Paul Baloche on the songs of Christmas Worship
Paul Baloche writes about the heart, message and music behind his new album, Christmas Worship, out from Integrity Music
About the project: The overall concept of the Christmas Worship album was to take classic Christmas carols and combine them with modern worship choruses to help facilitate a "singing your prayers" style of worship throughout the Christmas season. Most Christmas carols speak about the Lord, but don't necessarily facilitate a "to the Lord" experience. A third of the songs take a classic hymn/carol and combine it with a familiar worship chorus. Another third take familiar choruses with rewritten verse lyrics to reflect the Christmas season. The final third are brand new, original songs to help facilitate congregational worship during the Christmas season.
"Hark the Herald Angels Sing/King of Heaven" combines the rich content found in the classic hymn, as if we're inhaling great theology. And then the "exhale" is the simple chorus "King of Heaven" that allows us to respond vertically to the content that we've just sung together as a community.
"Oh Come All Ye Faithful" stays fairly true to the original hymn with an Americana style/production, taking us into the outro/refrain "We Adore You"- a song that was originally featured on a PBS Christmas special a few years ago. An added feature is that the song includes a choir from the Newark, N.J./New York City area. They helped take the simple chorus to a whole other level of worship.
"Angels We Have Heard on High" starts off with an acoustic guitar, musical interlude, and then brings us into a modern folk rendition of "Angels We Have Heard on High," pointing us to a new vertical refrain that churches can sing entitled "Deo." This is a fun, stomp your foot kind of worship experience.
"Offering" was also featured a few years ago on a PBS Christmas special. It takes the familiar chorus and precedes it with the Christmas story throughout the first verse. Later, we're joined by Onaje Jefferson and the Trinity Christian Center choir. They blew the roof off this one!
"This Is Love" is a brand new composition by Kathryn Scott and I. Kathryn resides in Northern Ireland and is the author of such worship classics as Hungry and At the Foot of the Cross. This is a true collaboration and duet that I could foresee facilitating a candlelight moment in a Christmas Eve service, or a special music moment during the month of December.
"Your Name" is another example of taking a familiar chorus that our congregations sing throughout the year and replacing the original lyric with Christmas content. This allows people to pick up the song quickly by singing new words to a familiar melody and then confidently singing out a chorus that they recognize.
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"Follow That Star" is a song written by my wife, Rita, and was featured on the Saddleback Christmas project a few years ago. Of all the songs on the album, this would best address those who show up at Christmastime searching or seeking. Referring to the wise men, it addresses the big questions of life like: "What's this longing in my heart? What's the reason for my life?" And the chorus points people to the morning star, Jesus Christ. It was such a bonus to have Aaron Shust join me on this version.
"Joy To the World/Shout For Joy" is a high energy, rock-infused version of the classic carol "Joy to the World," taking us into a chorus titled "Shout For Joy" that was written by Jason Ingram, Lincoln Brewster and myself. This is probably the most high-energy song on the project. I could see a "kid's version" of this with a kid's choir yelling "Shout! for joy!"
"What Can I Do" is a familiar chorus that Graham Kendrick wrote a few years ago. We both felt like the chorus was a perfect response to the Christmas narrative. Referring to "What can I do? What can I do but thank you… and to live for you." As the wise men brought gifts, so we are provoked to bring the gift of ourselves to Him. We rewrote both verses over the course of a month exchanging over a hundred e-mails. We really tried to distill the Christmas story, God's story, in the verses, leading us to the chorus response, "What can I do, but give my life to you. Hallelujah."
"Prepare Him Room" is another original song written by my wife Rita that beautifully invites us to prepare our hearts and make more room for Christ in our hearts during this very busy season and to point us to the true meaning of this holiday that we enjoy.
"Oh Come Emmanuel" is one of my favorite Christmas carols. There's such a melancholy and a longing in the melody and lyrics. As the Israelites were crying out for their Messiah to come and deliver them, many of us and those in our churches can relate to that sense of longing and desire for God to come and be present in our lives. There are two new verses added to this song, as well.