This is a little later than I originally intended…but since we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas I’m going to count myself right on time! 🥳🎁🎄
Music has been my thing since somewhere around the day I was born. And while I’m not an expert in the technical aspects of this art, it is something that has stolen my heart and moved my soul for as long as I can remember.
[It’s also what drew me into relationship with Jesus – you can read my full story here.]
While Christmas music can help get us into the joyful and charitable spirit of the season, the songs are often more about the snow, mistletoe, Christmas trees, and jingle bells than they are about Jesus.
And though there’s nothing wrong with that — those are all good things — it can make it one step easier to lose sight of the reason for all of our celebration. (Not to mention that all of the inherent festive deadlines and holiday demands are already pulling us away from our (often) minimal time spent with God.)
So…I created a compilation of 10 contemplative Christmas songs that will make it easier for you to lean into your prayer time this holiday season!
Because, as we all know, prayer time can be a lot easier to pursue when we find ourselves drawn to it.
According to St. Augustine: “…our souls are moved to the ardor of piety by the sacred words more piously and powerfully when these words are sung than when they are not sung…”
[Note: you can use this list in whatever way you like. Remember: you are uniquely made and Jesus will speak to you as such. What works for you may not work for someone else so take what I say with a grain of salt. There is no one, right, way to a relationship with Jesus.]
And even though I love the idea of keeping Jesus in our music for meditation this season, this compilation does not necessarily need to be just that. You can listen to them one at a time or all at once. You can pause between to allow for God to move your thoughts (my personal favorite) or roll from one song to the next.
Heck, you don’t even have to aim to meditate as you listen. You can let it play in the background as you wrap presents, enjoy familial conversation, or while you bake cookies with the kids. There is no one way to use this music in prayer.
However…if you do want to spend time in reflection the following are my thoughts:
Find yourself a quiet spot that is as free from distraction as possible. Then close your eyes and settle yourself into God’s love. Ask Him into your heart anew (you can read a prayer here) and request that he would prepare you to be open to whatever He might want to say. Then listen. After resting in His presence for a few moments, start the music. I would encourage you to keep your eyes closed as you listen to as many or as few as you can make time for.
Without further ado (and in no particular order):
- Gabriel’s Message by Matt Maher
The ‘big bang’ of the Christmas season takes place when Gabriel is sent to Mary to announce the incarnation of the Savior. We can all only imagine what is taking place in Mary’s heart and mind as she is hearing what is to come for her and the Holy Child that will now be growing in her womb.
- Peace on Earth by Casting Crowns
This one always hits home because it speaks so honestly about emotions that we have all felt at one time or another.
There are so many evils in this world. And when looking at them head-on it can be hard to not grow cynical. Where is peace? And how about goodwill? If we’re not sincerely hopeful, it can seem that we just sing to deceive ourselves of what’s really happening.
And while the bad in the world can appear more prevalent than the good, the love is still there. In fact, the very idea and want for peace is a reflection of our longing for Heaven.
The real peace we need can be found in our hearts when we find ourselves in Christ.
When our hearts begin to know Him, we sense it. Then, we must relish it, remain in it, allow it to grow, throw a few more logs on the fire. When it grows great enough, it can touch others and then — if given the opportunity — grow in them.
This spreading of the fire begins in the silence of our personal prayer time, amidst a fervor for God’s will. Then it spreads as we’re able to share it. But we cannot share what we don’t have.
Then, and only then, will we have peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.
This song is not a simple mockery of the world we live in but a longing and leaning toward the world we hope for.
- Here With Us by Joy Williams
As noted above, this world is a hard place.
Hard enough for those of us who have always known it and the evil that is so prevalent.
But imagine always and only knowing Heaven in all of its peace, wonder, and perfection, and then choosing to step down – especially amidst a never-ending bunch of grumbling, lazy, needlessly violent, and deceitful people.
And not only that, but to be the highest of kings and choose to be hidden. To take on a life suffered in poverty and know that you will be hated and betrayed by those who should love you most.
None of us would have the strength to do this. But God preferred this pain to the pain of living eternity without us.
This is the mystery of the awe-inspiring love found in the Father who is God and sent His only Son to save us.
