Day 3/12 – Noel! (Christmas Songs Countdown)

Continuing the countdown of 12 great songs for the twelve days before Christmas, here is Chris Tomlin’s ‘Noel‘ sung by Lauren Daigle.

Before you listen, you may like to consider the origins of the word, NOËL. This word, signifying the holiday season, comes to us from the Latin verb nasci, meaning “to be born.”  The noun use (from natalis dies, day of birth) denoted a birthday, an anniversary, a commemorative festival, hence in ecclesiastical Latin the festival of the nativity of Christ, Christmas. In English, Noël has not been in standard use in the sense of Christmas, but it has been attested as a surname and male first name in England since the 12th century; it was probably originally used for children born or baptised on Christmas day. In the early 14th century, from its use as a word shouted or sung to commemorate the birth of Christ, French Noël became an interjection expressing joy.

Let’s give thanks today and hold on to the wonder of the Word who became flesh, and came to save us!

Love incarnate, love divine
Star and angels gave the sign
Bow to babe on bended knee
The Saviour of humanity
Unto us a Child is born
He shall reign forevermore

Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us

Son of God and Son of man
There before the world began
Born to suffer, born to save
Born to raise us from the grave
Christ the everlasting Lord
He shall reign forevermore

Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us

Songwriters: Edmond Martin Cash / Matthew James Redman / Chrisopher D Tomlin
Noel lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group, Music Services, Inc

What to do with ‘Jesus, Son of God’

Following on my recent conundrum about keys, capos and congregations I’d like to explore the dilemma I am having with this great Chris Tomlin song, and the best key to sing it in at church. Firstly, have a listen and read the words (on the video, or scroll to the end):

In this version, it is played with Capo 4 in G, which means that, at pitch, they are singing in key of B (which has five sharps – the reason they are using a capo).

Since the lyrics of this song are just too good to pass up, we found the best way around the issue of the range, is to sing it in D. This means the range of the melody falls between D and A, which most people can manage! Unfortunately, it also means that the melody in the chorus ends up lower than it is in the verse – but in order for the greatest number of people to sing it well together (which is the point), we decided to go this way. It seems to be working well!

A few other thoughts about this Key choice:
1. If you are into adding harmonies with backing singers, you can easily add some harmonies above the melody in the chorus (a third or 5th above). You could even teach some to your congregation.
2. Some male singers could jump up the octave to help build a crescendo in part of a verse or chorus. This could be modeled by your male song-leader.

Let me know how you go. Here are the lyrics again:

Jesus Son Of God

Verse 1

You came down from Heaven’s throne
This earth You formed was not Your home
A love like this the world had never known
A crown of thorns to mock Your name
Forgiveness fell upon Your face
A love like this the world had never known


On the altar of our praise
Let there be no higher name
Jesus Son of God
You laid down Your perfect life
You are the sacrifice
Jesus Son of God
(You are Jesus Son of God)

Verse 2

You took our sin You bore our shame
You rose to life You defeated the grave
And a love like this the world has never known
‘Cause You took our sin You bore our shame
You rose to life You defeated the grave
A love like this the world has never known


Be lifted higher than all You’ve overcome
Your name be louder than any other song
There is no power that can come against Your love
The cross was enough
The cross was enough
(The cross was enough)
(The cross was enough)


The cross was enough
The cross was enough

Watch “Chris Tomlin – Noel (Live) ft. Lauren Daigle” on YouTube

The conundrum of keys, capos and congregational singing


Most of the songs we now use to gather Christ’s body together in praise and worship are not written for that specific purpose – for singing together. Rather, they are written to be performed and recorded (for God’s glory), while satisfying the vocal range of an experienced soloist, who most often has a fairly high male (tenor) voice. The melodies are therefore shaped and situated in a vocal range that few of us can manage. Sure, we can sing along with the best of them on our iPods, but unconsciously we do a lot of octave jumping, or harmonising, so that we can sing along. This doesn’t work too well when the congregation is singing together.

