The Church Life Journal Carols of Christmas Playlist

For my money, there is no better time for music than Christmastime. Whether sung by a choir of off-key, adorable preschoolers, or performed by a group of professionals, the carols of Christmas constitute some of the most beautiful, most profound music that has ever been written, all for the sake of helping us celebrate the moment when God definitively stepped in to human history with the birth of Jesus, the Only-Begotten Son, the Word-made-flesh. And so, as with our Advent playlist, once again I've turned to Spotify to assemble a playlist for the Christmas season:

Even more so here than with the Advent playlist, I quickly discovered that it is impossible to include everything. The first version of this playlist was almost 6 hours long. It could have been longer. But after a great deal of thought and an even greater deal of exploring new-to-me recordings, I've whittled it down to a scant 47 songs, or 2 hours and 32 minutes worth of music. Again, as with the Advent list, this is a sampling which I hope will inspire your own exploration of the music of this beautiful season, particularly the music of cultures other than the one you grew up in. Below the playlist are "liner notes" for anyone curious to learn more about a particular piece.

May this music inspire you to join the angels in the world's first Christmas carol: "Gloria in excelsis Deo!"

  1. A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: I. Procession
    Benjamin Britten, The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge
    Britten: A Ceremony of Carols
    Hodie Christus natus est! Today Christ is born! We begin our Christmas playlist with this Christmas proclamation from a well-known suite by Benjamin Britten which incorporates the ancient chant.
  2. Silent Night
    Franz Xavier Gruber, James Galway,
    James Galway’s Christmas Carol
    Written in 1818, this carol is considered by many to be the quintessential Christmas carol. It’s hard to imagine attending the Christmas Eve Vigil or Midnight Mass without singing it, and it’s difficult to sing it at either of those liturgies without being moved. In this performance, the simplicity of the tune takes center stage. The key of C-major (the first key every budding pianist learns to play) lends the arrangement the familiarity of home. The shimmering flute soars over the warm strings, and all is indeed peace.
  3. Gaudete
    Traditional (arr. Brian Kay), The King’s Singers
    Joy to the World
    This ancient hymn cannot be dated with certainty; its medieval lyrics suggest it may have been set to music in the fifteenth century, but this surviving version is believed to have been written 100 years later. The lively choral refrain alternates with verses where soloists sing the melody and proclaim the glory of the Incarnation.
  4. Blessed Be That Maid Mary
    Traditional (arr. David Wilcocks), The Cambridge Singers
    The Cambridge Singers Christmas Album
    As conductor John Rutter points out in his program notes for this album, the text and the music for this piece were written centuries apart from one another (sixteenth and fifteenth century respectively). Despite the fact that this carol as we hear it now only appeared in 1902, the beauty of the melody compliments the text so well that it sounds as though it was always meant to be performed this way
  5. The Wexford Carol
    Alison Krauss, Yo-Yo Ma, Natalie MacMaster
    Songs of Joy & Peace
    This Irish carol with its ornamented, lyrical melody is named for the southeastern county in which it was composed, specifically the town of Enniscorthy, home of St. Aidan’s Cathedral. As with many of these carols, it is difficult to pinpoint a precise date of composition, since the text and the tune existed as separate entities; nevertheless, the marriage of text and tune here result in an evocative contemplation of the Nativity. 
  6. The Glory of the Father
    Egil Hovland, Soli Deo Gloria Cantorum
    The Natural State of Man is Gaudete
    Composed in 1957 by Norwegian composer Egil Hovland, this piece sets the text from the prologue of St. John’s Gospel, which is proclaimed every year during the Christmas morning Mass. John does not give us an infancy narrative like those of Matthew or Luke, but he proclaims the mystery of the Incarnation with a mystical beauty that draws the heart and enlightens the mind: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
  7. I Wonder as I Wander
    Traditional, Audrey Assad
    Many Christmas carols contemplate the Passion and Death of Christ on the Cross of Calvary alongside his birth in the Bethlehem stable, holding the joys of Christmas in tension with the sorrows of Good Friday. The melancholy melody of this carol invites us to consider the utter humility of the Son of God: born in abject poverty only to be rejected and killed for his teachings of love and forgiveness. And yet, we also know that the story does not end with the Cross. This Child—who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, who was crucified died, and was buried—rose again on the third day and is now alive for ever.
