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From the Archives: Sentimentalizing, Sanitizing, and Spiritualizing Christmas

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the significance of the Incarnation. Writers, philosophers, poets, and composers through the centuries have searched in vain for words that adequately capture the wonder, mystery, beauty, and power of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. The miracle and meaning of the Incarnation can be so difficult to grasp that we can give up and start to view Christmas in ways that leave us impoverished and unimpressed with the real story. Even in the church our songs and reflections about about Christmas can fail to leave people gasping in amazement or humbled in awe that God would come to dwell among us. Sometimes …

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O Come, O Come Emmanuel [Studio Sessions]

Here’s the fifth installment of studio session videos from our Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has a rich and varied history. The tune originated somewhere in 15th century France, while the lyrics have their origins in the centuries old O Antiphons, sung or recited by some Catholics and Anglicans at Vespers from December 17 to December 23. Each verse of the carol focuses on a different title for Christ. Depending on which version you sing, we hail Christ as Emmanuel, Rod of Jesse, Dayspring, Key of David, Desire of Nations, Wisdom, and Lord of Might. The most common version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel was …

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Help Us Translate Worship Matters into Spanish!

Since my book, Worship Matters, first came out in 2008, I’ve been greatly encouraged and humbled to hear how God has used it in the lives of planners, pastors, leaders, and musicians to promote singing in the church that is theologically aware, gospel driven, emotionally engaged, Spirit-empowered, and life changing. The core of the book unpacks a definition for a “worship leader.” While I don’t think God has a specific job description for that role in Scripture, the almost universal use of the term led me to come up with a definition I trust is faithful to the Bible. I blogged on it years ago here, but eventually landed on this definition: A …

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Join Us at WorshipGod UK 2015!

Last year we were thrilled to have our first WorshipGod UK conference in Bath, Called to be Faithful, hosted by Nathan Smith and Grace Church Bristol. It was a joy to link arms with other UK churches and ministries that are pursuing theologically informed, gospel-driven, Spirit-empowered singing in local congregations. Attendees came from more than 10 different countries and over 100 churches to learn, fellowship, sing, pray, and encourage one another. In response to many requests, WorshipGod UK is coming back to the Bath Forum, 7th-9th May, 2015. The theme will be Gathering Around the Gospel. When the church meets, there are a hundred …

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The Songwriting Process – Prepare Him Room

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Neil DeGraide, Steve Cook, and my son, Devon, to talk about different aspects of our new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. One topic we discussed was the songwriting process. Songs rarely come instantaneously. And that can be an encouraging thought for someone currently in the midst of writing a song that sounds remarkably mediocre. When we hear a song on an album we have no idea of the dozens of hours of labor, thought, editing, prayer, conversation, and study that went into it. We only hear the finished product. So in the video below we take time to talk about some of the things that went into …

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“O Holy Night” Revisited

A few years ago, my friend, Kevin Hartnett, wrote two new verses for the classic and well-loved carol, “O Holy Night.” We ended up recording his version on our new album, Prepare Him Room. We called it O Holy Night (Hear the Gospel Story). Any time you mess with a “classic and well-loved” carol, you’re bound to get some questions. Why change something that has been popular for so many years? Why fix what ain’t broke? The original lyrics for “O Holy Night” were written in 1847 by Placide Capeau, a Frenchman, at the request of his parish priest. The author was so encouraged by what he had written that he asked his Jewish friend and composer, …

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Prepare Him Room Giveaway Contest Winners!

Thanks to all those who participated in the Prepare Him Room giveaway contest. I learned a few things along the way. 1. People can have a hard time counting to 50, or else the joy of commenting on a post can cause a person to wax eloquent and ignore silly contest rules, e.g., a 50 word limit. 2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel is a really popular Christmas song. 3. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day has more content than I thought. I had forgotten how meaningful the words are: “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.’” I …

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Win a Free Download of Prepare Him Room!

