Ten Christmas Songs that aren’t overdone

‘Tis the season . . . where people complain about how the familiar Christmas carols are too overdone.

Granted, there’s some truth to the complaint. But this is a glass-half-full sort of website, so let’s look at ten Christmas songs that aren’t overdone.

  • At The Right Time (Booth Brothers, Carry On, 2007, on YouTube here): The Booth Brothers cut this Mosie Lister song on a 2007 table project. The Garms Family recognized the song’s potential as a Christmas song, using it as the title track for their just-released Christmas CD. But it’s not overdone yet! It would make a great album opener.
  • We Will Find Him (Michael Card, The Promise, 1991, on YouTube here): This song bursts with energy. It’s begging for quartet harmonines. And it’s so forgotten that it is as good as new.
  • Never Before, Never Again (Cathedrals, Raise the Roof, 1994). Seriously, has anyone cut this since 1994? And has anyone ever put it on a Christmas project?
  • Joseph’s Song (Michael Card, The Final Word, 1987, on YouTube here): This song is just waiting to be remade as a melodic bass solo (think Eric Bennett, Pat Barker, Gerald Williams).
  • Grace Has a Face (Greater Vision, Everything Christmas, 2010, etc., on YouTube here): Three or four major groups have cut this song over the last fifteen years. But it’s far from overdone yet.
  • Hand of Sweet Release (Gaither Vocal Band, Still the Greatest Story Ever Told, 1998, on YouTube here): Yes, the Gaither Vocal Band did a magnificent rendition which might be hard to top. But it’s been thirteen years now, and no major Southern Gospel group has recorded it since. That’s long enough for a solid new rendition to stand on its own merits.
  • Something’s Happening (Mercy’s Mark / Hoppers, on YouTube here): Both renditions by major Southern Gospel groups are on mainline projects. But the song’s opening lines—”Something’s happening in Bethlehem / from a stable a lonely light glows within / is that a Baby crying, there’s excitement in the wind / something’s happening in Bethlehem”—place it solidly into eligibility for a Christmas album. 
  • Redeeming Love (Bill Gaither Trio / Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, on YouTube here): It’s not a Southern Gospel project without a magnificent big ballad, and this one is exactly what the doctor ordered.
  • God Himself the Lamb (Cathedral Quartet, Symphony of Praise, 1987, on YouTube here): After a first verse describing Abraham, Isaac, and the prophecy of Christ as the Lamb of God, the lyric plunges into the Christmas story: “When the Promise rang / unto Bethlehem this God reached down to man / and gave to us the only Son He had.” There’s nothing like finishing a Christmas project by completing the story and telling why Jesus came.
  • For What Earthly Reason (Cathedral Quartet, Symphony of Praise, 1987, on YouTube here): Yes, two songs on this top ten from one non-Christmas Cathedrals project. Much like “God Himself the Lamb,” the song touches on Christmas themes before moving onto Calvary.
Honorable mentions: Reaching (Gaither Vocal Band), Immanuel (Michael Card), Sleep Jesus Sleep (Sovereign Grace Music), Rejoice (Sovereign Grace Music), Yaweh (Hoppers), New Star Shining (Gaither Vocal Band).
There are plenty of excellent Christmas songs which are either original to Southern Gospel or well-suited to a Southern Gospel context. There may be other reasons to re-record the same songs everyone else has done—but lack of great newer songs isn’t one of them.

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33 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Food for thought Daniel thanks for ths post. If I could add one song…”Wonder of Wonders”. As far as I know only he Inspirations have recordeed this song. and that was quite awhile back.

    • The song works great for them, but I’m having a hard time envisioning someone outside of the Inspirations themselves or someone with a similar vocal style (e.g. Primitive Quartet) making it work.

      • Oh, I don’t know about that. It’s not a GVB/EHSS kind of song, but it would be a wonderful addition to any traditional quartet Christmas project.

      • Well, to expand it a little farther, I could see perhaps the McKameys or Chuck Wagon Gang (in one direction) or perhaps even the Dixie Echoes or the Melody Boys Quartet (in another) pulling it off. I just wouldn’t see it working for, say, the Perrys, Greater Vision, the Talleys, or Ivan Parker!

