Keep Christ in Your Christmas Music Playlist (Even If You Are Not Religious)

Gerard van Honthorst – Adoration of the Shepherds (1622)

For many Americans, Christmas is “The most wonderful time of the year.” The holiday with obvious religious origins and meaning has endured in the increasingly secular world in no small part because of the rich traditions and genuine goodness attached to the festivities. While this secular celebration is lovely and perfectly fine to observe, the religious “reason for the season” and the moral meaning behind many of the traditions should not be forgotten. One of the best ways to preserve and promote the religious and moral aspects of Christmas in the secular world is through the music associated with it.

St. Augustine allegedly said, “Singing is praying twice.” Even if Christianity or religion in general is not your thing, the moral message, inherent beauty, and cultural significance of these songs provide great opportunities for further discussion and will enrich the youth in a unique way. Here are a couple examples of popular Christmas songs, among many, that satisfy this criteria and deserve a spot in anyone’s playlist alongside Rudolph and Frosty.

O Holy Night

This beautiful song is centered around the birth of Jesus but it also highlights the significance of what Jesus and the New Covanant represent as a turning point for the moral progress of mankind. Even secular listeners can reflect on and appreciate the triumph of objectively-derived moral principles taking hold over the “sin and error” of Man operating primarily on selfish motive alone. We will all break the chains of oppression that bind ourselves and others if we willfully “bend” to, and proclaim, His word (love, virtue, righteousness), and have faith in that which is beyond our human understanding alone.

The song did make Billboard’s list, but only at number 68 (Celine Dion version). Nat King Cole’s rendition is excellent and will make a wonderful addition to a playlist. It is not the complete song however, and it is worth studying in its entirety. The lyrics are posted below.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Chorus
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand:
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;
Chorus
He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! your King! before him bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!
Chorus
Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!

‘O Holy Night’ lyrics

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

There are many Christmas songs about the birth of Jesus for obvious reasons and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is a great one. The earliest known printed edition of the song is from 1760 but the song is older, possibly dating back to the 1650s. The song did not make Billboard’s list, but any version is sure to bring listeners comfort and joy.

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this infant lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth efface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ lyrics

Do You Hear What I Hear?

If songs like O Holy Night and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen can be regarded as highlighting the “what” surrounding Jesus for our purposes, then songs like Do You Hear What I Hear? touch on the “how.” Spread the good word and live according to its principles. The reward is “goodness and light,” justice and peace.

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite


Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea


Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
do you know what I know
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold


Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ lyrics

12 Days of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me:
12 Drummers Drumming (12 points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed)
11 Pipers Piping (Disciples of Jesus minus Judas)
10 Lords a Leaping (Ten Commandments)
9 Ladies Dancing (The fruit of the Spirit)
8 Maids a Milking (The eight who were blessed)
7 Swans a Swimming (The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit)
6 Geese a Laying (The six days of creation)
5 Golden Rings (The five books of the Old Testament)
4 Calling Birds (The Four Gospels)
3 French Hens (Faith, Hope, & Love)
2 Turtle Doves (The Old Testament & the New Testament)
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree (Jesus – Presented as a mother partridge because it is the olny bird that will die to protect its young).

Joy to the World

Although no version of Joy to the World made Billboard’s list, check out Ella Fitzgerald singing the song complete with choir:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
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,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

‘Joy to the World’ lyrics

Here Comes Santa Claus

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Right down Santa Claus Lane
Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer’s
Pulling on the reins
Bells are ringing, children singing
All is merry and bright
So hang your stockings and say your prayers
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He’s got a bag that’s filled with toys
For boys and girls again
Hear those sleigh bells jingle-jangle
Oh, what a beautiful sight
So jump in bed and cover your head
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we’re all God’s children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He’ll come around when chimes ring out
That it’s Christmas morn’ again
Peace on Earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So let’s give thanks to the lord above
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Right down Santa Claus Lane
Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer’s
Pulling on the reins
Bells are ringing, children singing
All is merry and bright
Hang your stockings and say your prayers
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ lyrics

These songs and more like them make great additions to any holiday playlist. Chances are, some or all of them are already there. Keeping them there and using them to promote interest in further study of the traditions and moral ideas central to their meaning is an important component to bringing about a better world for all, as is their promise.

Merry Christmas!

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