Friday Fives: Top Five Under-The-Radar Christmas Songs

Joy To The World, O Come All Ye Faithful, Oh Holy Night, Breath of Heaven, White Christmas, Deck The Halls, etc. etc. The Christmas season is filled with classic songs for a wondrous season and wonderful Savior.

But this Friday Fives list isn’t about the songs you’ll hear many many times this Christmas season, as great as they are.

This Friday Fives lists the top 5 Christmas songs you’ll probably have to go looking for this season – but are well worth the looking. These are the top five songs that may not be the most famous or the most frequently played, but are very special nonetheless. They help make Christmas, well, Christmas.

#5 I Wonder As I Wander

The Story: For some reason, this Christmas album was played a great deal in my house when I was growing up. So, naturally, its songs stuck on me, with I Wonder As I Wander sticking close all these years. You don’t hear it much – thus its inclusion in this edition of Friday Fives, but it’s worth your time this season.

The Words:

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God’s Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King

#4 Silent Night/Manheim Steamroller

The Story: OK, I know what you’re thinking already. And you’re right. Silent Night is certainly not an “under the radar” Christmas carol. It’s one of the most loved and played songs in history. I’m right with you. However, you’d be surprised how many are not familiar with the beautiful haunting version from Manheim Steamroller’s original Christmas album from 1984. Yes, it was an actual album, vinyl and everything, and, no, Manheim Steamroller is not from Germany but from the good ol’ USA. (The group’s founder, Chip Davis, is from Ohio.)

The Words: Of course this version is an instrumental. But when I hear it, I can’t help but sing that third verse in my head.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth!

 #3 Low How A Rose E'er Blooming

The Story: A 15th century German carol – Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen – with lyrics added in 1874, 1895, and 1914. I don’t think I ever heard this song until my adulthood but it is the classic Christmas Eve song. I’ve made certain it’s been part of my celebration for several years now. I had someone tell me just a few days ago that they’d never heard it.

It is such a gorgeous song centered on a beautiful metaphor for the center of Christmas – the Rose Himself.

The Words:

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

 #2 In The Bleak Midwinter/Sarah McLachlan

The Story: I tend to think of the #3 song and this one as a pair for some reason. Both haunting, both beautiful and subdued. The lyrics are from a 19th century poem by Christina Rosetti and set to music by Harold Drake in 1909.  In 2008, it was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of choir directors.

The Words:

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him:  give my heart.

#1 A Strange Way To Save The World/4 Him

The Story: Someone emailed me this song this week and asked me if I’d heard this “new” Christmas song. They didn’t realize it was from 4 Him’s 1993 Christmas release, The Season of Love. This song would probably make my list of the 10 greatest Contemporary Christians songs of all time. It was co-written by Don Koch, whose name you may never have heard, but whose great songs are many (In Christ Alone, Basics of Life, Adonai, etc. etc.)

The Words:

To think of how it could have been
If Jesus had come as He deserved
There would have been no Bethlehem
No lowly shepherds at His birth

Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the

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