  8. When the Sun Rises in the Morning Sky
    J.J. Wright, Notre Dame Children’s Choir, Fifth House Ensemble
    O Emmanuel
    Sung by a single child at the outset, the melody of this piece blossoms into a round, then the music transitions from a lush string accompaniment to a jazz trio, and ends with the same chant that began this playlist. This unusual juxtaposition captures the solemnity and also the exuberance of the coming of the King of kings, the Sun of Justice, who “comes forth like a bridegroom from his canopy, and like a hero joyfully runs [his] course” (Ps 19:5).
  9. Angels We Have Heard on High
    Traditional, Seraphic Fire
    Candlelight Carols: Music for Chorus & Harp
    It’s hard to imagine a more “angelic” instrument than the harp. Artists have long shown angels holding harps and singing around the manger, so it’s only natural that this arrangement of the angels’ carol features the harp. Every year we sing with the angels in proclaiming the birth of Jesus (cf. Luke 2:14), and yet, we also sing their hymn every Sunday (except during Lent) when we sing the Glory to God at Mass. Gloria in excelsis Deo! Glory to God in the highest!
  10. The Shepherd’s Pipe Carol
    John Rutter, The Cambridge Singers
    The John Rutter Christmas Album
    This modern-day carol penned by John Rutter has become a staple in the classical Christmas repertoire. Its jubilant melody gives voice to the shepherds as they respond to the angels’ proclamation of Jesus’ birth, and invites us to come along with them to “pay our homage, too, at the new King’s cradle.”
  11. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
    The Carpenters
    Christmas Collection
    The text of this carol is based on an 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and though its title suggests happy circumstances, the narrator is on the verge of despair, questioning how one can even celebrate Christmas in a country torn apart by hatred and war. In our own time, too, we have seen great divisions, and yet, Christ comes to us as the Prince of Peace, and the Christmas bells remind us: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.”
  12. Go Tell it on the Mountain
    Christmas with Odetta​​​​​​​
    For many people, this carol is the quintessential Christmas spiritual. Its text relates the story of the shepherds and encourages us to follow their example, for after they had seen the infant Jesus lying in the manger, “they made known the message that had been told them about this child” (Lk 2:17). The shepherds, then, became the first evangelists, proclaiming “over the hills and ev’rywhere … that Jesus Christ is born.
  13. El Desembre Congelat​​​​​​​
    Traditional (arr. Conrad Susa), Philovox Ensemble
    Carols & Lullabies & Other Christmas Music
    A traditional carol from the Catalonian region in northeastern Spain, this text speaks of the cold December winds that were stilled at the coming of the Christ-Child, and of the barren rose bush bursting into bloom, recalling the prophecy of Isaiah: “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom” (Is 35:1).
  14. Gdy Śliczna Panna [Our Lovely Lady]​​​​​​​
    Witold Lutosławski, Olga Pasichnyk​​​​​​​
    Twenty Polish Christmas Carols / Lacrimosa / Five Songs
    Polish composer Witold Lutosławski originally composed his Twenty Polish Christmas Carols in 1946, as Poland was still dealing with the crushing aftermath of World War II. Originally scored for soprano solo and piano, Lutosławski created this expanded version for solo, choir, and orchestra in 1986. This particular carol is a lullaby Mary sings to the infant Jesus, lilting, soothing, and poignant.
  15. Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
    Traditional (arr. Elizabeth Poston)
    James Galway’s Christmas Carol
    Perhaps a lesser-known piece, this carol boasts a soaring melody and a rich text, in which the speaker, not finding happiness in the pleasures of the world nor rest in its toils, finds joy and rest in Jesus. The text seems to have roots in the Song of Songs, in which Christ is interpreted as the lover and either the Church or the individual soul are his beloved. “As an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my lover among men. I delight to rest in his shadow, and his fruit is sweet to my mouth” (Sgs 2:3).
