What do you want out of a Christmas album? Do you want something to conjure up images of snow-covered houses, fires in the fireplace, gifts around the tree, and other "merry" things? Or do you like your Christmas music to point whole-heartedly, single-mindedly to Christ, the meaning and purpose of the season?
If you're looking for the former, you might be a little disappointed with Chris Tomlin's new, live performance Christmas album, Glory In The Highest. There are traditional hymns ("O, Come All Ye Faithful," "Angels We Have Heard On High," "Hark The Herald Angels Sing," "Joy To The World," and "O Holy Night"), but for the most part, the album sounds like a straightforward, live worship album that happens to focus on the incarnation and Christmas.
This approach had somewhat mixed results for me.
I appreciate Tomlin's attempt to bring out the worshipful element in traditional carols, and the original songs he performs are what you'd expect from Tomlin. I have to say, though, that there's very little musically that makes this really a Christmas album. I'm not saying every song needs to have sleigh bells or anything, but there are certain elements that simply are associated with Christmas, and I just would have liked to hear a little more of this.
That criticism aside, however, fans of Tomlin will find lots to enjoy here. He's a worship leader, and he's in his element here, leading a live crowd in Nashville through song after song of worship to God. There's a power in hearing a congregation sing the beautiful "O, Come All Ye Faithful" in unison. Many of these older songs have lost the worship element as they've been sung so many times over the years. Tomlin succeeds in re-capturing the awe in the lyrics of the classics he chose here.
I'm not a huge Tomlin fan in general, but this album is a nice addition to the Christmas album pile, and one that admirably attempts (and succeeds, for the most part) at keeping the focus of Christmas on Jesus Christ. There's nothing overly creative musically, here. In fact, some of the songs gain power by their stripped-down, congregationally-sung feel. But you feel Tomlin's heart for worship, and that's a great reminder to have during the upcoming Christmas season.