Chris Tomlin on the real heart of Christmas: 'Come and see what God has done'

Worship leader Chris Tomlin has released his second Christmas album, Adore. We caught up with him to hear what it's all about.

Tell me about Adore – you've released a Christmas album before, what made you want to do another?

Yeah, this is our second Christmas album, our first one was Glory in the Highest, which – and I say this all the time – is my favourite record we've ever recorded. Out of the 10 or 11 albums I've done, I've always loved that one. I love Christmas music, I love songs around Christmas, and I wanted to do something different.

When we set out six years ago to make Glory in the Highest, I wanted to give it that live worship feel. I'd not heard a Christmas record done that way, so we recorded in an old church in Nashville with about 300 people, and it was really simply produced. It was all around the heart of the birth of Jesus, the worship of Christ, and so I always said if I get chance to do it again, I'd love to. Now six years have passed, and we did Adore in the same way – I loved the way it felt and the simplicity of it; you get wrapped up in a sea of people, rather than just an artist. We recorded in the same church, with 200-300 friends again, and I wrote a lot of original songs for this album and also took some of the standard ones – Silent Night, Away in a Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem are all mixed in there as well.

How are you able to write new songs and approach Christmas with a fresh perspective?

You'd think that Christmas is so confining; it's one story and everybody knows it. But I find that creativity and inspiration comes out of defying the limitations of that story. This is the greatest moment in the history of the world; whatever side you take on Jesus, it doesn't matter. It changed the world.

And there's something about this season – it's the only one with it's own genre of music, which is pretty special, and so the songs just flow. It was very easy for me, I probably wrote more songs for this album than I would for a normal record. It was really fun to put together, everybody loves the spirit of Christmas. It brings such a grace, love and joy in your heart. I had a lot of fun writing for it.

What's your favourite track?

That's hard, honestly I love every song on the record. The one that stands out, though, is Noel. Lauren Daigle sings – I love it because I don't sing on it – and it's so special, she carries the song so well. There's a haunting melody and a line in the chorus that goes: "Noel, Noel. Come and see what God has done". When you think about the Christmas story, you think of the manger, the baby Jesus, and the shepherds, but the story is really "come and see what God has done". This is not just one moment in time, it's been God's plan for all of eternity. This is big. He didn't come with fanfare, but came in a lowly, humble way as if to say "I'm coming for all of humanity, and reaching to the lowest place". That's powerful, and it's at the heart of the Christmas story.

With Christmas being increasingly commercialised, and the heart of the Christmas story being lost for a lot of people, do you hope those who listen to the album will connect to Jesus in a new way?

Yeah, that's the whole take away for the record, really – that lyric: Come and see what God has done. He's invited you to come, and from the start to the end of the album, all the songs are saying the same thing. Come and see what God has done.

You've just finished the huge Love Ran Red tour. Is there a difference between leading worship and leading a set performance?

It's interesting, because on tour you're creating an experience, and you have a flow, but it's really the same thing – honestly, I'm just trying to create a flow of songs that help people on a journey, whether that's on a Sunday morning at church, or on stage. It's the same thing, trying to get people to a moment, a connection with God. It's always the same heart; trying to get people to a place of experiencing the grace of God, the cross, and the greatness of God, whether it's at a concert with big lights or in church with just a guitar.

And you're going on tour with this album in December. What can people expect?

Yeah we're going to do a few dates, I'm taking Crowder and Lauren Daigle, so if people hear the song Noel, that's what's coming! It will be different than a normal Christmas show; it will be all of us singing together about the beauty of what Jesus has done. It's been years since I've done a Christmas tour, and there's nothing like it. I can't wait.

You're obviously passionate about sharing your faith through music, is there a message you particularly want to share at the moment?

In terms of music, this year it's been the lyric "love ran red", which comes from a song called At the Cross. For me, it's one of the most special songs I've ever been a part of. It's sharing that the only reason we're talking today, the only reason any music is ever made, the only reason for the Church, the only reason that we gather together, is the Cross. It's as simple as that and it's as powerful as that. There is a place you can come to that is full of grace and mercy, where sin, guilt and shame are made powerless, and where you're forgiven. That's been the crux, the cornerstone of this last tour for me.

Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship is available now