Choosing the right key is quite tricky. The default or original key on SongSelect rarely works well. It can end up with a really high melody section in the chorus that no one can sing (bar the tenors) or else the whole thing is too low when you jump down an octave. This low singing equates to really quiet singing, and when we can’t hear each other we are discouraged from singing at all.

You also have to consider the musicians: is this great key the guitarists are happy to play in one which will induce a mild psychosis in the keyboard player, as they scamper around playing on only the black notes?

Here are just four rules of thumb that I find work well when selecting singable and playable keys for church singing (on SongSelect (CCLI) or a similar website).

1. Keep the vocal range between A (below middle C) and D (8 notes above middle C). Remember that D signals Distress for many people, so ensure the transposed melody only has a few passing notes of the high D (and the low A as well, for that matter). If the song ends up with a low G as the anacrusis note in the melody of the verse then teach it as a B instead (it should fit the chord, and won’t really be noticed).

2. Try to maintain the original shape and development of the song, starting with low verse notes and moving to higher chorus notes. If you sabotage the ‘chorus lift’ by a poorly chosen key, or by forcing people to jump down an octave, it can all fall seriously flat.

3. Don’t choose keys that have too many sharps or flats. Stick to maximum of four sharps (E major) and max 3 flats (Eb major). There are a few major keys that work well for both guitar and keys: C, D, E, G and A major. Keyboard players generally don’t mind keys with flats (one flat F major, two flats Bb major), but these will probably make your guitarists unhappy. This leads to my next point.

4. Understand Capos and get your guitarists to understand and use them. The keyboard and the guitarists can play in different keys quite effectively. A guitar capo effectively shortens the guitar strings and produces a higher sound. This enables the guitarists to play in comfortable keys (mostly ones with sharps) while the pianist can play in a key with flats that may mean a better vocal range for the congregation.

For example, if I want to use Matt Redman’s Ten Thousand Reasons in a flat key (Eb major, with three flats), then the guitarists can play in D (with their music in key of D) and capo on the first fret. (Each fret raises the guitar’s pitch by a semitone. So, the guitarists playing in D major want it to sound Eb major. Placing the capo on fret one moves the sound up by a semitone. Success! It sounds in Eb major but they don’t have to play in a key with flats.)

Another example would be Trevor Hodge’s No Other Name (Listen below!) in Bb, which has two flats. The guitarists can play in G major, but sound Bb by placing the capo on fret 3. There are 3 semitone steps to get from G to Bb (go check a keyboard) which is why the guitar must use capo three.

Remember that the guitarist needs to be playing in a key slightly lower than the keyboard player, so that the capo will bring their sound up to pitch, and they will only need to use capo 1, 2 or 3.

Next time: let’s look at a case study and decide what to do with Tomlin’s ‘Jesus, Son of God’ which has a huge vocal range! I’m still working on this one myself.

Watch “Christy Nockels – My Anchor (Live/Lyrics And Chords)” on YouTube

More great GRACE songs

Here are two GRACE-filled songs, both with a lively tempo, for you to try with your church family. The first is “Grace has now Appeared” from a recent Christmas album, ADVENT by EMU Music. I think this would be very suitable to sing all year, since we celebrate the grace that comes to us in Christ every day. It is a joyful song, full of gospel riches. The second is an older song with a simple chorus, made popular by Chris Tomlin, “Your Grace is Enough” (album: ‘Arriving’). (Click on any of the titles to listen.)

