Christmas music playlist for all to enjoy

Dec 12, 2018 7:00:00 AM / by Erik Ullestad


It’s the most wonderful time of the year for music. Some of the best music ever recorded (and some of the cheesiest, too) was created for the Advent and Christmas seasons.

There’s so much great music, in fact, that stores, malls, coffee shops, churches, and homes have been playing Christmas songs since November. And, with more excellent music added to the catalog each year, it’s nearly impossible to fit all that music into only 12 days of the Christmas season.

In past years, I’d use a forum like this blog to throw a lectionary temper tantrum and tell you why it’s borderline sacrilegious to skip the end of Ordinary Time and all of Advent in lieu of a Christmas season which starts in mid-November and ends abruptly on December 26. I’d whine about the ways The Church has been complicit in the creation of this consumer-driven, bloated season. I’d even make obnoxious claims like, “if I start listening to Christmas music in Advent, I’ll have to start singing ‘Hallelujah’ in Lent.”

But not this year. For once, I’m unabashedly throwing myself into the Christmas music library long before the actual Christmas season (which, I’ll have you know, occurs between December 25-January 5).

For all you Advent Truthers out there, let not your hearts be troubled. I haven’t given up the fight for seasonally appropriate music. I just want to see what I’ve been missing for all these years. I mean, everyone seems so upbeat and friendly and warm when they’re listening to Christmas music. It might be fun to join them, instead of channeling my inner Grinch and railing against all the “noise, noise, noise, noise!”

And so, I’m going all-in on listening to Christmas music before Christmas. Besides, who am I kidding? My church choir started rehearsing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. The kids at my church were working on their Christmas pageant before Advent. Our sanctuary was decorated. Christmas is happening all around me. It’s time to join the party.

Now that I’ve grappled with the ideological issues, it’s time to share what’s on my playlist. I’m making two – a list of secular songs involving Santa, snow, warm fires, cuddling, and other non-churchy things; and a list of sacred songs which are about the Christ-child coming into the world. There are no real criteria, outside of answering the question, “Do I really like this song?”  

So, without further adieu, here’s what I’m listening to this Advent/Christmas season:

Secular Favorites

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Darlene Love
Probably my favorite on this list. Just a classic example of the Wall of Sound era of American pop music. 

All I Want for Christmas Is You, Mariah Carey
The “Love Actually” version is also acceptable.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Bruce Springsteen
Clarence Clemons’ “better be good for goodness sake” makes the whole song. 

Merry Christmas, Darling, The Carpenters
No list can be without Karen Carpenter. There are a dozen other songs I could have picked.

The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, *NSYNC
Nobody has more holiday spirit than Justin, JC, and the boys. Nobody.


7 O’Clock News/Silent Night, Simon and Garfunkel
S&G are my favorite musicians. This is as close as they come to a Christmas song. It makes the secular list because it feels like more of a political statement than a religious one. Or is it?


Sacred Favorites

O Holy Night, David Phelps
See also Groban, Josh or Degrees, 98.

Adeste Fideles, Luciano Pavarotti
This song is a call to worship, and nobody beckons people like Pav.

12 Days of Christmas, Straight No Chaser
A song written by a priest to teach the tenants of faith. Also, these guys are silly. 

Welcome to Our World, Chris Rice
This is my wife’s favorite Christmas song, which means it’s on my list. Duh. 

O Magnum Mysterium, Morten Lauridsen
I’m a choral music guy. The list needs at least one choir piece.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings, Barenaked Ladies, featuring Sarah McLachlan
A fun rendition by BNL and Sarah Mac which also managed to redeem one of my least favorite Christmas songs (We Three Kings).

Stille Nacht, Manheim Steamroller
Every part of this is perfect.


Tell us what’s on your Advent/Christmas playlist! In the meantime,  we’ve created a ready-to-go playlist of Erik’s top 14 songs. Check it out here!

Topics: Events and Holidays

Erik Ullestad

Written by Erik Ullestad

Erik Ullestad is a certified youth minister with 20 years of congregational experience. He's served on a variety of national boards, spoken at youth conferences, and contributed to more than a dozen youth ministry resources. He lives in Iowa with his wife and three teenage children.


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