      • Well, I did say traditional quartet, so I was thinking along the lines of MTQ, L5, Triumphant, Kingdom Heirs. I could hear any of them doing it. There’s nothing inherently Appalachian about it, to my ear.

      • Well, less Appalachian and more pre-1830-hymn-like.

      • I could see maybe Libbi pulling of “Wonder of Wonders” if I’m not mistaking maybe I’m wrong but I think one time during.a family and friends concert the McKameys and Inspirations sang it together.

  2. Hand of Sweet Release is an incredible song. No mere mortal could sing it in GVB’s arrangement, however.

    • Well, anyone who has hung around here long enough knows that I’m not a fan of copied arrangements, so I would be hoping for a new arrangement anyhow! 🙂

  3. I enjoy “The Little Boy from the Carpenter Shop,” of course it goes way beyond Christmas.

  4. Interesting that you should mention “Redeeming Love.” A guy in our church sang that on Sunday and I played the piano for him. I’ve never heard EH&SS sing it. I’ll have to look that up… 🙂

    • You don’t have to look too hard. Just click the link in the post. 🙂

  5. Guess I didn’t notice the link. Thanks. 🙂

  6. We just did Hand of Sweet Release at church two weeks ago. As I was singing it, I found several similarities between that and Daystar.

    I also adapted an existing P&W song into a Christmas song. The verses work well with a Christmas theme, but the bridge is a direct reference to Calvary, so I replaced the bridge with a chorus from O Holy Night, and it fit quite well.

  7. I can hear someone like Connie or Claude Hopper doing “Wonder of Wonders,” perhaps slowing it down a bit.

    There are a ton of great newer Christmas songs out there, but I think what keeps groups recording the more traditional carols is the same things that keeps them recording hymns projects—the songs are familiar to the fans and the songs are public domain, so the budget is not impacted as much to record the more traditional songs.

    • Many/most of the secular songs they also include are under copyright, though. Oh, if they would only drop the secular songs for something fresher, like one of the ones on this list!

  8. Thank you for choosing the 2 Cathedrals songs. They definitely fit the category. There are songs on that album that haven’t lost their emotional punch, if I can put it that way, inspite of the passage of time.

    • That record is really something—there are probably four other songs which deserve the same level of attention “Champion of Love” received—justly received!—and it’s only in that context when I say how astonishing it is the proportionally weak portion the rest received.

  9. I presume you are talking about the non A Cappella songs. I personally think “Champion of Love” is the best and would probably place “For What Earthly Reason” next, then “Scars and Stripes Forever” and then maybe “God, Himself the Lamb” followed by “This Ol’ House”. Am I forgetting any of the ones with the Orchestra?

    • I think that’s all – six with, four without. I think “For What Earthly Reason,” “God Himself the Lamb,” and “Scars and Stripes” deserve as much attention as “Champion” (not that I dislike “Champion”!)

      • I think you mean 5 and 5. 😀

      • Fair enough. I was just going from memory. 🙂

      • Well 5 was all I could think of and I seem to recall the Cathedrals saying their record company thought an entire album with the Philharmonic might get boring and they wanted it half and half. 😀

      • The record company probably didn’t want to pay for ten songs with the Philharmonic, too. 🙂

      • Yeah, that thought occurred to me too. 🙂

  10. Interesting, if you read the back notes on ( I think) Voices in Praise, Glen writes something about keeping the listeners interest in a totally acappella album. Mission accomplished with that album.
    The best acappella recording of any SG group, ever, in my opinion.
    Back to Symphony of Praise, to go from half orchestral to half acappella is, well extreme, but I like it.

    • Yeah a total A Cappella album can be though. The GVB had different types of songs and arrangements on theirs. The Isaacs wanted to record a full A Cappella and Bill told them the same thing (about it being hard to keep one’s attention on a full album), so they did half A Cappella and half with light instruments.

  11. I did “Joseph’s Song” a couple of weeks ago as our pastor was preaching on the persons of the Christmas story. Very well received. And I am a bari/bass who likes dramatic songs, so I guess it fits what Daniel was looking for.

    • Cool! I didn’t know that anyone (even Card himself) was still singing it!

      • My pastor has sung it many times.

      • Also neat!