For the worship team, Christmas is both a time of celebration and dread. Celebration, because of the wonderful theme of Christ’s incarnation and the manifestation of God’s salvation plan for all mankind; and roast turkey and festive carol-singing. Because everyone loves to sing carols. But dread, because whilst everyone loves to sing carols, the worship team usually hates to play them.
In the context of a Sunday service, a carols service always presents dual challenges. The first is that singing carols can devolve into mere singalong without the elements of worship engagement and verticality. The second is that there are so many arrangements for carols that there are no reference points for church musicians, unless you write your own arrangements.
Yesterday, we had the first of a series of Christmas-themed services at Faith Community Church. And what a challenge it was!
Three weeks earlier, my music director (the ever hard-working and talented Lukey Luke) sent me a youtube link to a Lincoln Brewster-led Christmas service. It was such a fresh guitar-driven sound (yet reminiscent of Christmas because of the bells and tambourine elements). So we decided to style a set around this idea, including refreshing an old song (Graham Kendrick’s “The Servant King” which contains such powerful lyrics).
I also wanted to get Diana Wee to start leading worship with me on the team and we were on the same page when we both decided that “This is our God” would be a great focus song.
So, after fashioning the set, we were all ready to go and there was quite a sense of excitement within the team. However, there were no illusions about how easy it was to play the set – it was going to be challenging.
Rehearsal on Saturday afternoon was tough. We went from 4.00 pm to 7.30 pm. In the words of Caleb our drummer, this was “the most difficult set yet”. He wasn’t kidding (and Caleb had to play for a Hillsong worship leader just a couple of months earlier). I was starting to wonder if we bit of more than we could chew on top of battling a stomach bug. And I got a little worried the set was going to be too long.
But something miraculous happened when we reconvened on Sunday morning. Suddenly there was a renewed sense of energy and we started flowing well. I suspect the team went home and put some more work into the set and then rested well. And as I timed our run-through, it came to a well-timed 26 minutes!
As we played through the service, there was a growing sense that we were going to musically nail it. But not only that, it felt like we had entered into a divine flow and there was a real sense of God’s presence. By the end of it, if felt like our team had just broken through new frontiers of musical creativity. Carols might never be the same again!
So here is the set list from yesterday:
// Musical prelude
// Hark the Herald Angels Sing (E)
// Angels We Have Heard on High (E)
// The Servant King (E)
// This is Our God (E)
// O Come All Ye Faithful (F)
// Joy to the World (C-D)
And here’s a recording of it by our amazing sound guy, Senny.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the band for all their hard work musically and their continued pursuit of God’s presence. Playing with you guys have been an amazing honour. May God continue to grow us together and take to new realms of His glory. The best is yet to come!