I know, I know – it’s October.
But besides being one of the weirdos who enjoys Christmas music year-round, I know that Christmas always creeps up on worship pastors suddenly. Since my other song round-ups (especially Top 20 Easter Songs, Fast Songs for Worship, and Top Worship Songs of 2014… So Far) have been so popular, I figured I’d try compiling a list of songs that could be used for worship during the Christmas season.
The songs below are in no particular order. Some are classic Christmas carols that have endured hundreds and hundreds of years; others are modern classics that you may not have considered utilizing for a Christmas set. I pray that this list inspires you and serves you well.
Also, if there is a song not listed here that can translate effectively for use in an Advent or Christmas worship set, please leave a comment below! Let the list grow!
Waiting Here for You
as heard on “Passion: Here for You” by Passion
Composed by Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, and Martin Smith
A song that is powerful in its own right, “Waiting Here for You” may be the Advent song you’ve been searching for. Each verse is easily applicable for a Christmas context, and the chorus rings out with an especially majestic, “Waiting here for You / With our hands lifted high in praise / And it’s You we adore / Singing alleluia.”
as heard on “A Timeless Christmas” by Israel Houghton & New Breed
Composed by Israel Houghton and Luther Haynes
This Gospel rendition of ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’ is intricate, tight, and magical. I love this song! Bear in mind, it is an Israel Houghton song, so it will give you a run for your money musically, but if your church can pull it off, you totally should.
as heard on “Ring the Bells” by Travis Cottrell
Composed by David Moffitt and Travis Cottrell
Lyrically excellent. Musically simple to execute. Vocally powerful. Everything about this majestic modern-day hymn is incredible. I cannot stress enough how perfect this song is for any Christmas worship set – or any worship set, for that matter.
as heard on “Place of Freedom” by Highlands Worship
Composed by Justin Bradshaw
Highlands Worship tends to fly under the radar, which surprises me because they release some astounding anthems of worship! “Emmanuel” is a song that can work year-round, including the holiday season. While the first verse is especially translatable for Christmas, I personally love the chorus that outlines the character of our great and gracious King.
O Holy Night
as heard on “O Holy Night” by Gateway Worship
Composed by Adolphe Charles Adam, John Sullivan Dwight, and Placide Cappeau
What would a Christmas carol medley contain if not for everyone’s favorite, “O Holy Night”? Undeniably powerful – and those lyrics, man! One of my favorite versions of this sacred classic is by Gateway Worship, delivered by Rebecca Pfortmiller and spanning over two octaves – well over what the already demanding song requires! You’ve got to listen to it to believe it!
Here I Am to Worship
as heard on “Here I Am to Worship” by Tim Hughes
Composed by Tim Hughes
Bet you didn’t think of this one as a Christmas tune! But think about it… “Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness / Opened my eyes, let me see / Beauty that made this heart adore You / Hope of a life spent with You.” And that famous chorus is a wonderful response for those who gather around the Christ Child’s cradle in wonder. Perhaps it would do nicely to transition from the chorus into “O come let us adore Him / O come let us adore Him / O come let us adore Him / Christ the Lord!” Just a thought.
King of Heaven
as heard on “Zion” by Hillsong UNITED
Composed by Matt Crocker, Ryan Taubert, and Salomon Ligthelm
This song is meant for Christmas! “You tore the night apart / And ripped the silent skies in half / Your glory breaking through the dark / And here our worlds collide / Divinity in man confined,” and it goes on in verse 2 to say, “You hold the ends of time / Yet place Yourself here into mine.” The chorus is simply a beautiful and reverent cry of “Emmanuel, God with us!” And that bridge.. don’t get me started! Just promise me that you’ll do this one for a Christmas worship set.
All This Glory
as heard on “Passion: White Flag” by Passion
Composed by David Crowder and Louie Giglio
An upbeat Advent song your church probably isn’t expecting! Feel free to make this one folky and fun. “In the middle of the mess, there is majesty / In the middle of my chest is the King of kings / While the world was waiting on / A change to come along / Light broke in, coming like a song.”