Grace has now appearedadvent

See the love of God the Father for our lost and desperate race
Sending to our world a Saviour, full of truth and grace
People who once walked in darkness now are dwelling in the light
Undeserving of His kindness, Blindness turned to sight
Dead have come to life

Glory to our God in heaven, Celebrate the Saviour’s birth
Joyful news for all the people, Hope has come to earth
God has comforted His people, Come to drive away our fear
Born for us in David’s city, Grace has now appeared

See the grace of our Lord Jesus who was rich but became poor
In our place He pays our ransom, Satisfies the law
Giving up His life for sinners, Banishing our guilt and shame
Pouring out for us His life-blood, Freeing us from blame
This is why He came

See the Holy Spirit’s power overshadow Mary’s womb
Come upon the suffering servant, Raise Him from the tomb
He has come to dwell within us, Bringing us from death to life
Giving us the hope of glory, Making us like Christ
Shining forth His light

CCLI Song # 6426257 Rob Smith© 2012

arrivingYour Grace is enough

Great is Your faithfulness O God, You wrestle with the sinner’s restless heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy, And nothing can keep us apart
So remember Your people, Remember Your children, Remember Your promise O God
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Great is Your love and justice God of Jacob, You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation, And all Your people sing along
(Chorus 2)
Yeah Your grace is enough, Heaven reaches out to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I sing Your grace is enough, I’m covered in Your love
Your grace is enough for me for me

CCLI Song # 4477026 Matt Maher © 2003

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My Hope in God’s grace
same love

The titles of Christ in the midst of a whirlwind (Message of Mark part 2)

sonof manWell I had promised to do some more study here for my exam on Mark, but a few things have been drawing me away. Let me share some things from the last few days: We hosted the first night of the Parenting Teenagers Course at our church, I prepared to run a session on one-to-one Bible reading for women at a retreat (and then did so), I found out I had upset a lovely long-term friend (sorry!), managed to put out my lower back (I am walking around like a fragile old woman), then hosted a staff meeting and dinner at my house. Most of that happened yesterday! Today I have led music at church and felt ‘obliged’ to go see Iron Man 3 with my teenagers and husband. (This last one was no huge sacrifice, but it did take a few hours. Fun film!)

So now it is time to stop and think clearly for a few moments in the midst of this whirlwind, about the way Christ referred to himself, the titles of Christ as recorded in Mark’s Gospel. These titles reveal so much of God’s great plan to rescue a people for His own Kingdom purposes, a people who would come to resemble the beautiful King who saved them!

“How do the titles of Christ reveal who Jesus is?”


Messiah is the Hebrew term, Christos the Greek, for the title which tells us that Jesus is God’s anointed and promised King. He fulfills the promise to King David of a descendent who would reign on his throne forever! (2 Samuel 7).  Jesus, God’s Son, became the Son of God (a Messianic title which also applied to the OT Kings of Israel). The Son of God would be the one to subdue the nations and be the means of reconciliation between God and man. “Kiss the Son” is the instruction of Psalm 2, meaning we must bow to or align ourself with him. We must trust in Him: “blessed are all who take refuge in Him”. Jesus’ divinity (meaning He IS God!) was made apparent by the authority he displayed over sickness, nature, death, evil spirits and most importantly sin – God alone could forgive (Mark 2 – the Man on the Mat!). Jesus is the One who clearly fulfilled the words of Isaiah: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5-6).  Several times in Mark, in the voice from heaven (at the baptism and the transfiguration) and the voice of demons, God revealed that Jesus was indeed His Son. Peter, Blind Bartemeus and the Roman centurion (who saw Christ crucified) all conclude “You are the Christ”, Son of David, Son of God.

Son of Man

Another significant title is this one, Son of Man, which Jesus often used in referring to Himself, and what He had come to do. While this may seem to be a puzzling title, since the man Joseph was definitely not his biological father, Jesus used it to show how he fulfilled the promises which came through Daniel. Daniel 7 speaks of one like a Son of Man who will be victorious over evil, who receives the Kingdom in the new age, and shares it with the saints (all believers). He is the servant of the Lord who delivers God’s people through a resurrection (Daniel 12). This Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:8-12), and he will preside over the great Sabbath rest at the end of time (Mark 2:27-28). The Son of Man is the true descendent of Adam, representative of God the Creator, who will rule over creation within God’s total and sovereign rule.

