The Christmas tree is all a twinkle. The stockings are hung side by side. The Nativity set my grandmother brought back from Jerusalem is splayed out on the shelf behind me, wooden Baby Jesus smiling up at Mary and Joseph. And I’ve got my Christmas playlist doing overtime with some old favorites from last year and some shiny new additions. In no particular order, here they are.
1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel by the Civil Wars This song is so beautifully stripped bare. It’s haunting and lovely and my favorite find this year. Go now and buy it. Then just try to stop yourself from listening to it on a continuous loop.
2. Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant I know, I know, it’s Amy Grant. I can actually hear your eyes rolling and your finger tapping on the mouse. Before you click away, just hear me out. I know it’s Amy Grant and that putting her on my list again would leave me wide open for ridicule. Knowing that I’d be mocked mercilessly, I STILL put this song in my Top 9. That’s how good it is. It’s sung from Mary’s beautifully human perspective and I will love it all the days of my life. If you can get past the fact that it’s Amy Grant, you’ll love it, too. And if you can’t get past the fact that it’s Amy Grant, then consider this; the next best version of this song is by Jessica Simpson. Amy Grant’s looking pretty good now, right?
3. River by Robert Downey, Junior This one’s not technically a Christmas song, but I’m the one who makes the rules around here. I love Joni Mitchell’s version and Sarah MacLachlan’s rendering, but there’s a raw quality to Downey’s voice that gives it a vulnerable feel. There’s something about a man singing this song that makes me weak in the knees.
4. Peace on Earth by U2 Don’t think that I haven’t noticed your index finger hovering over the mouse. I have. But then I go and throw U2 on the list and lure you back into my evil lair of Seasonal Songifying. Go listen to this song and I swear by the end you’ll be making a list of all the philanthropic things you’re going to do just as soon as the last note sounds.
5. O Holy Night by Celine Dion O Holy Night is my most favorite Christmas carol. I’m not a Celine Dion fan by any stretch of the imagination, but she sings this song like no other. A lump rises in my throat as her voice soars over the high notes and pierces straight through my heart.
6. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole Sometimes the classics just can’t be beaten. His voice is like a drink of rich cocoa, filling me as it slides down my throat and into my stomach where it settles into a pile of warmth that lasts the whole day and keeps me from feeling stabby when I’m forced to brave the stores.
7. Baby, It’s Cold Outside by She & Him This one is so much fun! It’s a bouncing give and take that brings a smile to my face every single time. This one will squelch even the Grinchiest of all Grinches. Believe me, I know because this girl’s heart is usually full of unwashed socks, but when this little ditty comes on, I find myself singing along and using cutesy word pairings like “little ditty”.
8. Christmastime is Here by The Vince Guaraldi Trio The children’s voices paired with the melancholy piano strikes the right chord every year and brings me back to visions of Charlie Browns spindly little tree. While I have always loved this song, I’ve never fully appreciated its magical prowess until this year. My little ones are bouncing off the walls-and we still have A FULL WEEK AND A HALF of school before blessed vacation arrives. They are insanely excited and THE ONLY THING ON THE PLANET THAT SOOTHES THEM is this song. I put it on and a hush, a hush I tell you, falls over the classroom. For just a few minutes we’re lulled into tranquility. If this song were a person, I’d kiss it on the mouth for the few calm moments it brings to my day.
9. Welcome to Our World by Chris Rice You don’t know Chris Rice? Well, I’m so glad to acquaint the two of you. There’s a great line in this song “Hope that you don’t mind our manger.” Such a humble way to welcome the Son of God. But the line that stops me in my tracks is “Bring Your peace into our violence, bid our hungry souls be filled.” Seriously, I found myself fighting back a tear in the bread aisle yesterday when this one came up on my playlist. But wait, there’s more, because then Chris Rice goes and sings this perfect verse “So wrap our injured flesh around You. Breathe our air and walk our sod. Rob our sin and make us holy. Perfect Son of God.” By the time that verse came around I was wiping my eyes on my sleeve and assuring the checker that I was fine, completely fine, no really. I hope you enjoy it and if you’ve got some favorites, give them some love in the comments.