O Come, All Ye Faithful
as heard on “We Have a Saviour” by Hillsong Worship
Composed by C. Frederick Oakeley and John Francis Wade
Another beloved Christmas classic.. one that’s simply begging for worship pastors round the world to incorporate it into their worship sets. Come, let us adore Christ the Lord!
God of Wonders
as heard on “Offerings II: All I Have to Give” by Third Day
Composed by Marc Byrd and Steven Hindalong
Maybe it’s just because this classic oldie has been on my heart lately, but there’s something profoundly meaningful about singing such an ancient yet timeless refrain (“God of wonders beyond our galaxy, You are holy”) to a sleeping infant in a manger. Jesus – the fullness of God wrapped in humanity!
Angels From the Realms of Glory
Composed by Henry Thomas Smart and James Montgomery
It’s easy to confuse this song with “Angels We Have Heard on High” (in fact, many renditions feature the lyrics of this song with the melody of the other), but this is noteworthy in its own right, albeit a little lesser known. This classic in the public domain shouts out a glorious refrain: “Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the newborn King!”
Be Born in Me (Mary)
as heard on “Music Inspired by the Story” by Francesca Battistelli
Composed by Bernie Herms and Nichole Nordeman
Okay, maybe this one is not compatible for congregational worship, but do yourself a favor and utilize this song as a “special” during an offering or an intimate part of the service. As the song is from the perspective of Mary, this is perfect for you female worship pastors and leaders out there! And the lyrics… I could post every single line here; each is seriously that good. If you don’t do another Christmas song on this list, please do this one.
Glory to God Forever
as heard on “Hope Rising” by Fee
Composed by Steve Fee and Vicky Beeching
Many churches round the world have already latched onto this great song as a go-to for their Christmas sets, but if you haven’t thought of doing so yet, then I’m glad you found this list! This can be a fun service-opener for an Advent service or even for your Christmas service, and the chorus echoes the angels’ song on that Christmas evening so long ago, “Glory to God in the highest!”
Come to Jesus
as heard on “Hope Will Rise” by Warr Acres
Composed by Lael Ewing
What a powerful song, seriously! This is a great call to worship, and it beautifully portrays the blend of outcasts, the scarred, the broken, and the desperate gathering around to worship their Lord and find His salvation. This song, depending on the key, does call for some vocal aerobics, even though the song leader Kristy Starling makes it sound effortless! Perhaps this is another opportunity to weave “O come let us adore Him / O come let us adore Him / O come let us adore Him / Christ the Lord” into a song. Check it out!
as heard on “Hope” by Hillsong Worship
Composed by Reuben Morgan
A very simple, singable song with lyrics that sound as if they were written specifically for Christmas. And the versatility – it could be built up with drums and synths, or it could be stripped down to a gentle acoustic sound. (And listen to my homegirl Darlene Zschech belt that high D again and again with ease.)
Where Are You Now
as heard on “Not Guilty Anymore” by Aaron Keyes
Composed by Aaron Keyes
This song is full of longing, vulnerable emotion, and even pain – an honesty lacking in many of our contemporary worship tunes – and is potentially perfect for your Advent services as your church looks forward to the coming of the Messiah.
Joy to the World
as heard on “The Preacher’s Wife” by Whitney Houston
Composed by George Frideric Handel and Isaac Watts
Everyone knows “Joy to the World,” and everyone loves it. One of my favorite renditions of this beloved Christmas classic is the Gospel-flavored and choir-driven Whitney Houston version. What a great opening or closing to your Christmas or Advent worship set! Note: energy required! If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. :)
Well, my friends, I do hope this serves as resource for you as you are planning your worship sets! Certainly this is not an exhaustive list. What do you think can be added? What has worked for your churches in the past? What Christmas song do you love worshiping along with?
Wishing you an early but very, very magical and wonder-filled Christmas season..