In Mark 14:61-63 Jesus draws these two titles together, and admits who He is, as he stands before the Sanhedrin under arrest. Jesus says He is “I AM”, both the divine Son of God, Son of the Blessed One, and the Son of Man who will receive the Kingdom with power!

Suffering Servant

The final title is that of Suffering Servant, promised through the prophet Isaiah many centuries before. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Son of Man will serve us by suffering, in our place. He takes the punishment for sin, our sin, which was death. Isaiah 53 provides the clearest picture of what the suffering Servant would do: the righteous servant would justify many, giving his life as a ransom. Fulfilling Isaiah’s words perfectly, Christ was crushed for our iniquities, pierced for our trangressions. The punishment that brought us peace was laid on him. Silently as a lamb he was led to the slaughter, the Perfect Lamb of God, the sacrifice that perfectly fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and brought a way for our forgiveness. Psalms 22 and 69 also foreshadow the way Christ (in fact God himself) entered into our suffering, forsaken to death for US!

And strangely, apart from all that I can learn about the titles of Christ, there is a great comfort in knowing that Jesus is not some modern, man made or religious idea, but the great God-man who fulfills the purposes of our creator, and He draws us to himself through Jesus. The name of Jesus is indeed a refuge (as Chris Tomlin has sung, below). Theology brings us comfort and assurance of all that we hope for in faith.

And just if you are interested to keep reading:

Yehoshua means ‘the Lord saves’, and is translated into English as Joshua.
Jesus’ Hebrew name is Yeshua, which is a shortened version of Yehoshua. Yeshua means ‘he will save’, and is translated into English as Joshua.
Yeshua translated into Greek is Iesous.
Iesous transliterated into Latin is Jesu.
Jesu became Jesus in English.
Jesus’ name is actually “Joshua”.

Click here to read part 3:
Some unusual thoughts on Parables and Miracles

Songs to GROW Women by . . .

.facebook_-22058451Great to have an audience of interested people who can consider my song selection for a Women’s conference in July, called GROW. Speaker Jenny Salt from Sydney will no doubt have some ‘salty’ words to share, teaching from the book of Numbers to show God’s trustworthiness and to encourage us to count on God, holding on to Him through all of life’s jouney. Themes include: trusting God, His faithfulness, taking Him at his Word, resting in God’s promises which are fulfilled in Jesus, blessings, consequences of sin, God’s holiness.

Here is my initial shortlist of songs, keeping in mind that we are hoping to cover a wide range of ages and denominations, mixing well known and new songs.

When Peace like a River (Hymn, aka It is Well) – connected with I will Rise (Chris Tomlin)
Hymn – Great is Your Faithfulness
My Hope (Nothing will change, if all the plans I make go wrong… by Paul Baloche). We taught this one last year at GROW.
Desert Song (This is my prayer in the desert – quite appropriate for Numbers, by Brooke Fraser)
O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus (Bob Kauflin’s hymn arrangement) – will do as item in 3part harmony, to teach it to the group.
Mighty to Save (Hillsong).
See the Man (Trevor Hodge) – this is a great one for see howing God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus!
No Other Name (Trevor Hodge)
10 000 reasons
(Bless the Lord O my Soul . . . Chris Tomlin)
Blessed be your name (Matt Redman)

If you have any thoughts for other songs that tie into the theme perfectly, please comment below. I hope you can also find a new song or two above!

When should we sing that song?

piano-stairs3There are times when a song fits just so perfectly! It arrives during the gathering at just the right place and right time. Other times a song will stand out like a sore thumb. Despite our best laid plans, both of these instances can occur even within the one church service! If you are new to the service planning task, or even if you’ve been doing it for a while, here are a few tips to help create the best possible sequencing of songs. I hope these thoughts are helpful in some way. (Note: I am writing for churches that use a mix of contemporary songs and hymns.)

