Jon Gardner Voice-Overs, Christmas music

Christmastime is a study in contrasts. For many, there is an elevated sense of kindness, joy, generosity and togetherness. For others, it is a season of loneliness and emotional pain. It is inextricably both. Like many people, I have been in both places, often at the same time. I don’t have any great pearls of wisdom to offer on that account, I just want to acknowledge that it is so, and in that context, share with you my list of the 9 best Christmas songs you may not have heard.

These are songs which offer hope, encouragement and celebrate the joy that the Christmas season can hold for us if we embrace the gifts we have been given.

Don’t hesitate to click the links; they only take you to YouTube videos, they aren’t going to try to sell you anything. Well, you may have to click past a pre-roll spot or two; I have no control over that. Yes, I know that some of these songs have been done by other people. The versions I mention are merely the ones on my Christmas playlist this year. In my opinion, every one of these are a step above the typical holiday fare, both musically and in meaning.

1.

I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day – Casting Crowns
A modern take on an old song. To me, this version is beautiful, powerful and moving.

This song comes with a fascinating backstory that is worth reading about. And, okay, you might have heard this one before, since it has been around since poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words in 1863 in the midst of the pain and suffering of the American Civil War. Writing on a Christmas theme, the black reality of the time floods in as he writes these words:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Why do those words sound so damn familiar today?

2.

Christmas Card – Steven Curtis Chapman
Full of understanding, compassion and hope. Lots of hope.

Christmas lights and decorations everywhere you turn
But all you feel inside is dark and gray
There may be joy for all the world but is there any joy for you?
Hold on, Love is looking for a way
Hold on, I believe it’s why love came

3.

Christmas Everyday – Unspoken
What a catchy tune, and a message we all need to hear over and over.

Tell me why do we wait 364 days
To slow down and stop
Remember how blessed we are
So we’re trading in the wish lists
All the things we never needed
Let love fill up our hearts
All year, we should remember
Remember how blessed we are

4.

Don’t Save it All for Christmas Day – Avalon
This is in a similar vein to Christmas Everyday. I know Celine Dion recorded a version of this song, but this is the version I am listening to.

Don’t get so busy that you miss
Giving just a little kiss to the ones you love
Don’t even wait a little while
To give them just a little smile, a little is enough

5.

Our Lullaby – MercyMe
This lilting tune is just… pretty and sweet. And what says Christmas better than steel guitar? It makes me smile.

6.

Somewhere In Your Silent Night – Casting Crowns
Another song that recognizes that the season isn’t a magical fantasy for everyone, and shares hope in the midst of it.

Somewhere in your silent night
Heaven hears the song your broken heart has cried
Hope is here, just lift your head
For love has come to find you
Somewhere in your silent night

7.

Heaven Everywhere – Francesca Battistelli
A simple, catchy tune that I can’t get out of my head (fair warning!). Celebrative and healing.

It’s the smile on a man who has finally found hope
It’s the tears of a mother whose child has come home
It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There’s a little bit of Heaven everywhere
There’s a little bit of Heaven everywhere

8.

What a Glorious Night – Sidewalk Prophets
I was a bit confused when I first heard this song because it begins with Linus (voiced by Christopher O’Shea, the one and only voice-over reference in this post) from A Charlie Brown Christmas in the much loved passage where he explains the meaning of Christmas. The tune that follows is a simple, up tempo, catchy celebration of the birth of Jesus.

9.

A Strange Way To Save The World – 4Him
Last, but definitely not least. In fact, one of the most beautiful Christmas songs I have ever heard. The song tells the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of Joseph, who is being asked to be father to a baby who is not his— and who is supposed to be king. Yeah, I would have a few questions too.

To think of how it could have been
If Jesus had come as He deserved

There would have been no Bethlehem
No lowly shepherds at His birth
But Joseph knew the reason
Love had to reach so far
And as he held the Savior in his arms
He must have thought, Why me?

Those are the 9 songs I wanted to share with you. I hope that at least one of them adds something good to your holiday season.

One last thing

Before we part, I want you to go back with me to the first song I mentioned and those powerful words written during the Civil War.

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Longfellow was a man devastated not only by the war, but from losing his wife the previous year in a fire in which he was himself severely burned, and by a severe war injury to his son. On Christmas day the previous year, he wrote, “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

Gladly, his story, and the poem, doesn’t end there. He comes to the conclusion that no matter how bad things are, the truth of Christmas and the God he believes in does not change, and there is always hope even when we can’t see it. He reassures himself, and us, with these triumphant words:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I will leave you with that. May you know peace, no matter your circumstances. I pray joy and happiness will relentlessly pursue you the rest of your days. Merry Christmas.

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4 Responses

  1. Agree Paul – I was sent off in a reverie of England’s 900 year history of choral music at Salisbury Cathedral. I’m not quite that old but I fell in love with church music and especially Christmas carols at a young age. It;s a joy to listen to Christmas carols at this time of year. As to your selection, Jon, I remember touring the North East listening to Country and Classic it’s a great combo!

  2. Your writing and thoughts have a way of making me very deliberately wait until I can read it undisturbed, or drop everything going on to sit and read intently. You always deliver on something cerebral and reflective. I really like that in your writing. I WILL be taking the time to listen to these songs.

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