Different Songs for Different Seasons of the Church Year

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to a gathering of (mostly) Anglican worship leaders, many of whom did not grow up in a liturgical church. I was asked to share on the rhythm and progression of the church year and suggest different songs that work well during different seasons.

I thought it might be helpful to share my notes here.

Guiding principle:
If the point of the church year is to point people to Jesus, then the point of the songs we sing during these seasons is to point people to Jesus.

How observing the church year in the songs you sing can be helpful
It helps you get out of ruts. If all 52 Sundays out of the year are just regular Sundays, you’re bound to get bored and so is your congregation. Observing the church year, telling the story of Jesus, can help you get in different gears and experience different kinds of services.

Songs that await Jesus’ coming again/heaven.
Songs that focus on his first coming.
Not Christmas songs yet!

1. Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending
2. O Come O Come Emmanuel
3. There is a Higher Throne (Getty)
4. Lord, We Wait (Townend/Getty)
5. How Long? (Townend)
6. How Long? (Andrew Peterson)
7. From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable (Townend)
8. Soon (Hillsong / Brooke Ligertwood)
9. All to Us (Passion, on my church’s CD)
10. Creation Sings (Townend/Getty)
11. Glorious and Mighty (Sovereign Grace)
12. There is a Redeemer (Keith Green)
13. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
14. Jesus Shall Reign
15. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (vs 4 especially, on my church’s CD)

Lessons and Carols
See this post from two years ago.

Avoid sentimentality at all costs
People want to sing carols on Christmas
But people have been hearing them in Target and on car commercials
Look at older wording of hymns. Usually stronger theology.
Wait until Christmas Eve to sing Christmas songs. It’s supposed to make people want it!

Not a season most churches emphasize that much
Songs that focus on the Kingship of Jesus
Cardiphonia.org has tons of great suggestions

Too many people view Lent as a season to refrain from chocolate in order to suffer a little bit and prove to God they really love him, but they feel guilty when they eat chocolate and wonder if God now doubts how much they love him, so they just give up and feel weak and gain weight and feel even more guilty and like God is disappointed.

This is not the point of Lent. If Lent points to Jesus, then the songs should point to Jesus.

A time to paint a huge picture of God’s holiness, our sinfulness, and Jesus’ saving grace.

No alleluias in most liturgical churches during Lent.

Here’s a list of songs that follow an Isaiah 6 trajectory — seeing God’s holiness, our sinfulness, our need for atonement, and God’s gracious extension of mercy and pardon through Jesus.

1. Holy, Holy, Holy
2. Holy (What Heart Can Hold) (Redman)
3. How Great is Our God
4. Holy is the Lord (Tomlin)
5. We Fall Down
6. Immortal, Invisible
7. I Come By the Blood (Sovereign Grace)
8. Jesus, Thank You (Sovereign Grace)
9. How Deep the Father’s Love (Townend)
10. Jesus Paid it All
11. You Alone Can Rescue
12. Here is Love (Grace Takes My Sin) (on my church’s CD)
13. Now Why This Fear (on my church’s CD)
14. When I Survey
15. Come You Sinners (Jamie Brown)
16. Jesus, Son of God (Passion)
17. The Power of the Cross
18. And Can it Be
19. Rock of Ages Cleft for Me

Palm Sunday
Give people the experience, in one service, of using the same lips to praise Jesus and to call for the death of Jesus.

Explain what “Hosanna” means

1. All Glory, Laud, and Honor
2. Hosanna (Praise is Rising)
3. Shout to the Lord
4. Majesty
5. Here for You (Passion)
6. Jesus Messiah (Chris Tomlin)
7. The Power of the Cross
8. To See the King of Heaven Fall (Gethsemane) (Townend/Getty)
9. Glory Be to Jesus (old hymn. Do it slowly)
10. My Song is Love Unknown

Hillsong’s “Hosanna” is popular but not very clear…

Don’t waste this opportunity to present the gospel in song
1. Jesus Christ is Risen Today
2. Crown Him with Many Crowns
3. In Christ Alone
4. See What a Morning (Townend/Getty)
5. Christ is Risen (Matt Maher)
6. Mighty to Save
7. Jesus Son of God (Passion)
8. Behold Our God (Sovereign Grace / on the TFCA CD)
9. Hail the Day (on Sovereign Grace’s CD “Risen”)
10. Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks…
11. Before the Throne of God Above
12. You Alone Can Rescue (Matt Redman)

1. All My Fountains (on my church’s CD)
2. Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God (Getty/Townend)
3. O Great God (Sovereign Grace)
4. O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
5. Consuming Fire (There Must be More) (Tim Hughes)
6. Pour Over Me (Stuart Townend)
7. Holy Spirit (Wendell Kimbrough)

And while we’re on the subject of liturgy, here’s the seminar I taught at the 2011 Sovereign Grace Ministries WorshipGod conference on “Thinking Surgically While Leading Liturgically”.

4 thoughts on “Different Songs for Different Seasons of the Church Year”

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