My Top 5 Christmas Carols

John FarrellBy John Farrell9 Minutes

When it comes to music, it’s safe to say that my taste is broad. One morning you might find me tapping my pen on my desk to a classic rock song only to find me bellowing lyrics to a Broadway tune later that afternoon (with the door closed because no one should have to listen to my singing … trust me, it’s for the best). The next day, I may be humming along to a bluegrass ballad, pretending I can rap, or praising God with worship, gospel, or contemporary Christian music.

However, there is one genre of music that dominates my office speakers and accompanies me on my long commutes during December — Christmas music. I love Christmas music. It soothes my soul and puts me at peace. There is nothing more relaxing and powerful than a song packed full of meaning to get you ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, than a Christmas carol.

I have fond memories from my childhood of Christmas caroling with my church. I don’t remember where we went or who we sang to specifically, but I do remember fondly and quite vividly the faces of those we sang to light up. It was always a magical time. I wish Christmas caroling was as common today as it was back then.

I also remember the Christmas Eve services at my church. The long sanctuary was all aglow from candlelight and a peaceful serenity hung in the air. Those indelible evenings were filled with Christmas carols that have stayed with me over the years.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in my appreciation for Christmas carols and since there are a lot of good ones out there, I’ve decided to list my five favorites. (Hint: If you’ve read my article, “My Top-10 Favorite Christmas Movies of All Time,” you should already know the song at the top of this list.)

There were a lot of songs I considered and enjoyed listening to as I narrowed the list. I considered including some of my childhood favorites like “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas,” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Snowman,” but my music tastes have changed. However, there were several songs that just barely missed the cut. They are my honorable mentions.

I hope you enjoy this list of my favorite Christmas carols. Let us know what your favorites are.

Honorable Mentions: “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “O Holy Night,” “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” “Mary, Did You Know?,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and “Carol of the Bells.”

5. “Little Drummer Boy”

This song has always been a hauntingly beautiful Christmas carol that transports me back to the 19th century. Although a bit anachronistic, I envision a young boy in Civil War-era garb marching through a snowstorm on his way to Bethlehem in time for Jesus’ birth. For King & Country’s version of the song captured this vision perfectly.

4. “Hark! The Heralds Angels Sings”

I’m not sure if I first heard this song at the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or at church. Regardless, the lyrics always put me in the perfect holiday mood. It’s an uplifting song celebrating the “newborn king.” After all, that’s what the season is about. Although you can’t go wrong with most versions of this classic, the Peanuts gang singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” around a Christmas tree at the end of the TV special has a special place in my heart.

3. “What Child Is This?”

People unfamiliar with the lyrics to “What Child Is This?” may hear the popular song’s tune and immediately recognize it despite not knowing the words. That’s because the tune is based on the traditional English folk song, “Greensleeves.” The image of a little baby, who just so happens to be our Savior, sleeping on His mother’s lap is such a beautiful picture and a poignant reminder that Jesus came to earth to save humanity. It’s just awe-inspiring to think about. Additionally, I love this version by one of my favorite bands, The Petersens.

2. “We Three Kings”

I originally fell in love with “We Three Kings” when I was in the sixth grade before I knew the song’s meaning. I was cast as Claude Herdman in the popular kid’s play, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” by Barbara Robinson. In the show, Claude, along with two of his brothers, threaten other kids into letting them play the three Wisemen. When we made our grand entrance, “We Three Kings” played in the background. However, now that I know the song’s background – based on scripture from the Gospel of Matthew – and its message – the joy of the Wisemen seeking their Savior and the importance of their gifts – I appreciate the Christmas carol a lot more.

1. “O Come All Ye Faithful”

When I first decided to create this list, there was no doubt which song would reign supreme. “O Come All Ye Faithful” has been and will always be my favorite Christmas carol. I just think it is one of the most beautiful songs worshiping Jesus’ birth. And there are so many awesome versions of it on YouTube that it made it nearly impossible to settle on just one rendition. The reason it is my favorite Christmas song by a country mile is because it reminds me of the Christmas Eve services of my past. The church I grew up in had a long sanctuary with a center aisle splitting the congregation in two. At the back of the sanctuary were two doors that I always imagined swinging open just as the chorus rang out, “O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” As the song continued, I imagined people of all walks of life filing in through the doors to make their way toward the front of the sanctuary where Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Wisemen, and a manger holding baby Jesus were positioned. They were there to honor the newborn King and share in the joy surrounding His birth. Of course, this never happened (or at least I don’t think it did) but this song always created this image in my head. And I absolutely love envisioning this scene every time I hear the song.