- Born to Die by Shane & Shane
When God came down to us as a baby and grew up in the flesh among His people, He appeared to put himself at the mercy of the evils of humanity. But He didn’t. At any moment, God could have chosen to stop anything or everything about Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion.
But He didn’t.
He had a plan — and it was for our good.
He knew the story in its entirety from the beginning. And while God suffered to see His only son go through such pain, He knew that Jesus would also be happier with the outcome (having us with Him for all eternity), than He would have been foregoing His suffering and death.
God is in control. We can’t see the big picture, but God can. And He knows how you’ll truly be happiest. Whatever you’re going through, there is power and purpose for your good, and He’s got you in the palm of His hand. It will get better.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
- You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli
I love that this one was written from Mary’s perspective.
While she didn’t know everything when she said ‘yes’ to God’s plan to give birth to and raise God’s one and only son, she did know the scriptures and had an idea of what was to happen and what that would mean for her.
This song pours forth from her welcoming and joyful heart at the time of His birth. But as a mother, I can imagine the constant tinge of pain and dread that she carried; of what was to happen to the One she loved.
But trusting in God, she accepted and continued on with God’s grace in a way that I never could have. For that, I will be forever grateful.
- Noel by Chris Tomlin (feat. Lauren Daigle)
When I hear this one I cannot help but imagine the angels announcing the birth of the One who was to save us all.
A modern anthem of proclamation, sung with charismatic conviction, that will always be a classic in my book. Enough said.
- Hey Moon by Sidewalk Prophets
This one, written as a letter from the Christmas Star to the moon, shares thoughts in a new and creative story-like way.
Though obviously fiction, it’s reflective of how we feel when we come into personal contact with our Creator:
“Do you ever get a tear in your eye when you think about the time that God came down? I couldn’t help myself, I had to shine so bright [emphasis mine].
“I remember that newborn baby and the wise men that travelled so far. That’s when I knew I was made for a reason. I feel like the luckiest star.” [Emphasis mine]
*If you haven’t experienced these feelings in a real and personal way: a heart overflowing with an all-encompassing love from God, please ask the Lord for a personal experience that will make Him real to you. You can begin with this prayer and then trust Him to show up in His timing. Even if it’s slow, if you’re sincere in your want to meet Him, I promise He will come. He loves you so much more than you could ever want to love Him.
- Joseph’s Lullaby by Mercy Me
These are all the thoughts of a Father that knows of the suffering that is to come.
Like You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli — written as a reflection of the thoughts of Mary, the mother of Jesus, consider the bitter joy of mixed emotions also experienced by His step-father.
The strength of these two parents is incomprehensible.
- While You Were Sleeping by Casting Crowns
This song is filled with truth in conviction. Do we know what we have? Do we know that Jesus waits at our door to know us, to fill us with His light, to bring us everlasting peace?
Many know it and refuse Him entrance. Too afraid to give up their comforts and the convenience of what they’ve always known.
But like the story of the little girl with the fake pearl (read the story here), Jesus has so much more for each of us than we could dare to imagine for ourselves. Instead of a single fake pearl, he offers us a full string of the finest pearls — but first, we have to offer Him what we have in faith and trust.
[My prayer: Lord, awaken us to your beauty. That we would not be blinded by our simple ignorance but instead, trust you whole-heartedly with our lives. Let us not be sleeping. Instead, awaken us to Your love.]
- Come and Worship by Bebo Norman
This is another anthem.
Originally written as a Christmas carol by James Montgomery in 1916, it has been republished, translated, written again and again with multiple variations, and recorded by numerous artists — but this is by far the best one I have ever heard.
Bebo Norman does an incredible job drawing you into the repetitive worship with not only his voice but the growing depth of the instruments as it progresses.
Please promise that you will listen to this one with your eyes shut in prayer and contemplation at least once. I promise you will find yourself better for it.
I hope you enjoyed the list!
The songs were listed individually above but they can be found as a full playlist on my YouTube channel (along with other lists with various themes).
I hope they help you draw nearer to Jesus during the busy and bustle of the season. May you always make room in your lives and space in your heart for the one and only God that can make your soul happy.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!