I collect Christmas music. I have been doing so since I was a teenager, and it’s become something of an obsession. Before Apple Music and Spotify took everything online, I had collected over 500 physical Christmas albums. Now, of course, we can access all music all the time, so that little boast falls away.
Choosing the best of the albums and songs is not an easy task – and obviously highly subjective. In fact, it’s impossible. But I guess I am as qualified as anyone to do so. Here then are my “best of” lists of Christmas music (this is a work in progress – latest update 10 Dec 2020):
To get into these lists the songs and albums need something distinctive, they are musically excellent (even if I don’t particularly like the style), they must not be cheesy (so, no Boney M then), and they must capture the Christmas spirit (festive or reflective). I also favoured variety (so that my list of top albums didn’t dominate the individual songs list too much). The final criteria is that I included not just popular musicians, but Christian artists and worship albums as well – it is Christ-mas, after all.
These lists are going to be updated regularly, and change as I get suggestions and come across new songs and albums (and get slapped down for my initial choices). I’d love to hear your suggestions for these lists, and any songs or albums you think are better than the ones in my lists below.
Please remember that it’s actually impossible to create a “best of” list of Christmas songs. It’s actually better to be clear on what musical styles you prefer, and then get the best Christmas album in those styles. It’s also a good idea to select the best version of each Christmas song you like. That’s what I’ve done below, knowing full well there is not one chance that any list of “best Christmas songs” will ever be satisfactory. There are just too many musical genres competing for attention.
So, add your voice below.
Continue reading A Fan’s Best of Christmas Music Lists →
One of the questions I am most often asked when I do consulting on different generations with churches and faith-based groups, is “what can we do to get young and old people doing things together”. Often, the question behind the question is about how to get young and old to enjoy the same sort of worship service together. That’s a tough (but not impossible) ask.
My response is normally to push people to think beyond the church service, and to think of actual service. Serving each other, and serving others together, is probably the easiest way to create inter-generational experiences.
So, I really enjoyed a YouTube video that is the most watched video on the web in the past week. I enjoyed it even more that it was my mother who sent me the link. It’s a four minute video of a very well executed flash mob singing the Hallelujah Chorus. It struck me that this is the perfect Christmas inter-generational experience. Young and old would both love this experience. And it is such a feel good experience, one can only imagine it will live long in the memories of all who were there.
Watch the video below, or at YouTube directly (and join the – literally – millions of others who have done the same in the past few days):
Continue reading Classical Flash Mob: A wonderful intergenerational experience →
I have been invited once again to speak in Iran later this year – and I am really looking forward to it. I have done a lot of work in the Middle East over the years, and enjoy Persian culture the most. The hospitality of the Persians is the stuff of legend. In fact, some guidebooks even warn you to be careful about complimenting your hosts furnishing too much, as they are quite likely to give you the object as a gift – and that could be embarrassing.
One of the reasons I am fascinating by Middle Eastern culture is that this is the modern representation of the culture that forms the backdrop of the Bible. Obviously, much has changed over the centuries, but in many parts of the Middle East you can still find people living very similarly to the type of world Jesus would have encountered. Some scholars have dedicated their lives to helping us understand the impact that the prevailing culture should have on our interpretation of the Bible. My favourite is Kenneth Bailey (buy his “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” at Amazon or Kalahari.net).
An understanding of the underlying culture can dramatically change the reading of a story (see, for example, a recent sermon I preached on the Prodigal Son).
But my issue today is that if a new insight is so big that it changes everything we were ever taught, would we be prepared to change everything? I mean, everything from the stories we tell our children, to how we view specific characters? The correct answer, of course, is that we MUST make such changes if we realise that we have misunderstood (or even misrepresented) the Bible. God’s Word must stand supreme over all.
There is such an issue… and it relates to one of the greatest of all Bible stories. And we have it all wrong. You probably won’t hear this at church this week, but you should.
Continue reading How can we change ingrained mistakes in our Bible reading? →