While Air1 celebrates an entire genre dedicated to worship music year-round, worship takes on a completely new meaning at Christmastime. Remembering the birth of Christ anew gives us fresh motivation to sing. After all, the birth of our Savior presents a million reasons to praise, and as we receive the gifts He brings — gifts of peace, joy, and love — our worship reverberates with the symphony of heaven. No matter what the previous year has brought, Christmas is an open invitation to unwrap the many blessings bestowed on us from above. It’s a recurring chance to express gratitude for the beautiful way God sent His Son to Earth to carry out His incomprehensible plan of redemption. Here are seven essential Christmas worship songs to help fill your heart with hope this holiday season.
1. “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” Phil Wickham
“Hark The Herald Angels Sing” opens 2019’s “Christmas,” Phil Wickham’s second full-length holiday LP. The bright, mid-tempo arrangement sets the tone for the entire acclaimed release that showcases Wickham’s gorgeous vocals. Meanwhile, the three-time GRAMMY® nominee sets the story of the heavenly host to a memorable melody, led by tinkling piano, gentle acoustic guitar and subtle drums. Literally announcing the birth of the King of Kings, Wickham’s version of the well-known carol is an instant classic.
2. “Breath of Heaven (All of a Sudden),” Elevation Worship
While many have covered Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven,” few have managed to reimagine a version that compares to the original. Elevation Worship’s attempt, however, comes close, simply by the fact that instead of trying to emulate Grant, the group puts their own unique spin on the fan favorite. Featuring the angelic vocal of Tiffany Hudson, the ballad — as told from Mary’s perspective — is accentuated by delicately textured production and the addition of an all-new refrain that makes the collective’s iteration altogether fresh. “Breath of Heaven (All of a Sudden)” is found on Elevation Worship’s debut Christmas album, “Echo The Angels.”
3. “This Is Christmas,” Tasha Layton
The title-cut from Tasha Layton’s first full-length holiday album, “This Is Christmas,” heralds the arrival of Dec. 25 and all it means for those who choose to believe. Layton co-penned the worshipful original with her husband, Keith Everette Smith, and songwriter Jeff Pardo. Caked with the finest details of Christ’s birth, the selection highlights the significance of the season. On tour with Phil Wickham through December, the songstress recently released a deluxe version of “This Is Christmas,” complete with some additional tracks. Meanwhile, “This Is Christmas” also appears on her brand new live recording captured last year during a K-LOVE On Demand holiday special.
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4. “Christmas Day,” Chris Tomlin & We The Kingdom
“Christmas Day” quickly became a perennial favorite when it first helped title Chris Tomlin’s “Christmas Day: Christmas Songs of Worship” EP (2019) before reemerging on the following year’s “Miracle of Love: Christmas Songs of Worship” project. The Tomlin/We The Kingdom collaboration finds both acts in their element, leading a triumphant pop track that’s as catchy as it is holy. The revered worship leader and We The Kingdom’s Ed Cash — longtime friends and co-writers — share lead, while the award-winning collective’s Franni Rae Cash Cain helms unmistakable background vocals. Both artists have performed the victorious single live on tour together multiple times, and the song eventually landed on We The Kingdom’s “A Family Christmas” EP in 2021.
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5. “O Come All Ye Faithful (His Name Shall Be),” Passion
Passion’s epic six-minute version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” is the standout opening moment on “Hope Has A Name,” the collective’s first seasonal effort. The classic carol boasts powerful lead vocals, courtesy of Passion’s Melodie Malone, as well as backing vocals from recognizable names like Kristian Stanfill and Chidima. Accented by a small choir and lush strings, the selection finds renewed strength by way of an added refrain with lyrics inspired directly by Isaiah 9:6: “For a child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
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6. “O Holy Night,” Tori Kelly
Christmas hymn “O Holy Night” is a challenging selection to sing. Yet, in the skillful hands of pop sensation Tori Kelly, the sacred standard feels effortless. Recorded for “A Tori Kelly Christmas,” “O Holy Night” takes on a decidedly R&B sheen thanks to Kelly’s soulful vocal runs. The award-winning, multi-genre artist — who has always been outspoken about her faith in Jesus — transforms the stunning track into a profound moment of worship as she puts her own personal twist on a fairly traditional Gospel arrangement of the timeless Christmas offering.
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7. “Silent Night / Jesus We Love You,” Brandon Lake, Phil Wickham & Kim Walker-Smith
Found on Maverick City Music’s “A Very Maverick Christmas,” “Silent Night / Jesus We Love You” features an all-star cast of singers, including former tourmates Brandon Lake and Phil Wickham and Jesus Culture’s Kim Walker-Smith, as well as the Mav City Gospel Choir. With minimal instrumentation and sparse production, the live rendering is a reverent recreation of the simple Christmas standard. Lake takes the first verse, Wickham commands the second and Walker-Smith helms the third before gently transitioning into the modern worship refrain of “Jesus We Love You,” which elevates the childlike lullaby to a transcendent outpouring of spontaneous worship. “Jesus we love You. Oh how we love You,” the choir sings in unison. “You are the one our hearts adore.”