Prime Cuts: O Little Town (The Glory of Christmas), The Name of Emmanuel, How Far
Everything that Matt Redman writes is for the church. Even for this Christmas release, all the 11 tracks here are tailored to aid the church in her corporate worship. In this regard, worship leaders who are looking to resource the church with newly crafted tunes over the Advent and Christmas will find this record a treasure trove. Moreover, "These Christmas Lights" is also an audacious effort. Unlike other Christmas records, Redman's scribal skills are interwoven into every track on this album. Though he utilizes some traditional hymns but they are often integrated with his own compositions making this album a rare kind of its own. This essentially means that all the tracks here are new; you won't hear yet another version of the Biblical uninformed "We Three Kings" or the ultra-cheesy "Baby It's Cold Outside."
Predicted to be a fixture in the worship of the church is "O Little Town (The Story of Christmas)." Utilizing the words of the hymn "O Little Town of Bethlehem" but set to a fresh melody, the anthemic chorus is what will get the masses to lift their voices in powerful exaltation. The title cut "These Christmas Lights" is an attempt to capture the sentimentality of the season with its charming use of bells. But again the chorus which is a prayer to God to open our eyes to see Jesus our eternal light is what saves this ballad from maudlin sentimentality. "How Far" finds its ballast in the Scriptures. This thoughtful and melodious piano ballad invites us to travel with Joseph and Mary, the wise men, and our wandering hearts to meet the Christ child.
If you like Redman for his songs that begin quietly before a large than life chorus looms upon you (a la "You Never Let Go" or "Never Once'"), "His Name Shall Me" will do the honors here. With echoes of Jeremy Camp's "Same Power," the dynamic power-rocker "The Name Emmanuel" is one of the best songs that takes the doctrine of Christ incarnation and making it palatable with lots of applicable truths. Not even the best of today's sermons can be on par with this gem. "Holy Night" is another Redman original which is a typical Redman ballad without being too exceptional.
For this record, there is the larger presence of duet partners than his previous releases. Guests who share the microphone here are Natasha Bedingfield, Chris Tomlin, and Tasha Cobbs. Frankly, the duets here are either redundant (as in the Chris Tomlin duet "Angels (Sing Gloria") or awkward (as in the Tasha Cobbs duet "Glory to You in the Highest"). Natasha Bedingfield's duet "Help from Heaven" has a powerful message but the tune is too spacey and too nebulous. However, despite these setbacks, "These Christmas Lights" is still a great resource for worship not just for the church but also for ourselves as we celebrate the Christ of Christmas.