If your Christmas playlist needs another voice—someone besides Mariah Carey to get you in the spirit of the season—there are plenty of varieties of carols, hymns, and festive tunes to choose from.
Even the newest Christian Christmas albums offer a shiny array, from jazzed-up classics and sing-along worship songs to haunting seasonal reflections.
Here are six recent releases that have earned their place among our beloved favorites. (And check out this Spotify playlist to hear all the recommendations from the picks below.)
Fragile by Nichole Nordeman
This is not an album that candy-coats the holidays. Nichole Nordeman’s title track “Fragile” is an intelligently woven medley that wistfully draws the favorite carol “What Child Is This?” into conversation with Sting’s “Fragile.” The result is a remarkably fresh version of this age-old tune and particularly relevant to contemporary life. The entire 41 minutes of production is silky smooth, and its movement in mood is sublime. Lyrics dive deep into the struggle with reconciliation and loss: “So I will swallow hard to say this / It might be a little rough / If the world wants peace for Christmas / Might it not begin with us?” But it still finds room for joy as well as plenty of beloved carols in Nordeman’s iconic style, including “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Cue up this album as your soundtrack for drinking cocoa on Christmas Eve and catching up with family while candles flicker in the background. Or, even better, give it to a neighbor to start a conversation about faith, doubt, and life.
Christmas by Phil Wickham
Phil Wickham’s guitar-led Christmas album is the perfect tonic for the frantic Christian contemporary worship leader looking to revamp the carols service. If there’s a time and a place for this kind of cliché, surely Christmas is it. The album offers a wide range from the slightly offbeat or quirky to the atmospheric and even cathedral-appropriate. The real surprise pearls are songs such as “Away in a Manger” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” which become jubilant, singable, and oh-so-cool. These carols are in an ethereal contemporary mood but still traditional enough for Grandma. She’ll never know it’s a new album because Wickham’s versions feel like the way these songs were meant to be sung, with the band’s musicality and the layered vocals producing a timeless sound.
Peace by Audrey Assad
Audrey Assad’s Peace banishes all traditional carol tunes, replaced them with an evocative collection of seven seasonal pieces. An ode to winter, the metaphor hangs heavy on the hearth, so to speak. Assad’s beautiful voice sings out, “You came like a winter snow / Quiet and soft and slow / Falling from the sky in the night / To the earth below.” There’s a lot of beauty in this project spurring listeners to think through the way winter might testify to God’s gift in Jesus. The reflective song “Your Peace Will Make Us One” also rings out in singable, happy solidarity into the cold night air. For those in the Northern hemisphere, at least, embarking into this kind of contextual theology makes sense. And for the rest of us in the Southern hemisphere, we will just happily pretend. Who doesn’t love snow?
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Source: Christianity Today