  16. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
    Charles Wesley, Felix Mendelssohn (arr. Take 6)
    He is Christmas
    Another staple of the Christmas carol repertoire, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is performed here by an a capella gospel group. The arrangement boasts new and rich harmonies as well as surprising and delightful melodic variations that breathe new life and joy into this well-known favorite.
  17. O Magnum Mysterium​​​​​​​
    Morten Lauridsen, Choir of Merton College
    O Holy Night: A Merton Christmas
    California-based composer Morten Lauridsen creates a capella choral music that seems to be suspended between heaven and earth. With long, sustained melodic lines and intricate harmonic structures that encompass the entire breadth of the human vocal range, Lauridsen treats the choir almost like the string section of an orchestra. This text speaks of the wondrous mystery of Christmas, that even humbled animals should be so honored as to behold their Creator, the newborn Word-made-flesh, lying in a manger.
  18. A La Nanita Nana
    Traditional (arr. Conrad Susa), Philovox Ensemble
    Carols & Lullabies & Other Christmas Music
    This Spanish carol, with lyrics by Juan Francisco Muñoz y Pabóon, and music by José Ramón Gomis, was originally written around the turn of the twentieth century. As with so many Christmas carols, this is a lullaby sung by the Virgin Mary to her newborn Son, with a soothing, gentle lilt. The haunting minor tonality of the refrain gives way to a radiant major tonality during the verse, calling to mind that, while the Incarnation encompasses both darkness and light, ultimately, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5).​​​​​​​
  19. Codhlaím Go Suan [I Sleep Softly]​​​​​​​
    Anúna: A Christmas Selection​​​​​​​
    A different kind of lullaby, this gorgeous Irish carol presents us not with the image of Mary singing Jesus to sleep, but of the faithful believer sleeping, resting in the heart of Christ, who is not only there in the Child in the manger, but also remains with us at every moment of our lives, especially at the hour of our death, when we will rest in him forever.
  20. He’s My Light​​​​​​​
    Mahalia Jackson
    Christmas with Mahalia​​​​​​​
    A powerful rendition of a beautiful spiritual by “The Queen of Gospel” herself, this piece, while featured on Jackson’s Christmas album, isn’t strictly speaking a Christmas carol. Not a single lyric speaks of Jesus’ birth in the manger; rather, the focus here is on his saving Death on the Cross. Nevertheless, we would do well to remember that this Infant in the manger is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12) and that he invites us to follow in his footsteps, from crèche to Cross to resurrected glory.
  21. O Tannenbaum​​​​​​​
    Vince Guaraldi Trio
    A Charlie Brown Christmas
    52 years ago, A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted on CBS, and immediately became a Christmastime classic. Its unforgettable score by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is heard on radio stations year after year, and this version of “O Tannenbaum” has become the gold standard for many jazz enthusiasts. Even in a time where the very mention of Christmas garners cries for the separation of Church and State, Linus still stands on that stage with blanket in hand, unabashedly proclaiming the joy of the Incarnation, reminding Charlie Brown—and us—what Christmas is all about. Lights, please? (More like, Kleenex please?).
  22. Twelve Days of Christmas
    John Denver and the Muppets​​​​​​​
    A Christmas Together
    As Leslie Bricusse wrote in his lyrics for the movie-musical Scrooge (not available on Spotify). “Christmas is for children young and old.” Here, John Denver and the Muppets remind us of the joy, the light-hearted silliness, the sheer delight that so many of us felt each year at Christmas when we were children. We return to the movies and music and traditions of childhood during this time because we remember that joy, and I suspect, deep-down, because we desire nothing more than to follow Jesus’ command to “turn and become like little children” (Matthew 18:3), and when Kermit the Frog can help us do that, so much the better.
  23. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings​​​​​​​
    Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan​​​​​​​
    Barenaked for the Holidays
    Some tracks make it on the playlist because they’re a “comfort and [a] joy.” This is one such track. This jaunty acoustic mash-up of “God Rest Ye” and “We Three Kings,” coupled with the mash-up of BNL with Sarah McLachlan, is musical magic.
  24. Born in Bethlehem
    The Blind Boys of Alabama
    Go Tell It on the Mountain
    “Born in Bethlehem” (also known as “Children, Go Where I Send Thee”) is another ‘counting carol,’ similar to “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” While the Christian meaning of “Twelve Days” is hidden in its list of the gifts “my true love gave to me,” here, the breadth of salvation history is proclaimed, for this spiritual encompasses imagery and events from both the Old Testament and the New, testifying that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Scriptures, the long-hoped-for One who has come to set all of God’s children free.
  25. O Come All Ye Faithful
    Take 6
    He Is Christmas
    Take 6 offers another stunning, surprising arrangement of a staple in the Christmas carol repertoire. That epic key change. Those impossibly intricate harmonies. O come, let us adore him. Yes.
  26. Of the Father’s Love Begotten
    Terry Schlenker, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir
    The Waking: Choral Music of Terry Schlenker​​​​​​​
    This Christmas chant dates back centuries. The original Latin text was written by Prudentius in the fourth century, and it was paired with this melody, Divinum Mysterium, perhaps as early as the tenth century. It’s difficult to surpass the theological richness of this text, as it offers us images to contemplate the entire year round: “And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, first revealed his sacred face . . . Now he shines, the long-expected, let creation praise its Lord: evermore and evermore.”
  27. Campana Sobre Campana​​​​​​​
    Traditional (arr. Conrad Susa), Philovox Ensemble
    Carols & Lullabies & Other Christmas Music
    This piece sings of the bells of Christmas—bells on bells that proclaim the joys of the Incarnation. The shepherd, hearing the bells, goes to see the Baby in the manger. The bells foreshadow his suffering, and the shepherd declares, “Voy al portal por si el Niño / con él me deja morir.” “I am going to the stable to see if the Child will let me die with him.” May we follow Christ with such joy not only on Christmas, but all throughout the joys and sorrows of our lives.
  28. My Teź Pastuszkowie [We Are Shepherds]​​​​​​​
    Witold Lutosławski, Olga Pasichnyk​​​​​​​
    Twenty Polish Christmas Carols / Lacrimosa / Five Songs
    The tenth of Witold Lutosławski’s Twenty Polish Christmas Carols, this exuberant carol tells of a nervous shepherd who goes to perform a song for the Baby Jesus, makes a mistake, yet receives a reassuring wink from the Christ-Child, along with the gift of honey. However meager the gift may be that we bring to the manger this Christmas, God can and will do extraordinary things with it and with us, provided we offer ourselves to him unreservedly.
  29. Gesù Bambino
    Traditional Italian (arr. Richard Proulx), The Cathedral Singers
    Catholic Classics, Vol. 8: Catholic Christmas Carols
    This Italian carol incorporates the rhythmic pattern of the barcarole, a Venetian style of boat song sung by gondoliers featuring a strong-weak/long-short pattern. This style, used in classical music by composers like Frédéric Chopin, is meant to imitate the undulating movement of a boat on water. Here, it gives the piece a gentle lilt like so many of the lullabies in the Christmas carol tradition. The addition of the refrain from “O Come, All Ye Faithful” makes this carol sound new and familiar all at once.
  30. The Childhood of Christ, Op. 25, H. 10, Pt. 2, The Flight to Egypt: The Shepherds’ Farewell
    Hector Berlioz, Choir of Merton College
    O Holy Night: Christmas at Merton
    This piece comes from an oratorio (a large-scale dramatic choral work of which Handel’s Messiah is another famous example) by well-known Romantic composer Hector Berlioz. The first part of the work depicts Herod’s ordering the massacre of the innocents and Joseph’s dream of warning. Part two relates the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, and part three tells of the Holy Family’s sojourn in Sais (Egypt). This movement, “The Shepherds’ Farewell,” boasts a lovely, lyrical melody; the shepherds are saying good-bye to Jesus before he is taken to Egypt and praying that God will protect this Holy Family.
  31. Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle
    Traditional French, The Cambridge Singers
    The Cambridge Singers Christmas Album
    The instrumentation of this arrangement—the drums, the drone in the bassoons, the cheerful oboe duet—give it an pastoral, idyllic feeling. Contrasted with the legato lyricism of the choral writing, the piece has an ethereal yet earthy quality that allows us to imagine a young girl bringing a torch to illuminate the stable where the light of the world has just been born.
