The Top 30 Christmas Songs of All Time, and Lighting a Candle

As a qualifier, I almost didn’t write this post.

It’s a post about the 30 most popular Christmas songs of all time, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers or ASCAP, the number one music performance rights company in the world. In celebration of its 100th birthday, ASCAP is publishing a series of lists of the most played songs in those 100 years.

And so, in keeping with the theme, ASCAP recently announced the 30 most played Christmas songs in history.

Of the top 30, there are two – two – that make reference to Christ. In other words, less than 10% are true Christmas songs. Between Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Coots and Gillespie) at number 1 and This Christmas (Hathaway and McKinnor) at number 30, you’ll find the only ones that make reference to the Lord: The Little Drummer Boy (Davis, Onarati and Simeone) at number 11 and Do You Hear What I Hear (Baker and Regney) at number 19. And that’s it.

White Christmas (Berlin), the song that for years was the most played song – Christmas or otherwise – of all time, is at number 3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Marks) is at number 8 and Frosty the Snowman (Nelson and Rollins) is at number 14.

It would therefore be easy enough to write a post lamenting the secularization of Christmas, dating back to the 1930’s – when Santa Claus is Coming to Town was written – to make an argument that this new ASCAP list is symptomatic of the “problem” of Christmas in western culture.  Is Christmas too secular? Too materialistic? Too shallow?

Check, check and, check.

Sudle Hands Holding Christmas WreathSudle Hands Holding Christmas Wreath

I just don’t believe there’s any point in lamenting it, especially not in a public forum such as I don’t think it adds value to a Christian’s approach to the Holy-day (as my pastor would say) to whine about our culture and its rejection of the Gospel and to wax indignant about Rudolph’s position in the Yuletide.

And so, I almost didn’t write this post.

But I’m writing because it’s an opportunity to encourage you… and me.

I think these Christmas songs are poignant reminders of Pascal’s “God-shaped” vacuum found in the heart of every person. The people around us are dreaming of white Christmases because they seek the beautiful and the peaceful. They want to be home for Christmas because of the power of safety and warmth. They want their troubles to be miles away because they are yearning to be free from fear and worry.

And so they celebrate these pursuits – and these escapes – every December in music. There is something in every soul swirling around you at WalMart that cries out for God and to know there’s someone really in that manger, whether they realize it right now or not.

And as believers we have that kind of hope. And there is no more ready time to share it than at Christmas.

Do you doubt that at Christmas Eve services across the world this week, many will hear what we hear and see what we see, finally? And it would be so sad if we’re so worried about Santa and shopping and sleigh bells and silly Christmas tunes that we miss our opportunity to share in God’s purpose to change lives through the child, the child sleeping in the night who will, once and for all, bring goodness and Light.

#11 on ASCAP's Holiday Top 30 - Little Drummer Boy



#19 on ASCAP's Holiday Top 30 - Do You Hear What I Hear?



There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus. Blaise Pascal

ASCAP’s Top 30 Christmas Songs