Music Monday: Paul Baloche - For Unto Us (Christmas Worship Live from London)
Release Date: November 10, 2017
Few artists do a better job of pointing us back to the essence of Christmas than worship leader Paul Baloche. It might seem early, but I’ve already been reflecting and allowing myself to think a lot about Christmas through the music I’ve been listening to this year. I’m grateful that after 2 studio releases centered around Christ’s nativity (Christmas Worship and Christmas Worship, Vol. 2), Paul has given the church a live compilation of worship anthems paired with classic and beloved Christmas carols. For Unto Us (Christmas Worship Live from London) is just the album needed to help prepare room for the Savior in our worship.
Kicking things off, "Hark The Herald Angels Sing/King of Heaven" gets the feet stomping and the hands clapping. No, this is not your organ-droning version of the hymn, but a modernized one that breathes life and hope into the longing…”King of heaven come down, King of heaven come now, let Your glory reign, shining like the day, King of heaven come.” Co-written with Jason Ingram (and Charles Wesley and Felix Mendelssohn), this opener is a great call to worship and adore.
Combining his "Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)" chorus with another familiar holiday tune, track 2 continues the upbeat feel as "Angels From the Realms of Glory/Emmanuel." The idea of substituting Emmanuel for Hosanna fits so well and is powerful in a Christmas worship service. The idea of “God with us” is a compelling theme as a means to draw us in and go deeper. As a worship leader, I love Paul’s talent for crafting and singing accessible and memorable worship melodies. Emmanuel is no exception.
The album transitions into a mid-tempo feel with songs "Joy To The World/God That Saves" and "For Unto Us a Child is Born/Open the Eyes of My Heart." On their own, both tracks (God That Saves and Open The Eyes of My Heart) are well-known and part of Paul’s great catalog of praise songs for the church. Hearing them matched with favorite Christmas carols seems to bring an energy to both. I’ve always loved Open the Eyes of My Heart (from waaay back in my 90's college days!) and hearing that refrain “For unto us a child is born….holy holy holy” is moving. It truly makes me stop and think about what I’m singing. Yes Lord, open the eyes of my heart to see You during this busy and hectic season in which I so easily miss You.
There’s so much on this album that can be used either in personal times of worship or for ideas in corporate settings. "Christmas Offering" features Noel Robinson accompanying Paul on lead vocals and has an easy feel. I love the big outro with the Gospel choir at the end. "O Come All Ye Faithful/We Adore You" has that 6/8 pulsating rhythm and would fit great in the middle of a worship set. The angelic voice of Donna Akodu leads out on "This Is Love;" a declaration which says “This is love, this is love. You choose to make Your home in us.”
There are several other intimate moments on this project and many times in which I’m nearly moved to tears thinking about the advent of our Savior. "Your Name" has always been one of my favorite Paul Baloche songs and its redone Christmas Version sits squarely in the middle of the track list. Accompanied by Philippa Hanna, this song carries several familiar elements including the opening riff that always gives it away! I’m loving this verse line:
Humbly to the earth You came
Born into this world to save
God with us Emmanuel
Now we adore Your Name
In the busyness of this season, it’s easy to spend time on things that seem important but are really just distractions from our worship of the newborn King. If I can point to any artist or project that can help us refocus and recenter during this time, I strive to do that. Paul Baloche’s For Unto Us (Christmas Worship Live from London) is one such artist and one such album. I hope you’ll check it out and allow it to help you worship as you contemplate the Savior's birth once again.
Until the next #musicmonday, God bless!