Songs work well early in the service if they have a positive feel and lively tempo. They should be uplifting and encourage as many people to sing as possible. This will create energy and anticipation for all they will do/hear together in the rest of the service. Avoid songs with super-complicated rhythms or minor keys. Songs should be quite well-known to the congregation and not be recently ‘new’ songs. Thematically, it is good to open with songs of adoration, which describe the general attributes and actions of God/Jesus and give praise for them. Songs that encourage personal response/reflection, or that describe details about salvation, are not very helpful as opening songs. Newcomers may be struggling with the concept of God existing at all. Let’s establish that first!
Good Examples:
Come People of the Risen King (Getty), Creation sings the Father’s Song (Getty), Indescribable (Laura Story), Majesty of Heaven (Tomlin), Hallelujah to the King of Kings (EMU), Across the Lands (Getty), O God Our Redeemer (Everlasting) (Altrogge), God of Wonders (Byrd & Hindalong).

Songs through the middle of your service can branch out in terms of theme and feel and tempo. It is a good place to sing songs that teach the Gospel in detail, that speak of salvation and how it was won for us. Songs that speak to each other as God’s people (using terms like we/us/our) help draw people together into community. These songs provide the encouragement described in Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”  Songs that move from minor to major feel are great here. Certain songs can also be a calming influence, helping people prepare to hear God’s word preached (without putting them to sleep!).
Good examples:
By Our Love (Christy Nockels), We Belong to the Day (EMU), By Faith (Getty), How deep the Father’s Love for Us (Townend), Mighty to Save (Hillsong), Glorious Day (Casting Crowns), See the Man (Hodge/EMU),  In Christ Alone (Getty), Count it all Joy (Sovereign Grace). How Great is Our God (Tomlin) is an interesting one – seems like it should fit in the opening songs category by theme, but the tempo and feel are not quite right (in my humble opinion). It works well in the middle.

This is probably the best place to put songs of personal response or commitment or resolve (“I” songs) – since by this point people will have heard the Gospel explained in the sermon, bible readings and earlier songs. Both slow songs and more upbeat songs can be effective for closing, depending on the type of mood you want to leave people in. It is good to remember the final song can be ringing in people’s ears long after they have forgotten the main points of the sermon, so choose something memorable that says something important!
Good examples:
You are My King (I’m Forgiven),.My Hope (Baloche), I give you my Heart (Hillsong), You Chose the Cross (Lost in Wonder) (Martyn Layzell), I will Glory in My Redeemer (Sovereign Grace), From the Inside Out (Hillsong), Stronger (Hillsong), Be Thou My Vision, This Life I live (EMU), Desert Song (Brooke Fraser Hillsong), 10000 Reasons (Matt Redman), May the Mind of Christ my Saviour, Here I am to Worship (Redman), Jesus Thankyou (Sovereign Grace).

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Praise the Lord: New song list ready for 2013!

pianoThe 2013 list is ready! There are just so many good songs out there, it has been pretty tough to eliminate ones I love. But it is great to have a plan mapped out. Some of these songs have been waiting in the wings for several years, so it is exciting to finally get everyone singing along.
There is nothing like a new song to present God’s truth to people in a new and refreshing way, and to focus people’s attention on some important element of the Gospel of Grace which they may have overlooked. I have included lots of details for our music team at ARPC to consider; would love to hear your thoughts on any songs that stand out, for whatever reason. I have also commented on the feel and theme of the song, plus the key I think fits best for a congregation. At our church we have two services, a more traditional family service in the morning, and an evening Cafe Church service, with an average age of around 30, and a good number of teenagers – this is why I have designated some songs to fit only one service. (Sorry if I have overlooked some details. Hope you can find them easily enough. Most lead sheets are on CCLI. Purchase individual songs on iTunes.)

