While Christmas remains a Christian holiday and a powerful public statement of the faith, it has also transcended its religious roots to become a cultural phenomenon. Including its music.
And though some poke fun at radio stations playing Christmas music 24/7 after Halloween, for many it is the only opportunity during the year to hear the Gospel presented.
Songs like O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Hark the Herald Angels Sing are prime examples.
Like these songs, Christian music can offer a sneak peak of heaven, a member of For King & Country said before the recent Dove Awards.
“Someone could be going through a very, very typical thing in their lives, and you can play a song, and it can go for about three minutes and 30 seconds, and all of a sudden, something in that space transforms who they are,” the group’s Luke Smallbone says. “I think that gives you a little bit of a peek into what heaven must be like, because I don’t know anything else that can have that type of impact. No sermon, for the most part, transforms the condition of someone’s soul so quickly.”
Music also helps with spiritual development, he said.
“I think it’s very, very rare when you see someone with a great joy who is singing songs to God, that they are struggling or barely making it,” Smallbone said. “They usually have a joy that is innate, that is indescribable. And I think it’s a spiritual practice.”
During the annual awards show, Grammy-winning artist Jordin Sparks performed “Love Me Like I Am” alongside the Australian duo.
“What is special about this throughline with Christian music is that there’s always an underlying message of hope,” she said. “And there’s always an underlying message of love. And there’s always an underlying message of ‘you can do this,’ and ‘we can get through this together’. Some other genres are very exclusive, but Christian music is about people being in this together. It’s about loving you as you are and coming as you are.”
Moriah Peters Smallbone, wife of For King & Country singer Joel Smallbone, stressed that music serves as a bridge between cultures and people.
“We try to be a bridge, projects that bring cultures and people groups that seemingly have nothing in common together,” she said. “There’s this underlying thread, this consistent message. Unity is incredibly valuable in a time where people are increasingly divided.”
Where Christian music and faith connect is no more evident than at Christmas.
Polls have shown that non-Christians, including atheists, listen to Christmas music with many participating in the holiday.
As for the music, not many artists today are singing Christmas songs with the Gospel boldly proclaimed. You have to go back to the 60s and 70s for much of it.
The Gospel Project published an article listing the best Gospel-centerd Chrsitian music. One example was the Carpenter’s rendition of “Christ is Born.” Writes Tevin Wax, General Editor the Project, “There is a very understated majesty to this song. I really like the line that says, ‘Hear him crying in the manger,’ and then that is juxtaposed by the line ‘King of heaven, Son of God,’ which then leads to the worshipful response ‘Alleluia.’ And you really have the mystery of the incarnation there in a nutshell. You’ve got it described so beautifully with a crying baby in a manger and yet this is the King of heaven, this is God in the flesh, this is the Son of God.”
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice