In this bonus episode of TGC Q&A, Sandra McCracken and Ellie Holcomb discuss their favorite Christmas carols:
- “O Holy Night”—even with the high note (0:53)
- “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming” (2:04)
- “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and Charlie Brown (2:23)
- “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger” (4:25)
- “O Come All Ye Faithful” (5:23)
Explore more from TGC on Christmas and Advent songs:
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Sandra McCracken: I’ve been working on a Christmas record this last week. We did a whole batch of songs. So this question about Christmas is, I’ve been ruminating on this, this summer, a lot. Writing some Christmas stuff in the middle of 95 degree weather. It’s been great.
Ellie Holcomb: Yeah, it’s always the case. Always doing it in the middle of summer.
Sandra McCracken: Yeah.
Ellie Holcomb: I love it.
Sandra McCracken: Man…
Ellie Holcomb: I’m so excited, Sandra.
Sandra McCracken: What’s your favorite? It’s hard to pick a favorite of these carols.
Ellie Holcomb: I… O Holy night.
Sandra McCracken: Oh yeah.
Ellie Holcomb: I think for me, which is the one that sometimes makes people nervous when you say it.
Sandra McCracken: Cause you’re always already thinking about the high note [crosstalk] at the last part. Yeah.
Ellie Holcomb: But I think going back to that place of after 400 years of silence of like a baby’s cry, like that moment of God’s answer. God’s answer is a resounding yes. Like I’m coming. “Speaking into to the weary long way, the world and sin and error pining till he appeared in the soul, felt its worth.” I think that has been… For whatever reason, every time I sing that song, I just, it grounds me and in my identity and my worth and my gratitude that we, that he didn’t leave us as we are.
Sandra McCracken: It’s good. I think it’s hard to pick the melody of Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming is one. I mean, it’s maybe my favorite melody of all time. I love that one and I love the text. The poetry is so beautiful and enduring, but the one that comes to mind for singing is Hark the Herald angels sing. And it’s probably because of the Charlie Brown Christmas special.
Ellie Holcomb: Nice.
Sandra McCracken: That I think is a genius piece of art that is still in circulation, still widely accepted and loved. And the drawings of the kids at the end of that, where they throw their heads back and saying, hark the Herald barely in tune, group singing. It’s just such a touching moment, like every time. And I think just that, I think to me, even that piece of art speaks to the invitation of God that then goes out, that would still be like, on prime time TV and just [inaudible] loved, like the invitation goes out and it’s, like the call to the shepherds in the middle of the field.
I think present day, the way that we send, I think the Christmas Carol tradition is like a time when it’s just wide open and people are wide open and that’s obviously like a theme in all the movies and all the… What it is to give and what it is to consider others and make sacrifices. And from Charles Dickens to Johnny Cash Christmas, like some of these parts of the Christmas traditions, I think. I love hark the Herald and all of those verses and all the language that’s in it is so rich. They illogically, and it’s like, here it is. [crosstalk] the whole thing.
Ellie Holcomb: And it kind of does ring out. I love that so much. Did you get Hark the Herald on your record?
Sandra McCracken: I do, yeah. Yeah, it’ll be on there. So… it’s been fun to think about those songs.
And I also love the songs like Silent Night and Away in a Manger the ones that like get small and quiet. Cause I think of Christmas as a quiet, like just that contemplative side of that, which winter in our part of the world winter brings that out.
Ellie Holcomb: It does.
Sandra McCracken: It’s pretty neat.
Ellie Holcomb: It is amazing to me too. I mean, just talking about the smallness and the quietness of those songs that this, like the audacity that God would come so small. It just is like, it’s amazing to me. So I love that those songs kind of echo that, you know.
Sandra McCracken: Yeah, it’s good. That’s a room. Say a room full of people singing Silent Night, even in a small room, big room. It doesn’t matter. It’s so special.
Ellie Holcomb: It’s so special.
Sandra McCracken: It’s a good one.
Ellie Holcomb: I love O Come, All Ye faithful too. Andrew Peterson [crosstalk] at the end of Behold the Lamb of God.
Sandra McCracken: Yes.
Ellie Holcomb: Ends with that every time there’s something, O Come All Ye Faithful it’s like, Hey, let’s gather around the fires of the gospel together. And remember, do the work of remembering.