Ten Worship Leading Essentials at Christmas Time

1Songs have been chosen, arrangements have been written, the copies have been made, rehearsals are happening, and Christmas Eve/Christmas Day is fast approaching.

Being involved in leading worship at Christmas time, especially for the big services with more visitors than usual, and more pressure than most other services during the year, can be stressful, exhausting, and exhilarating.

Here are ten things not to forget this Christmas when you’re standing before your congregation:

1. They want to sing carols. Don’t try to be so creative that you make some of the most singable and familiar songs in the whole world become hard to sing.

2. They need Jesus. Every single person. They don’t need to be wowed or dazzled or impressed by your awesomeness. They need to see Jesus.

3. They’re stressed out. Maybe they’ve wracked up credit-card debt, or they’re hosting a difficult family member, or they’re grieving the loss of a loved one. Give them space.

4. They’ve heard the story before, but they want to hear more. So Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the angels sang and there were some animals around. Is that all there is? Point them to the good news of the gospel, to the person of Jesus, to what God has done for us in Christ.

5. They’ll benefit from your preparation. You’ve been working on some of this music for weeks and months. They’ll sing it and/or hear it once. But God will use your preparation to edify his people.

6. Your identity is in Christ – not in your performance. Maybe you’ll do a great job and get a thousand thank-you emails. Maybe you’ll mess up. Maybe you’ll just do OK. Good news: your identity is in Christ, so you can relax and just do your best and then enjoy Christmas with your family.

7. You’ll need a break. If you’re in the office next week, trying to be productive, you’re most likely crazy.

8. You have a helper and his name is the Holy Spirit. You may feel empty, exhausted, nervous, or a little combination of all of the above. The Holy Spirit is your helper, and your power, and he’s even more concerned that Jesus gets the glory than you are.

9. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. I’m looking forward to the string arrangements, the brass fanfares, the organ postludes, the choir anthems, the band, and all the special stuff we have planned. But the moment I’m looking forward to the most is the nearly acapella version of “Silent Night” that we’ll sing towards the end of our services. Look for those moments in your services when you – and your congregation – can just simply take a deep breath for a few minutes.

10. We are stewards. We all get to do this, and lead these Christmas songs, for a season. And then someday we pass the baton to someone else. Generations from now, a different worship leader will be leading “Joy to the World” with different arrangements (I hope!), different musicians, and a different group of people in the pews. So, let’s be good stewards of the message of Christmas, and proclaim loudly the message that will be sung for all eternity. It really isn’t about us!

O come let us adore Him!

Quick Tips for Surviving Christmas as Worship Leader

How can a worship leader survive the incredibly busy Christmas season? Expectations abound from every angle: from our families, our congregations, and our own hearts.

Some quick tips for worship leaders at Christmas:

Keep looking at Jesus
This is all about him and for him.

Don’t complicate things too much
For the most part, the people coming to your services over the next few days just want to sing carols and hear the Christmas story. Let them!

Ask people to pray for you
Humble yourself and ask for prayer. You need it!

Beware your own expectations
You may find yourself wanting to one-up last year’s services, or prove something to someone, or prove something to yourself. Don’t worry about proving anything. Just point to Jesus.

Remember Christmas will come again
So you might not get everything exactly right this year. There’s always next year. Christmas always comes again.

Listen to this
If this doesn’t make you laugh – and you know you need a laugh right about now – then I don’t know what else will.

Merry Christmas!

What Christmas Reveals

1You can learn a lot about a church’s theology of worship by watching what it does at Christmas time.

If, at center stage, you have the manger, and the Savior who condescended to become sin for us, you can deduce that this church believes that the point of worship is to exalt Christ.

But if, at center stage, you have sentimentality, and all the warm traditions, then you can deduce that this church believes that the point of worship is to be sentimental.

You can have pageants and concerts and Christmas tree lightings that are designed to present the Gospel and exalt Christ, and you can have pageants and concert and Christmas tree lightings that are designed to evoke that “sentimental feeling”. The issue is not what medium the church chooses, but rather what message the church preaches.

What Christmas reveals in churches is what (and whom) they choose to exalt when they sing, or when they have a concert, or when they have an elaborate pageant with real-life donkeys and sheep. And the primary choice for churches and the worship leaders who serve them is whether, at this holiday season, to center themselves and their events and their songs around a manger or around a snow globe.

