Music to listen to as you trim the tree or make Christmas treats.
I know there are probably thousands of holiday CD's to choose from. I'd like to suggest three of my favorites (Gaines might add both volumes of Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas, but sadly, they don't quite make my top picks. Though they are certainly rockin'.)
1. Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ.
Ever since I heard the beginnings of this album in the form of a few original songs pieced together with some classic Christmas tunes played by Andrew and his friends from Silers Bald back in December of 2000, I've been in awe. It never really feels like the Christmas season is upon us until I experience this performance (I usually try to ignore the store displays). The CD itself cannot capture the symphonic goodness of twenty something instrumentalists and vocalists performing together live at the Ryman, but it comes pretty close. Naming a favorite song? Nigh impossible. "Behold the Lamb" is a complete musical, and should be listened to as such, from start to finish. Whenever we see it performed live, I almost cringe when people clap between songs because of how well it flows from one to the next. Trekking up to Nashville for AP's Christmas Concert has become an annual Redd family tradition. Highlights: "Labor of Love, "Matthew's Begats," and epsecially "So Long, Moses," because of the thrilling list of OT prophecies fulfilled by Christ's coming.
2. Sufjan Steven's Hark! Songs for Christmas Volumes 1, 2, and 3
I include these as one album because they are actually 3 EP's that Sufjan made for friends and family and released on the internet, and the songs all fit on one CD. It inclides a mix of reworked carols and hymns as well as some wacky and wonderful original tunes. Gaines' especially enjoys "Come On! Let's Boogie to the Elf Dance!"
3. Your King Has Come
This is a compilation by some of my favorite artists, including, but not limited to: Sandra McCracken, Derek Webb, Jill Phillips, Matthew Perryman Jones, and Andrew Osenga. My favorite song on this collection is the first track, "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus." Sandra's and Derek's voices bring out the anticipation of advent beautifully. Many of the featured artists also have worked together on the Indelible Grace albums in which they rework old hymns. Indelible Grace IV: Beams of Heaven, which was released a few weeks ago, includes a song that I would consider appropriate to the season, and so I include it here as an honorable mention: "Who is This?"
Album Honorable Mention: Handel's Messiah. I only have a tape of this, but it stirs my heart every time hear it. My freshman roommate in college took me to a symphony performance of this once and it was the highlight of that Christmas season. (This was before Andrew began performing his musical, of course!)