Blogger Shannan Baker is a postdoctoral fellow in music and digital humanities at Baylor University, where she recently finished her Ph.D. in Church Music (2022). She is a member of The Center for Congregational Song’s blog team.
Each year after Thanksgiving, Christmas songs inundate the ears of churchgoers and radio listeners. Some of these songs mention the “reason for the season,” and others sing about snow and other aspects of winter. A few songs have become the church Christmas staples, such as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Away in a Manger,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” or “Joy to the World.” A few advent songs may also be sung, such as “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” or “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”
While I still love to sing the classics, a few other songs have established themselves in my regular Christmas listening. This post is to share some reflections on three of these songs from the artist Sovereign Grace Music. While this year’s services are likely already planned, maybe these reflections will provide you with some new options for the next Christmas season!
O Come All You Unfaithful
“O Come All You Unfaithful” is a riff on the Christmas classic “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Sovereign Grace has provided videos that discuss why they wrote the song and the depth of the lyrics that invite those who have not been faithful to come and behold what God has done for us. While each verse details different struggles and the brokenness and pain that go with them, the aspect of this song that is most powerful is the chorus. “Christ is born, Christ is born, Christ is born for you.” It’s a fairly simple chorus. One repeated phrase, but it leads to an ending that is a turn from other Christmas songs. Most Christmas songs focus on the different aspects of Christ’s birth: who was there, what was sung, where the birth happened. “O Come All You Unfaithful” shifts the focus. Why was Christ born? He was born for you. This phrase is not often heard. More commonly, we say, “Christ died for you.” The aspect of this song that is most meaningful for me is that after detailing the struggles that people go through, the reminder is that Christ chose to come into this world, into our pain, into our struggles. The cross does not happen without the birth of Christ. As much as Christ died for you, Christ was born for you. When we have nothing to give, Christ becomes our offering, and we find our hope in Him.
Who Would Have Dreamed
“Who Would Have Dreamed” is more like a typical Christmas song. It begins with detailing where the birth took place and the anticipation that Israel had for their coming Messiah. Yet the song takes a spin and emphasizes the unexpected nature and hope of the coming of Christ. The chorus starts with the question: “Who would have dreamed or ever foreseen that we could hold God in our hands?” What a mystery that God became incarnate, that Jesus took on flesh and became like one of us. How often do we stop to think about how incredible it is that not only did God have a plan to pay for all our sins but that this plan involved God physically coming into our broken world? Jesus is a person who was held and hugged and would grow up to touch and heal people. Verse 3 of the song provides more depth to the purpose of Jesus’ coming: “He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse,” which concludes with what this means for us, “So we can be daughters and sons.” Jesus was born for us, died for us, and rose for us to have eternal life and to be adopted into God’s family. God’s plan is “to save the world,” and He fulfills His promise in the most unexpected way: Immanuel.
He Who is Mighty
“He Who is Mighty” interweaves different Scripture phrases with Mary’s Song from Luke 1:46-55. While it references Christ’s birth and uses Mary’s words specifically, I first heard this song not during the Christmas season but in the middle of the summer. The first verse includes the phrase “Born was the Cornerstone,” and I remember thinking, is this a Christmas song? Yet, as we continued singing the song, it provided a rich picture of the Gospel rooted in the beginning at Christmas with the birth of Christ. The chorus uses the words of Mary’s song, and it becomes our song: “He who is mighty has done a great thing / taken on flesh, conquered death’s sting.” While Mary may not have known how God’s promise would unfold through her child, we can sing her words with the cross in mind. The bridge then becomes her song in a different light: “My soul magnifies the Lord / I rejoice in the God who saves / I will trust His unfailing love / I will sing His praises all my days.” While we often only sing Christmas songs during the days leading up to Christmas, I wonder if Christmas would ring differently in our ears if we were reminded throughout the year of the incarnation. God’s plan of salvation in Christ begins at the birth of Jesus. God’s mighty acts are sung year-round, and Jesus coming into the world is one of those miraculous acts that led to the cross, the resurrection, and the hope we have while waiting for His return.
Maybe you already knew about these three songs, or perhaps they are new to you. Either way, I hope that through my reflections, you will find joy and hope in these non-classic Christmas songs. If you are interested in using these songs in your church, Sovereign Grace provides free music resources for all their songs on sovereigngracemusic.com.
Whether you use these songs in a worship service or cycle them into your regular listening, I pray that you will find peace and encouragement in the truths of the Gospel this Christmas season. Christ was born for you.