From my totally subjective perspective,** here is a list of 13 contemporary/popular worship songs that aren't traditional Christmas/Advent songs - they're mostly songs that are sung throughout the year - but that I think are particularly appropriate during the season of Advent (and brief annotations as to why)...and I leave it to you to let me know what I've left off, or what I am mistaken to include...Perhaps this list helps, or at least provokes some discussion and other (better!) ideas...
- Here I am to Worship - "light of the world, you stepped down into darkness...humbly you came to the earth you created / all for love's sake became poor" - skip the bridge during Advent, though ("...to see my sin upon that cross") - or maybe all the time...it just doesn't fit the rest of the song, thematically, as someone recently pointed out to me.
- Hosanna (Praise is Rising) - I think Palm Sunday songs are great for Advent. When we cry "Hosanna!" we are saying, literally "God save us!"
- Mighty to Save - "everyone needs...a Savior / the hope of nations...author of salvation" - I don't even mind changing "we're singing for the glory of the RISEN King" to "NEWBORN King" during Advent/Christmas...but that's your call. (That it's #1 on the CCLI charts might or might not speak to its merit, in your opinion...)
- Love Came Down - awesome new song by Brian Johnson - can be played acoustically (like we did today) or as a rock song. "Love came down and rescued me / Love came down and let me free."
- You Alone Can Rescue (chart)- newish Matt Redman song from the last Passion album. Several good tunes about "rescue" come to mind, and this is amongst the best: "You came down to find us / led us out of death / to you alone belongs the highest praise...we lift up our eyes / you're the giver of life."
- Came To My Rescue (Hillsong) - kinda ditto on the last one. "I called / you answered / and you came to my rescue / and I want to be where you are."
- Everlasting God - "we will WAIT upon the Lord...Our hope / our strong deliverer" - just an all around great congregational song, in my opinion.
- Come Thou Fount, Come Thou King (Gateway Worship arr. chart) - adaptation of Come Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing. Love their new 2nd verse: "I was lost in utter darkness / til you came and rescued me / I was bound by all my sin when / your love came and set me free / now my soul can sing a new song / now my heart has found a home / now your grace is always with me / and I'll never be alone."
- Hunger and Thirst - a simple expression of our longing and need for the God who comes.
- All Who are Thirsty - ditto. "come, Lord Jesus, come"
- Be Everything (Regi Stone) - another wonderful expression of our inability to save ourselves, our need for God. "Lord be everything to me... / I can't do this on my own / I lay my life before your Throne..."
- As The Deer - here we are *panting* after God...and it's straight scripture to boot. Some of the guys in my band hate this song (probably because it was done to death for several years there) but I don't care: it's amongst the best of the 20th century for congregational worship.
- Emmanuel - I'm thinking of the older chorus, "Emmanuel, Emmanuel / His name is called Emmanuel / God with us, revealed in us / His name is called Emmanuel." A bit dated, but nice chords - still very do-able leading into prayer time or during a response time, esp. to an outwardly-focused message: REVEALED IN US.
But whatever you do...please: just don't sing Joy to the World or Silent Night before Christmas Eve. Just sing them for the two Sundays between Christmas and Epiphany.
As an added bonus, here's my favorite communion song for the Advent/Christmas season - Flesh and Blood by Andrew Peterson.
**As as been discussed previously, my underlying assumption is that Advent should be a time where we acknowledge our need for God to come down to earth a save us. I stand in line with the bulk of Christian tradition when I discourage fast-forwarding to celebrating Jesus's birth - save that for Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity, and at least the 1 or 2 Sundays following! - but rather, it is best to focus through the 4 Sundays of Advent upon the God who *is coming* in Christ, and upon our own need, anticipation, expectation, longing, desire and preparation for the arrival, the advent, of our Savior.