Sunday, December 20, 2009


Last Sunday service before Christmas! We made it! Yay!

Today's worship set went pretty well. It was pretty diverse, but necessity pretty much demanded that. From a set planning standpoint, I wanted to hit three specific "characteristics" in worship.

The first aspect I wanted to maintain was IDENTITY. The easier way to say that is that I wanted today's worship to look and sound and feel like Bethel. That meant songs that balance passion and energy with honesty. I felt like the set needed to reflect where we are as a people

The second aspect was TRADITION. I wanted us to have some good "carols" in the set. I may get blasted for this, but one reason worship leaders tend to dislike Christmas carols is that they accomplish tradition but often aren't given the same sort of passion/volume/focus as other songs of worship. I don't think it's a problem with the carols - I think it's a problem of how we think about carols. (Or any familiar tunes, for that matter.) Personally, I have to make sure that I don't just numbly sing through Christmas songs - I have to work hard at thinking about lyrics and the themes I'm singing about. I wanted us to have songs that honored Christmas traditions but that also kept the music fresh so as not to bore people.

The third aspect was NOVELTY. I wanted us to do something a bit "different." I wanted worship to look and sound just a little bit different.

Here's how we tried to accomplish these three goals...

  • JOY TO THE WORLD (Tomlin) - I'm not always a fan of adding new choruses to old songs, but I do think this one is really good. Lyrically, it's not saying anything groundbreaking, but it's poetic and the melody is very good. This was definitely an IDENTITY song. The band did great on this one...I actually like having a female vocalist take all those choruses. Sarah did a great job on this and it really gave the tune some power.

  • GLORY TO GOD (Brewster) - Another IDENTITY tune. I'm digging this song for it's broad spectrum. It absolutely can rock, but it can also go a bit mellow if need be. I also love the lyrical content. I think it expresses great theology in a modern song framework and that's not near common enough these days. I think our team does a great job on this song. In practice, we specifically talked about letting Elizabeth do a little piano jamming on verse 2. There's not a piano part on the song, but Elizabeth worked up something really cool.

  • HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING (High Street Hymns) - I'm fast becoming a High Street Hymns fanboy. Their country-shuffle version of this familiar tune was just what we needed. I liked that this one came off as a TRADITION element that still allowed us to have some fun with it. I would have liked more time in rehearsal to hash out a bigger drum part. The CD version is very spare in percussion arrangement, and I wish we would have more time to try a few different things in rehearsal. All told, the song went well and our 3-part harmony gave it a little something extra! In an effort to add some NOVELTY to our set, we opened this tune with a scripture reading from Isaiah. We do scripture readings from time-to-time, but we wanted to concentrate on readings today to give the set some uniqueness.

  • WHAT CHILD IS THIS (Red Mountain Church) - I love this swirling, ambient take on the carol. Couple of cool things about this song today...the CD version has a very strange intro. Essentially, you've got an electric guitar and synth chording through the verse normally - although thick with delay - but with a piano part that's actually changing chords a few beats early each time. It makes for a lot of dissonance. We didn't do that, but my guitar player, Ray, did put in a good bit of time to make sure the guitar timing was good. I read another scripture over this intro. One of our high school students played violin on the song and the bass and drum parts were very good. We had planned a "reading" before the last song, but this morning, we opted to place that reading over the extended outro of this song. Sarah sang the song beautifully and Elizabeth's piano gave this creative arrangement some familiarity. Sarah did the reading over the outro and then prayed after the song as most of the band stepped down.

  • WINTER SNOW (Assad) - We don't do a lot of "special music" at Bethel, but we've done more this Christmas for some of that NOVELTY. Elizabeth sang lead and played piano along with Arlie on bass and Dale on drums. Sarah did BGVs. This song came off very very well. I'm fairly certain that Elizabeth nailed the exact piano parts from the CD. Audrey Assad's song is definitely the church Christmas hit single this year, but I don't think enough credit is being given to the cool jazz-tinge in this tune. The overall groove is very loose and pretty unique to a lot of church worship teams. Elizabeth and her crew did a great job on this one.
It was a good day. The past few weeks have pretty hard for me from a planning/leading perspective. I'm thankful to my fellow staff members and my wife for keeping sane in what is almost always a very stressful time for pastors. That being said, I'm glad to be done with the carols for another year. I'll ask all my liturgical friends to go on a rant about continuing singing Christmas songs over the next few weeks. (Looking at you, Simmons.)

If you're the praying kind...and many of you are...I'd ask that you pray for our Christmas Eve service at Bethel this week. I think it's one of the bravest things I've ever seen a church do. It's not without some controversy, and that's okay. Debate and discussion are good for us. But I do honestly believe that we are endeavoring to obey God in a way that's sacrificial and courageous. I'd ask you to pray that those folks who are a part of this event will be blessed for their sacrifice. Pray that we'll come away from this event broken for those in need. Pray that we'll be reminded of God's good grace and provision in our lives and that we'll be grateful and humble for all He's done.



Johnny! said...

You're calling ME out? I was even going to let it slide that you like Tomlin's gay chorus.

(and it's only twelve days)


Liz said...

Sorry I missed Sunday! Sounds like it was a good one. And (whispering...), if it helps any, *this* church member would be totally fine with skipping "Christmas" music altogether at church. It's not that I don't want to hear it, but I think we get all caught up in "Christmasy" emotion instead of being in a continual, year-round mindset of worshiping our King. I don't need 'feel good' stuff for a few weeks...I need to bow at His feet year-round. But that's just me...