.  There is no hiding “the real us” from Jesus so that he will like us.  He died a bloody death for us while we were still sinners (that is, enemies of God who were condemned to hell), in order to adopt us as God’s children into God’s forever family (see Rom. 5:8, and 8:15).  *Mind-blown.  

Christ shatters need number two by sealing us with his Holy Spirit.  In the same breath that Jesus loves and accepts us in, he wants to teach us and grow us into something better -namely into his own likeness (see Rom. 8:28-29).  “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).  We are given the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, comfort us in affliction, and compel us to live life on mission (see John 16:8, 2 Cor. 1:4, 5:14).

This is huge.  You are loved and accepted completely in Christ, but you are not left to your own devices.  You aren’t just given a new legal status “not guilty” but ultimately a new identity: son and daughter.  Jesus doesn’t just take away the penalty of sin (death and hell); he crushes the reign of sin (life of obedience).

So now what?

First you need to stop and revel in the love of Jesus.  Stop striving and working FOR the favor of God -or of anyone else for that matter- and start working FROM the favor of God.  When you embrace the love and acceptance that you have in Christ based on his perfection, not yours, you are free to live a life of joy-filled obedience.  There isn’t a time or place to simply sit and sour as a believer in the Lord Jesus, we must work out our “salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).