Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I Hate Christmas

How's that for a catchy title?

The reality is that I actually love Christmas, but I don't know of a harder season to experience as a worship leader. It's strange for me, and over the past few years, I've had to work very hard at maintaining some healthy habits to make sure that I didn't ruin Christmas for my family because I couldn't turn off my stress when I got home. I don't know if other worship leaders experience the same sort of tension I do, but here's the list.

  1. Too many chords. Now, listen, I can play most any chord if I've got enough time to learn it. That's not what I mean. No, I hate Christmas because many of the songs have so many chords changes that the overall flow of the song gets killed before you're out of verse 1. There are some great songs, but they are nightmares to play because your musicians are so freaked out at making 39 chord changes in one chorus that they can't focus on actually listening to one another.

  2. Worship. There are quite a few Christmas songs that are worshipful, but trying to fit carols into a 'contemporary worship' setting is one of the most stressful things I've ever tried to do. There's a fine line of creativity - folks want it to still feel like a normal worship service but don't want you to jack with the classics too much.

  3. Special Christmas Eve Services. People love Christmas Eve services, but let me tell you something - they are nightmares for musicians. Because folks come to Christmas Eve service wanting something great and epic and memorable, musicians often struggle with finding a way to make time to create an awesome production without alienating their family. If you have musicians that serve on Christmas Eve, give them a hug!

  4. You'll Never Get The Schedule Right. A fellow worship leader said something really profound the other day. We were talking about Christmas and she said, "If you don't hit Christmas songs the Sunday after Thanksgiving, half the folks are gonna' be mad. And if you do hit it hard on that Sunday, the other half's gonna' think it's too early." The hardest part about leading worship during Christmas is the understanding that it's the one season of a church's life where you are GUARANTEED to fail at pleasing everyone. Oh, sure, we know we can't please everybody, but I don't know of any other time of the church calendar where it's quite so pronounced.
Tomorrow, I'll be sharing some of the stuff I've done of the past few years to help fix some of these issues. I hope you'll stop by!


Johnny! said...

You didn't ask, but I'm a blowhard.

1.Learn the changes! Anything can groove if the musicians work. I can't say how much I as a musician am blessed when we play all the changes in the hymnal. There's so much beauty hid in the way the harmonies interact that's lost if we try to impose a dumbed down pop aesthetic.

2. Christmas isn't a normal service; it's a holi-day! Make it different and the grumblers need to get over it.

3. I love Christmas Eve! The fam knows we will have a special time together at home decorating the tree, etc. They understand I'm busy.

4. This is the kind of problem that comes up when we let the "secular" world dictate our celebration. Christmas STARTS on Christmas Day, and before it is Advent. Celebrate Advent in Advent and Christmas over its 12 days!