In my last post on “Where to Begin” with your Advent Calendar, I mentioned music as an important component of family worship and time together around your Advent Calendar. Let’s look at a few things to consider when selecting Christmas music for your children to use during Advent. We will look at the content, style, act-ability, depth, and quantity.
First, when selecting Christmas music, you will want to select music for your children that accurately reflects the truth of Scripture. Christian music, and especially Christmas music, can be prone to speaking things with excessive artistic license. Read through the lyrics of your song carefully and make sure that it is not teaching your child something that you do not wan to “unteach” later on. You can ask yourself questions like “Does this music have clear Scriptural thoughts and events interwoven in it?” or “Are there phrases and concepts in this song that are foreign to my understanding of God’s Word?” Some favorite theologically rich Christmas songs of mine are “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” & “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
Be sure to pick a song that can be easily sung by your family. If no one in your family sings well, some melody lines will be too cumbersome to stay in key. In our family, we always sing a capella. Some of our favorite contemporary music does not work well a capella so we forgo using it family worship.
I always try to make sure one or two of our songs is act-able…that is, one can sing it with hand motions. This is fun for the kids, and it also helps them remember the words to the song. Our favorite “act-able” hymns are “Go! Tell it on the Mountain” and “Away in a Manger” (We omit some verses from the latter that we don’t like as much.)
When selecting music for especially young children (ours are 4, 3, and 1) you may get caught up in selecting songs that are right at their level. When considering the depth of the music we sing, I always like to have a song or two that is easily understood by my children, right at their level. These are often the same songs that work well with actions. However, I do not steer away from “heavy” songs with advanced words and concepts. Why? Their little minds are easily able to memorize these songs now, and I am delighted to store up these things in their minds to draw from later on.
How many songs do you need for Advent? That depends on your time, your family, and the ages of your children. For our season in life we pick FOUR Christmas songs: two with actions and simple words, and two that are especially meaningful and rich for Mom and Dad. We try to sing two of the four songs every evening unless we are in a hurry. And we don’t always worry about mastering ALL the verses.
I hope these are helpful tools for selecting music for your family this Christmas season, and for any other time of the year.