Thursday, March 28, 2013

Top 10 Original Christmas Songs

Okay, I confess. I'm one of those people who pulls out Christmas music early. Like September early. The first cold snap we get (fine, cool snap since I live in Southern California) makes me start thinking about Christmas. And it only gets worse if it rains.

I have a box full of Christmas CD's I can't wait to pull out every year. But I don't let that stop me. Every year, I buy more and more Christmas music.

While I love the old standbys, what sets a CD apart for me are the original songs. These are the songs that very few people have recorded before. They add something special to the discs that draw me back to them year after year.

I tend to listen to Christian music almost exclusively with Christmas music being the exception. Still, that influences my list since all of these artists are Christian artists.

So without further ado....

#10 "One King" - Point of Grace - A Christmas Story
This song is about the journey the wise men took to find the baby Jesus. Set in a minor key, the four ladies of Point of Grace harmonize beautifully as always. They even incorporate a little of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" into the mix. This song is absolutely beautiful to listen to.

#9 "He Has Come" - This Hope - A Cappella Christmas
This Hope is an independent group that stops by my church every couple of years. Their a cappella CD is a Christmas favorite, and all three of the original songs are great. As much as I love the other two, this one tops them because of the joy it expresses at Jesus' birth. It's got a nice tempo to it and they way they echo over each other on the chorus is fun to listen to. I can imagine the shepherds singing something like this after finding the babe in the manger.

#8 "Breath of Heaven" - Amy Grant - Home for Christmas
When this song was released in 1992, it became an instant classic. Amy sings the doubts and worries that Mary might have felt at having been chosen to be the Messiah's mother. It's the first thing that really made Mary human for me. The song is slow with a wonderful orchestra backing up Amy's voice. It makes for a haunting song that stays with you long after you've heard it.

#7 "This Baby" - Steven Curtis Chapman - The Music of Christmas
God became man. Mentally, I know that's what Christmas is about. But I often gloss over what that means. Steven captures that perfectly here with a song that places the ordinary (learning to walk and talk) against the amazing events of His birth (angels singing, new stars in the sky). It opens with a boys choir singing a few lines of "What Child is This" before dissolving into the guitar based pop that has earned Steven so many fans.

#6 "Bethlehem Morning" - Sandi Patty - The Gift Goes On
Sandi Patty and power ballads go together. This one is no exception. It starts slow and quiet but slowly builds to the show stopping finale. The lyrics connect Jesus' first coming with his promise to return again. I have heard other people try to sing it. Accept no substitutes. This is the way the song was meant to be heard.

#5 "A Strange Way to Save the World" - 4Him - Season of Love
If "Breath of Heaven" is Mary's song, this one is Joseph's. A slow ballad, the song finds Joseph pondering the why's of the Christmas story. Why a stable? Why two poor peasants? Not that he's questioning angels, of course. The quartet of guys provide some nice harmonies during the choruses without detracting from the lyrics.

#4 "Tennessee Christmas" - Amy Grant - A Christmas Album
I'm actually surprised at where this song landed. I knew I liked it, but as I was arranging this list, I realized just how much. It's often one I start humming at random times during the year. And this CD is one of the first I pull out every year because of this song. Amy is singing about the joys of being home with family for Christmas. It's a simple, slow song with guitar and strings creating a beautiful background for Amy's voice. It makes me think of snow outside and a family around a warm fire. Not that I've ever experienced a white Christmas in my life. That's the power of the song.

#3 "How Many Kings - downhere - How Many Kings
Actually, this song first showed up on a compilation disc put out by downhere's label, but it became such a hit they recorded a Christmas disc as a result.  The way it truly marvels anew at what God did for us in sending his one and only Son always strikes me each time I hear it and reminds me just how awesome God's love for us truly is.

#2 "Mystery" - Selah - Rose of Bethlehem
This song has a similar theme as the last one.  The mystery of the title is that God would create man knowing He'd have to send Jesus to save us.  The music is dramatic and really truly adds to the appeal of the song.

#1 "Come on, Ring Those Bells" - Evie - Originally on Come on, Ring Those Bells now on Christmas Memories
I have heard this song every Christmas I can remember. Light and upbeat, it's a song of celebration for the birth of Jesus. Nothing heavy or serious. Even the orchestra feels light and bouncy here. All it takes is those first few notes, and I am in the Christmas spirit.

I can't get enough of these songs. I have listened to some of them every year for 20 years of more, and they still remind me of Christmas. Heck, just thinking about them for this list has put me in the Christmas mood.

So if you want something beyond the usual carols, check out one or more of these great songs.

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