Incessant Christmas Music (Nightmares), Or Questions of Worship

I’ll admit, when I’ve left my iPod on the kitchen counter and the local pop stations are too annoying to handle, I’ll click on over to the local Christian radio station. Often I do it just to hear some of the craziness going on (it has a STRONG political bias, and doesn’t put forth much effort in keeping this hidden) and maintain a pulse with what’s going on. I don’t listen only to be critical.

The day after Thanksgiving kicked off their continuous Christmas music binge. This is of course Christian artist versions of Christmas songs. Even though tons of artists cover religious Christmas songs because they’re classics, these are not given air time simply because they were made by a secular artist. The Christian station would seemingly have a very narrow range of Christmas songs to play, but thankfully (?) almost every Christian has been required by their record label to put a Christmas album of some kind.

Playing only songs by Christian artists does raise a good question about worship, however. I’m sure the station has reasoning for not playing a Mariah Carey version of a hymn, and instead only choosing ones by religious artists, but it does beg the question: can you worship to song not performed by a Christian?

Well maybe it doesn’t beg the question, but I’ll answer it anyway – with a yes. First of all, any worship artist would likely say their music is not the point – their music is merely a vehicle that gets you to a destination. We don’t worship the music itself.

Some would say that ‘well the non-Christian artist didn’t create the music with that intent so you can’t use it for worship’ – but we certainly don’t sit down and evaluate the motive of every song we use in worship – because once again the song or object has little significance. And God has a track record of using things for his purposes that people would never have though could be used.

If you’ve ever walked in a European cathedral and been hushed by its beauty and ushered into a time of worship, its quite likely the people who built that did it, well, for the money. The architect may not have even been a Christian.

Maybe that was a silly example, but nonetheless I think we can take some cues and see that worship is not confined to the realm of Christian books and songs. And maybe we can realize that God is not confined to realm of Christians, but is in fact working in all people in some way. One thing is for sure – God is always moving – and another thing is fairly certain – he’s moving in ways that defy our ideas and traditions.


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16 Responses to Incessant Christmas Music (Nightmares), Or Questions of Worship

  1. I have no doubt that worship music-be it regular worship music or Christmas-can be performed by a “secular” or non-Christian artist. I have several reasons for believing this but I do have another point of view as well. Who is to say that everyone performing christian music is a christian? Case in point: what about those who started out in Christian music (you know who I mean) and even led worship in their church (can anyone say Rascal Flatts?) or even played in a Christian group (again…) and yet now their Christian commitment is definitely under the gun? I am not a musician by any stretch. “I play a good stereo” is what I used to say. But I know enough to know that the music is just one vehicle to lead us into worship. Ask Matt Redman what happens when you take away the music. Worship is from the heart-whether a “secular” artist is doing the singing or a “Christian” artist. It is the heart of the worshiper that matters. My .02 worth. 🙂

    • oh yeah I agree – the Christian music industry is still an industry and people will do unethical things when their paycheck is on the line.

      Thanks for not tearing me apart, this is the first I got to the computer today and I was worried I’d have replies tearing me apart. whew!

  2. David says:

    Lots of good questions and logical answers, Charlie.

    I am just going to start with the desired results, worship or “worth ship” to God and sort of work backwards.

    The goal of worship is to be in the Spirit and do it based on God’s truth according to Jesus. (John 4:23) Jesus told the woman at the well that after his death and resurrection she could worship wherever she wanted. We are supposed to connect with God at a spiritual level.

    Therefore; whatever music makes us worship, regardless of the quality, the fact that an artists is saved or not saved, or its style is pretty much a moot point.

    However; there is some music that is ordained by God and written by his people. And like the word of God when it is “rhema” (living now word as opposed to logos the written word) there is something alive about it. This is called anointing. It is the intangible, but recognizable manifest presence of God which is “attached” to either the music, the melody, or worship performer.

    Jesus further told the woman that “rivers of living water” would flow from her belly (spirit). Paul said that unless we have the spirit of God, we cannot discern these things. (1 Corinthians 2:14) It’s about Spirit not about music.

    I have music in 4 languages on my iPod simply because the anointing of God is attached to it. Some of them are languages I understand, and others are not. Certainly there are lyrics that are meaningful to me. Some of them are hymns, others are contemporary worship, folk worship, and some would be considered hard rock.

    I have posted videos on Fire & Grace with some of my personal favorites. I think I will post my top 5 favorite Christmas songs for tomorrow.

    I always say there is a test you can do. Play a CD such as Michael W. Smith Worship, and then play the Eagles Greatest Hits – I think you’ll discern a difference.

  3. Angela says:

    I was taught in my old conservative church to never support non-Christian artists because it meant I was supporting their lifestyle. Looking back it’s amazing how much I truly believed listening to a non-Christian was a sin…

  4. Chris says:

    I’d roughly echo what David is saying.

    I have to say there are very few dyed-in-the-wool so-called Christian artists that I can listen to. I’d rather be provoked by something I disagree with that made me think than bored by a Christian Joe Cocker or Whitney Houston nock-off. But great uplifting, thoughtful music can be found anywhere. I think this is the point. Does it uplift? Does it turn your attention towards God? In this case, even the cheesy stuff can accomplish what it sets out to do if a person hasn’t had the opportunity to have been exposed to great, original music. We shouldn’t be snobs and say good, worthwhile music is over here; bad, low-brow music over there. My personal tastes run the gamut when it comes to music that moves me. I like Derek Webb, songs like Rich Young Ruler or A King And A Kingdom, that make me think, and I can still get a little misty-eyed when I hear old stand-by’s like A Mighty Fortress, even though I understand that it was adapted from an old drinking tune. But my personal tastes are just that. They are personal, and what touches me will not touch the next person and vice-versa. We are all strung a little differently, and I think God speaks to us all a little differently.

  5. Su says:

    I can’t imagine saying (or believing) that I “can’t” go outside the original intent with something, as in the case of worshipping with the aid of a song written by a non-Christian. Sheesh. Imagine applying that line of reasoning to everything in life; if nothing else, it would mean doing a lot of research before doing anything. No, thanks.

    There are plenty of things that I find to be moving– such as in movies or TV or whatever– that I’m sure weren’t intended to push me toward God. And yet, I’m not going to argue that I can’t think of God just because the artist didn’t.

  6. jay @ bethegospel says:

    I love Christmas music – both Christian and secular. I love it because it is the one time a year when people present the gospel whether or not they really intend to. I mean think about it – Celine Deon starts singing O Holy Night, Harry Connick Jr. sings some other hymn, and the story of Jesus birth are all over the air waves. I love it. It excites me because I think that people are more apt to hearing about Jesus simply because of what is played on commercials, at dept stores, and on the radio. In fact I was planning on writing a post about this soon. Guess I’ll have to add a link to this post for further reading. Thanks for the thoughts man!

  7. Pingback: The God Who Doesn’t Want Worship, Or Echoing Paganism | Charlie's Church of Christ

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