BY RJ GRUNEWALD
Christmas is coming.
I realize that I am a bit of "that person" who overly enjoys all things Christmas. I'm "that person" who has absolutely no problem listening to Christmas songs before Thanksgiving. And while that is likely the kind of thing that drives many people crazy, it just might end up being beneficial if you're anticipating Christmas and could use some new grace-filled tunes to listen to as we get closer to Christmas.
Every year, there are new and varied arrangements of the Christmas classics. And every now and then, there are artists that try to bring something new into the space that can speak to congregations in the midst of the chaos of the Christmas season. I happen to work at our congregation that has some incredible artists, who like you love good Law-Gospel theology and they have been gracious enough to share this all for free.
Here's an interview about the EP, Grace Has Come and the heart behind the music.
RJ: You guys put together a Christmas EP with all original music… what was your heart behind this project? What led to the creation of it?
Faith Troy Worship: Every year we begin to search the internet tirelessly for new Christmas music that we can introduce to the church, but it's surprisingly difficult to find new relevant music about the birth of Jesus. It seems like most writers, myself included, find it easier and more interesting to write about Jesus' death and resurrection than His birth. The other problem with most Christmas CDs put out is that they are mostly cover songs. It's great to have new arrangements to pull from, but all too often, the new arrangements take away from the melody of the song, making them great to listen to, but not so great for our church to sing along to.
We also think its really cool when a church can sing true words about Jesus that were born from within their own body. All of us as worship leaders are first a part of our own local church body and then called out from it. To be able to take the ideas which our pastors teach every week and put those ideas into lyrics and set music to them was a really cool way for our congregation to hear the same message that we hope they get every time they walk into our church: "that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
RJ: There’s a ton of Christian music available for people and add to that a ton of Christmas music available, what do you hope these songs offer in the life of the Church in the Christmas season?
Faith Troy Worship: I heard John Mark McMillan quote Bob Dylan, but I couldn't find the original quote... He said something along the lines of, "The world doesn't need any more music, but if you have something to say, that's a different story."
A lot of Christmas music is either not singable or not theologically rich which leaves a big gap for new music to be written. I feel like we had a lot to say when it comes to the incarnation. We asked ourselves the question, what does the bible and our church history have to say about the coming of Christ, and how can we say that in a new way that resonates well with our congregation.
RJ: My favorite track is the song “Gifts You Bring.” I love the line, “Oh my God, who has made this night, shine with brightness of your Truest Light. Break the dark that has hidden me, that has taken me from the gifts you bring.” What were you hoping would resonate with people in this song?
Faith Troy Worship: “Gifts” was this crazy writing exercise at first. We used some concepts from one of the collects out of the Lutheran Service Book. We loved the idea of Jesus being the “Truest Light”; like of all light in all of eternity He is the brightest and the truest. From there we just wanted people to take away this idea that Christmas is more than just a fulfillment of Messianic prophesy in the past. It is that, of course, but it is so much more personal too.
We wanted people to realize and sing out that grace still comes in the midst of our doubt and shame. Even don't feel it or even when we feel like we don't have the words to say, grace still comes. Without Jesus, we are left to a deep darkness. And it's in the midst of the darkness - the darkness of our own world and the darkness of sin - that Jesus comes to save us. Grace has come and it has come for you.
RJ Grunewald is a Vicar at Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan, serving in the student ministry and as a part of the preaching team. He is also attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis through their distance education program. RJ is a theology nerd who loves books and sermons by dead guys. But as a writer and a preacher, he passionately believes that theology isn’t just meant for the academics and dead guys but it is for everyday life. He has a free, grace-filled book on addiction that you can download today, Addiction: Leaving the Vomit Behind. RJ has been married to his wife Jessica since 2007 and they have 2 kids, Elijah and Emaline.