Right before Thanksgiving our family was offered the opportunity to tour the infamously impossible-to-tour Hudsonville Ice Cream Plant. It was awesome — not only because I
could possibly be am definitely their most loyal and ardent fan, but because I was dying to ask about my now-extinct all-time favorite flavor: chocolate chip.
Ken, our tour guide, explained that the vanilla-based variety of chocolate chip was “under-appreciated” in the market. Though I continue to marvel at this sacrilege, I smiled at his nice way of saying “Not enough people liked it” or “Its sales were stinking.” I decided I would try to extend this gentle vocabulary whenever possible.
So this Christmas my heart goes out to those under-appreciated Christmas songs.
You know the ones: they’re lovely and sacred…and therefore not recorded by Mariah Carey and played into infinity on the LITE station at the dentist.
Today I’m unveiling my Top 5.
Five songs that I love. Songs that still my frenetic Christmas spirit. Songs that silence the list-taker and list-maker inside. Songs that deserve our quiet reflection this holiday, in no particular order:
1. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming: I admit that part of my affection for this song stems from my dad’s love for it; yet, when a choir whispers its tune sweet and low, the prophets centuries old seem to join the refrain. Gorgeous.
2. Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella: I love the imagery of this song, especially the end of each verse that is sung softly: “Hush, hush, beautiful is the mother; hush, hush, beautiful is her Son.” After just watching The Nativity Story and wondering afresh at the miracle of a God in swaddling clothes, these lyrics are precious.
3. Once in Royal David’s City: Sung as a triumphant processional, I can barely squeak out all the verses without choking up. Sufjan Stevens does a wonderful upbeat version if you prefer a modern take. The second verse:
“He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all
and his shelter was a stable, and a cradle was a stall
with the poor and mean and lowly, lived on earth our Savior holy.”
4. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: Traditionally an Advent song, Fernando Ortega’s haunting version reminds us of the magnitude of this Gift: “King of Kings, yet born of Mary.” Gives me pause to remember that though we have free access to the Throne, we should “with fear and trembling stand.” He is a Holy God!
5. E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come: I first heard this song at Hope College’s Christmas Vespers in 1993 and fell in love. If you like choirs at Christmas, I’m convinced it will join the ranks with your favorites.
Honorable Mention: Mary Did You Know? Not a hymn or traditional carol, but one deserving our wonder and contemplation. Great version here. These words are amazing:
Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.
What songs make your list this Christmas?