A manger is dirty. It makes us uncomfortable. It forces us to see that God came down as far as he could, into the smelliness and dirtiness of this world because we couldn’t rescue ourselves from that lowly place even if we tried. And boy do we try.

A snow globe is pretty. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. But after you shake it around for a few minutes, it gets old and loses its novelty. The fake snow hits the ground and you put it back on the shelf until next year when you repeat the same fleeting cycle again.

What Christmas reveals is whether or not your church invites people to look upon a Savior, or look upon a show. The show will last for 2 hours. The Savior will change their life.

Playing Christmas Carols on Acoustic Guitar

This is a little late in the Christmas season for most of you, but I thought I’d post some videos with tips on how to play a few Christmas carols on acoustic guitar. I hope some of this is helpful, although it’s pretty basic and you can’t really see the guitar very well in one of them!

Angels We Have Heard on High: 

Joy to the World:

O Come All Ye Faithful: 

Why is Jesus Worthy of Praise?

In the book of Revelation we’re given a glimpse into worship occurring around God’s throne in heaven. It’s awesome, mysterious, and staggeringly holy.

And Jesus is right in the middle of it.

Revelation 5:11-14 gives this account:

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. 

In John Stott’s The Cross of Christ he talks about the centrality of Jesus, the Lamb, in the book of Revelation’s account of worship in heaven. He writes:

One cannot fail to notice, or to be impressed by, the seer’s repeated and uninhibited coupling of ‘God and the Lamb’. The person he places on an equality with God is the Savior who died for sinners. He depicts him as mediating God’s salvation, sharing God’s throne, receiving God’s worship (the worship due to him) and diffusing God’s light. And his worthiness, which qualifies him for these unique privileges, is due to the fact that he was slain, and by his death procured our salvation.

That last line is key.

“…his worthiness… is due to the fact that he was slain, and by his death procured our salvation.”

Jesus is worthy of praise because he died for us and saved us.

So if Jesus is worthy of praise because he died for us and saved us, how clear is that fact in the songs we’re singing at church this Christmas season? Are we choosing songs, hymns, and carols that help people celebrate the one who came as the “Savior who died for sinners” or songs, hymns, and carols that help people celebrate the Christmas season?

Worship leaders, worship directors, music leaders, choir directors, whatever other title might be bestowed upon the guy or girl who picks songs at a church, must ensure that the opportunity isn’t wasted this Christmas to point people to the cross of Christ, to the suffering servant, to the one who allows us to sing “God and sinners reconciled!”

It’s not too late this year to make sure the words you put on your congregation’s lips declare the good news and proclaim the reason Jesus is worthy of praise.

From “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

From “Joy to the World”:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found…

From “What Child is This” is this refrain that many hymnals omit:

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

All of heaven worships Jesus as the Lamb that was slain. Let’s make sure we do too.

Beautiful Baby Boy

I’ve had several people email me and/or leave a comment asking for the lyrics and chords to the song I mentioned in my last post, “Beautiful Baby Boy”. I’m happy to offer both below.

I wrote this song last year during the Christmas season. I was (obviously) inspired by our daughter Megan who had just been born, marveling at her beauty and preciousness. When Jesus was born I’m sure Mary marveled at the same things. He was a real baby with a pudgy face and soft little lips, after all!

But he was more than a beautiful baby. He was the perfect Lamb of God who, one day, would be offered as a sacrifice in our place, securing our eternal peace with God.

Chord chart

Beautiful Baby Boy
His tiny little hands will be nailed to a tree
His precious little feet will be pierced through for me
And his soft little lips will bless and forgive
Oh beautiful baby boy

His tiny little chest will be whipped and flogged
His precious little head will be stained with his blood
And his soft little cry will beg for my life
Oh beautiful baby boy

Oh beautiful baby boy. Oh holy Lamb of God
Away in a manger lies our perfect sacrifice
Oh beautiful baby boy

His tiny little eyes will seek out the poor
His precious little arms will welcome the whore
And his soft pudgy face is the image of grace
Oh beautiful baby boy

And we were dead in our sins, and we were lost on our own
And we were children of wrath, and we were all without hope
But God rich in mercy, but God great in love
But God full of kindness gave us His only Son

And his soft pudgy face is the image of grace
Oh beautiful baby boy
Written by: Jamie Brown. © 2009 Worthily Magnify Music. Affiliated with CCLI.