  32. I Saw Three Ships
    Nat King Cole
    The Christmas Song
    So many popular artists have recorded and released Christmas albums; however, those released today, while often filled with exceptional music, tend to focus more on the secular culture’s celebration of the holiday season, rather than on the mystery of Christmas specifically. Going back a few decades, though, we see that consummate artists like Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra recorded albums of traditional Christmas carols. Here, the inimitable Nat King Cole delivers a jovial performance this English carol from the seventeenth century.
  33. Hej! Weselmy Siȩ [Hey! We Rejoice Now]​​​​​​​
    Witold Lutosławski, Olga Pasichnyk​​​​​​​
    Twenty Polish Christmas Carols / Lacrimosa / Five Songs
    The second of Witold Lutosławski’s Twenty Polish Christmas Carols, this raucous piece with its whirling strings and its proclamatory chorus is over almost as soon as it begins, which is often how Christmas itself is celebrated. Yet, music such as this can be one way that we keep the celebration of Christmas going strong throughout the entire season, not just on December 25th.
  34. Riu, riu, chiu​​​​​​​
    Traditional Spanish, Cantate Youth Choir
    Christmas with Cantate​​​​​​​
    This sixteenth-century Spanish piece utilizes nonsense syllables in order to imitate the predatory call of the kingfisher. It tells the tale of the bird as it protects the Virgin Mary from being attacked by a wolf. The rhythm of the refrain with its imitative writing has an almost aggressive sound, in keeping with the dramatic nature of the text.
  35. Balulalow​​​​​​​
    If On a Winter’s Night
    The hypnotic pattern in the low guitar, the background choral writing that resembles a blowing breeze, the unusual harmonies in the string writing, and Sting’s characteristic delivery of this Scottish text from the sixteenth century lend this piece a haunting, dream-like quality.
  36. Three Christmas Spirituals (live)​​​​​​​
    Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston Pops Orchestra
    A Boston Pops Christmas
    This medley features three spirituals, each of which incorporates different images of stars: “My Lord, What a Morning,” “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow,” and “Wonderful Counselor.” The first spiritual speaks of Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time, when the stars will fall from the sky. The second and third spirituals pivot to Christ’s historical coming at Christmas: the first exhorts the shepherds to follow the star, and the third encourages us to do so as well.
  37. The Friendly Beasts​​​​​​​
    Sufjan Stevens
    Songs for Christmas
    Singer, songwriter, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens has recorded several albums of Christmas carols. Here, he incorporates his signature sound of simple individual lines layered together to build complexity and interest, creating a fresh, charming version of this twelfth-century French carol in which each animal in the stable relates its role in the drama of the Nativity.
  38. Wasn’t That a Mighty Day
    Kathleen Battle
    Angels’ Glory
    Lyric soprano Kathleen Battle sings this African American spiritual completely a capella. The utter simplicity of this rendition, devoid of any accompaniment whatsoever, coupled with the shimmering luminosity of Battle’s effortless soprano voice, creates the image of a lone voice singing on a hilltop outside of Bethlehem beneath a starlit sky, contemplating the wondrous birth of the King of kings.
  39. Joy to the World
    Whitney Houston
    One Wish: The Holiday Album
    Few may remember that the late, great pop superstar Whitney Houston actually began her musical life in the gospel music tradition, joining her church’s gospel choir at the age of eleven. Supported here by The Georgia Mass Choir, Houston returned to her roots with this jubilant take on “Joy to the World,” incorporating call-and-response and repetitive sections that showcase Houston’s improvisatory abilities and give the arrangement a joyful drive and energy.
  40. O Holy Night
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas
    Like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and many others, Ella Fitzgerald recorded many Christmas carols throughout her career. “O Holy Night” is viewed by many as the quintessential carol for Christmas Eve or Midnight Mass, and it’s often a showcase for a soprano who will ‘hit the high note’ at the end. Ella’s take, though, is lower, more straightforward, simpler, allowing the warmth of her unmistakable voice to come to the forefront of this perennial favorite.