In another post I shared the story behind our new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. Now you can be one of ten people who can win a free digital copy. Here’s the deal. Leave a comment below telling us your favorite Christmas carol and why in 50 words or less. You can enter three times. I’ll pick some of the most creative answers as winners and the rest at random. How many random comments I pick depends on how many creative responses I get! You have until midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 30 to enter. I’ll announce the winners around noon (EST) on Wednesday, October 1. We’ll contact the winners by email with your download code. And if you …

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Prepare Him Room Releases Today!

In June of 2013 I received an email from my friend, Marty Machowski. Marty serves on the pastoral team of Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Church near Philadelphia. He has writes children’s books and devotionals, most notably The Gospel Story Bible. Marty asked me if Sovereign Grace Music wanted to produce an album to accompany an Advent devotional and curriculum he had written for New Growth Press. I was instantly intrigued by the idea. Our first and only Christmas album, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, came out in 2006 and I thought we were long overdue for another Christmas project. Marty’s devotional had …

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The Gathering: Coming to New Orleans Next Weekend

In 2011, Sovereign Grace Music recorded The Gathering, a collection of 15 songs that walk through the flow of the gospel and our response to it. Among others, the album included Greater Than We Can Imagine, Shine Into Our Night, Show Us Christ, and All I Have is Christ. The idea for the project had its origins in Bryan Chapell’s excellent book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice. Chapell makes the case from Scripture, history, and our personal need that, “Corporate worship is nothing more, and nothing less, than a re-presentation of the gospel in the presence of God and his people for his glory and their good.” While …

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The Unbelievable – Acoustic Preview

This coming Monday, Sept. 29, our second Christmas album, Prepare Him Room, is coming out. And we’re pretty excited. I’ve been breaking all my rules for “no Christmas music before Thanksgiving” and loving it. In preparation for the album, we’ve put together four acoustic videos to preview some of the songs. They aren’t the versions that went on the album, but they give you an idea of what to expect. The Unbelievable is the fourth video we recorded, written by my good friends Steve and Vikki Cook. We’re so familiar with nativities, carols, and the Christmas story, that we often lose the sense of awe, wonder, and amazement that the incarnation …

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Thoughts on a Call to Worship

For most of the thirty three years I’ve been involved with Sovereign Grace churches we’ve had a fairly free and simple liturgy. Singing, welcome/announcements/offering, sermon, ministry time. While simple liturgies have some advantages, there are good reasons to consider including liturgical elements that have been used in church gatherings for centuries. One of those is the call to worship. I remember being less inclined to use a call to worship after reading Harold Best’s thoughts years ago in his insightful book, Music Through the Eyes of Faith: There can only be one call to worship, and this comes at conversion, when in complete …

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Prepare Him Room – A Video Preview

This is the third video we put together in anticipation of our upcoming Christmas album, Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song, due out Sept. 29. It’s the title track, Prepare Him Room, and was written by Rebecca Elliott and Dave Fournier. They started it at our songwriter retreat back in January and after a number of revisions came up with the current version. Here are some thoughts from Dave on how the song came to be: One helpful brainstorming strategy, when songwriting, is to start with potential titles. When we worked on Grace Has Come, for instance, a reading through the text yielded twenty or so titles that I thought …

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Do I Lead To Impress or To Serve?

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about moving to Louisville two years ago and helping to plant Sovereign Grace Church is the opportunity to train interns from Southern Seminary and Boyce College. I meet weekly with a group from each school to talk theology, focus on heart issues, and work on music and leadership skills. They also serve on Sundays and help out with Sovereign Grace Music. Young musicians and leaders are often overly self-conscious and nervous. While confidence comes with experience, we don’t want to overcome self by becoming more assured in ourselves. So one of  my goals for the interns is that they get to the place where …

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He Who is Mighty – Video Preview

I know it’s a little early to be talking about Christmas songs, but the last few weeks I’ve been listening to the tracks of our upcoming album, Prepare Him Room. I am so excited for you to hear these songs. We’ll be releasing the digital album on Sept 29 (not Sept 1 as I previously wrote) and the physical CD at the same time. As I explained in an earlier post, this album came about through the request of my good friend, Marty Machowski. He had written an Advent curriculum and devotional, Prepare Him Room, and wondered if we wanted to record an album to accompany it. We were more than happy to do so. In anticipation of the full release …

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