1. No Other Name (Trevor Hodge 2010, EMU – Album: Undivided). Listen here This is such an uplifting song, with a tremendous crescendo in verse three which is sung up the octave (for those of your congregation who can). Jesus is our joy in sorrow’s tears, my broken heart’s delight, my strength, my hope! (Key Bb – use key A capo 1 for guitars, or key G capo 3)
2. See the Man (Trevor Hodge 2008, EMU – Album: Advent).  In this song we connect the man Jesus with the promises to the first Adam, and to Abraham, and we see how Jesus has come to fulfill these promises and undo what sin has done. Great theology and a lilting 6/8 rhythm. (Key D)
3. We Belong to the Day (Michael Morrow 2006, EMU – Album: Come hear the Angels sing). Listen What I love about this one is the minor/major change from verse to chorus, and the really triumphant bridge. It challenges us to see that our identy and security is in Christ, He is our refuge from the coming wrath. This song makes no apologies about the reality of what is to come. (Not too many songs feature the coming wrath!) (Key E)
4. Majesty of Heaven (Chris Tomlin 2010 – Album: And if our God is For Us). Listen “To You the nations bow down, To You creation cries out majesty, All things You hold together, Your name will stand forever, Majesty You are majesty.” What a great way to praise the King! (Key G)
5. Saving One (Jon Neufeld, Mia Fieldes, Tim Neufeld 2010 – Starfield). ListenAnd heaven can’t contain the glory of the Son, Jesus is the Christ, The Saving One”. The bridge of this song brings an awesome reminder that all who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. This is a simple song but the message is clear – Jesus saves! (Try Key Bb, so bridge is not so high. Guitars can Capo 1 in A)

MORNING service only:
1. Creation Sings the Father’s Song (Getty, 2008 – Album: Awaken the Dawn). Listen This modern hymn from the Gettys invites us to join with creation and praise the Father. “Let all creation stand and sing! Fill the earth with songs of worship! Tell the wonders of Creation’s King.” (Key Bb, guitar Capo 3 in G)
2. All I have is Christ (Jordan Kauflin 2008, Sovereign Grace). Listen That is, afterall, all we have that we can count on in this world! Hallelujah! The song moves us to know that Christ, who saved us from our “hell-bound race” is indeed now our only boast. (Key C, so it’s not too high!)
3. Never Alone (Philip Percival & Simone Richardson 2006, EMU – Album: Let All Creation Sing). Listen This is a gentle song, with a simple melody, but the lyrics bring much comfort. Christ is with us. We are not alone. The song tells the story in 4 verses, of the God-man come to earth, dying and rising for us; now he walks with us in joy and pain. (Key D)
4. Show us Christ (Doug Plank 2011, Sovereign Grace). Listen  A reflective prayer song, asking that God would reveal His glory through the preaching of His Word, that our hearts would be ready to receive His Word, that it would be implanted there and grow much fruit in our lives. This would be great to sing before hearing a message. The wording is very inclusive (us, our, we) and calls people to recognise the community of the church. (Key Bb, use A for guitar, Capo 1).
5. Hear the Call of the Kingdom (Getty 2006 – Album: In Christ Alone). Listen This is a pretty exciting song about the call of the Kingdom, from Jesus, to us, to be part of His expanding Kingdom stretching across time and space, into eternity. We are called to be children of light, living with the humility of Christ. (Key F major, guitar capo 3 in D)

1. 10,000 Reasons/Bless the Lord (Matt Redman 2011 – Album: 10,000 Reasons). Listen This is a gentle yet important song with a rousing chorus. It invites us to tell our souls, in no uncertain terms, that we must value, trust, sing out/call on the Holy name of the Lord – afterall, we have 10,000 reasons to do so! I love the dramatic pause he has created with the inclusion of the two-four bars, leading into the chorus.
2. Hosanna (Brooke Fraser 2006). Listen  Yes, we are a little behind the times having not taught this one yet! It is a favourite for many people, especially for the heartfelt cry of the Bridge section, “Heal my heart and make it clean, Open up my eyes to the things unseen, Show me how to love like You have loved me.” (Default Key is E, but maybe try in D major).
3. Our God (Chris Tomlin – Album: And if Our God is For Us). Listen There is no one like our God, and He is for us. That’s all I need to say. It is a powerful message. (Key G)