  41. Carol of the Birds
    Fernando Ortega
    Christmas Songs
    It has often been said that no instrument resembles the human voice more closely than the cello. Its range and its warmth lend the cello a remarkably rich, evocative sonority. Here, the cello in both its solemn low register and its resonant high register ‘sings’ the Carol of the Birds along with the piano. In this traditional Catalan carol, each bird contributes its song as a gift to Jesus in the manger. In this arrangement, each instrument does the same, in its own unique way.
  42. Voici la Nuit​​​​​​​
    Various Artists
    Music from the Motion Picture Des Hommes et Des Dieux​​​​​​​
    Fans of the French drama Of Gods and Men (2010) will recognize this moving chant. With its repetition of the phrase “voici la nuit”—“this is the night”—this chant is reminiscent of the Exultet, sung every year at the Easter Vigil. This is the night when we celebrate the birth of the Christ, who emptied himself of glory and took on our flesh so that he might redeem us all.
  43. Rosa Mystica​​​​​​​
    Chrysogonus Waddell, OCSO, The University of Notre Dame Folk Choir
    Prophets of Joy
    This a capella setting of a medieval macaronic text is lovely in its simplicity. Composer Chrysogonus Waddell, OCSO was a Trappist monk who lived at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky (also the home of Thomas Merton). An expert in and scholar of chant, Waddell incorporates chant-like melodic gestures throughout this piece while rooting it firmly in a duple meter that gently propels the piece forward toward its climactic moment: “Gloria in excelsis deo!”
  44. Star of Wonder/We Three Kings of Orient Are/No Small Wonder
    Our Favorite Carols
    This extraordinary arrangement combines three similar yet distinct carols, and in so doing, creates a space in which each carol informs our understanding of the other. Regal magi and humble shepherd alike are called to the manger, as are we. Whatever our status in the world, we are called to humble ourselves before this infant King, to adore him and pay him homage, and to offer him the gifts of our lives in gratitude for the gift of his wondrous life, his selfless death, and his glorious resurrection.
  45. Dziecina Mała [Infant So Tiny]​​​​​​​
    Witold Lutosławski, Olga Pasichnyk​​​​​​​
    Twenty Polish Christmas Carols / Lacrimosa / Five Songs
    The penultimate piece in Witold Lutosławski’s Twenty Polish Christmas Carols, this arrangement features a dreamy accompaniment with pitched percussion and harp. The singer marvels at the mystery: “Tiny infant, God, Creator of the heavens! And where must we seek him? In a little stable in Bethlehem. Mary swaddled her son: wondrous news!” The littleness of the Incarnation, the tiny Infant in the manger, belies the momentous, miraculous nature of what has happened: the eternal God has been born in time, has entered human history so that we might one day be drawn up into his own eternal divine life.
  46. Il Est Né, Le Divin Enfant​​​​​​​
    Traditional French, Apollo’s Fire​​​​​​​
    Noëls & Carols from the Olde World
    Performed on instruments from the Baroque period, this carol reminds us that we are rooted in a tradition thousands of years old in which the birth of Christ has been celebrated with joyous song. Countless men, women, and children sing Christmas carols from their own tradition and culture throughout the world and throughout this season, and each has its own particular beauty, through which the universal beauty of the Incarnation is refracted like light through a prism.
  47. May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas
    Irma Thomas, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
    Holidays Rule
    The music of Christmas covers the entire emotional spectrum. There are lullabies which are all but unbearable to hear for their sheer beauty and poignancy; there are new renditions of familiar favorites that set our hearts racing and our toes tapping with joy; there are the favorite carols we cannot imagine not singing in our churches or in our homes. Whatever favorites we may have, whatever new pieces we may encounter each Christmas season, this music is meant to help us delve further into the mystery of the Incarnation, to help us praise God anew and aright, and to help us keep the love of the Word-made-flesh in our hearts every moment of every day, so that, in a sense, every day may truly be a little Christmas in its own right. “Let heav’n and nature sing!”

Featured Image: Edward Burne-Jones, Adoration of the Magi Tapestry, 1894; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100.


Carolyn Pirtle

Carolyn Pirtle is the program director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and a composer of liturgical music. She is the author of Praying the Rosary Together.

Read more by Carolyn Pirtle