I had every intention of video recording the service because I was so proud of what the band was doing, but Ross went long and we had a kids song rehearsal in between the services which gave me just enough time to tune up and start the second service.
This set had two pretty daunting musical challenges and the whole team proved themselves more than capable for the task.
As you can see from last week’s post, we try to gradually add more carols as journey toward Christmas.
We opened the service with Sovereign Grace’s Emmanuel, Emmanuel. We taught it last year and it’s one of my favorite “non-carol” worship tunes. SovGrace can be hit and miss on production value – sometimes songs sound like pop genius and other times they sound like a board mix of a talented praise team. But lyrically, their songs can’t be outmatched. This tune paints a brilliant picture of the divinity and simultaneous humanity of Jesus. In addition, it’s musically perfect for us. Dale and Tim are right in line with the drum syncopation and B3 riffing. We also had Caroline Smith on 2nd acoustic and background vocals who sang harmony in the verses, which was a nice change for us. My wife, Kristen, sang the main background vocal in the chorus. Three-part harmony! (You can hear the album version here.)
From there, we did something a bit different for us. I had wanted to do North Point’s All Creation Sing (Joy To The World) last Christmas but didn’t have the time. Originally, my plan was to cut out the long orchestral beginning but back in November, I decided to add a second keyboard to the stage. This mean that Karen would play the primary keyboard stuff but Tim, our B3 guy, would play our older Alesis keyboard on certain songs. Since Christmas tracks tend to have a lot of piano, bells, strings, I figured we would be better with two keyboards. I asked Tim and Karen to work out this intro because I wanted to run a video of Advent reading over the intro. (You can watch the video here.) Once the video was done, I realized that it could run over the band intro (at 1:07) and time out perfectly. Tim and Karen met early on Thursday and we shortened the orchestral part a bit to get to the video/intro quicker. After our first song on Sunday, I did a very quick greeting and ended with “Let’s worship with joy.” As Tim and Karen started, stage lights dropped and focused on them as they played that part. It was a beautiful intro! The song went great, and it was a very different vibe for us. North Point’s version repeats a previous verse for the third pass, but I opted for a lesser sung verse of Joy To the World:
“No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.”
This ended up being a perfect fit for our sermon on the Mosaic covenant as it centered on God’s faithfulness to the children of Israel – that nothing has ever been able to thwart that covenant! (Listen to the album version here.)
During the welcome, Ross and I talked a little bit about “far as the curse is found” and he read scripture and prayed.
As folks greeted one another, we played Brenton Brown’s Joyful. We’ve done this song quite a bit during the year and it’s one of my favorite “hymns” to sing. In fact, we’ve done it so much, I had forgotten it was considered a Christmas song. This was the most familiar tune in the set and the band did a good job on it. I think we were a little rusty on the bridge breakdown. (We don’t drop right to the bridge like the CD version. We rock the bridge chords for a while before I start singing. Verse 2 was one of those moments where I could clearly hear the congregation singing loudly – love moments like that. (Listen to the album version here.)
Next up was Communion, but a unique one for sure, since we need a song that tied in Andrew Peterson/Mosaic covenant/actual communion. So, naturally, we did Passover Us. I can say enough about what an awesome job the band did. Our drums/percussion were perfect – doing lots of playing “around” the beat and waiting until the very end to amp up the power. Our bass player and guitarists were spot on, too. I didn’t realize how challenging this song was until we rehearsed it. It’s mostly a timing challenge as some progressions flip back and forth between longer and shorter runs. Before the song, I read a modified version of a Communion prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
Merciful Lord, we do not presume to come to Your table trusting in our own righteousness, but only in Your manifold and great mercies.
Our merits provide us no aid in approaching this meal of remembrance, but You are merciful and receive us.
Grant us, gracious Lord, the wisdom and ability to recall your broken body and shed blood as we take this meal.
Let it guide us in praise and thanksgiving for your great worth.
We finished the song just as the ushers got back to the front of the stage. We played instrumentally while I had folks stand and I read this prayer:
The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given for You, preserves your body and soul to everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that His sacrifice has made us right with God.
We did 2 choruses of the song congregationally, then I prayed as Ross stepped up.
Probably one of the most musically diverse and challenging sets we’ve done…and it was great! (Here the album version here.)