For those who don’t know, Emery ranks among my favorite bands right now.  I love their in-your-face music, but also admire the thoughtfulness that they put into their lyrics, as well as the steps they’ve taken over the years to grow as a band.  Over the course of their last 4 releases, the band has explored new styles, tried new things, and I think has created within their fan base an expectation for innovation.

If you’ve listened to Emery–ever–you might expect their Christmas offering for this year’s Happy Christmas compilation (by Tooth and Nail records) to be more of the same intense approach that has been a hallmark of their music (including their last Christmas single, Ho Ho Hey, a Way for Santa’s Sleigh).  However, Emery’s contribution is atypical, in more ways than one.

What is most immediately apparent is the aesthetic of the music.  A far cry from the scream-core for which they are most well known (and loved), this song is a stripped down acoustic set that would could be easily imagined to come from a group like Copeland.  It’s simply, but tastefully arranged and composed, and I think really shows that Emery is capable of much more musically than what some would like to pigeon-hole them into being.

But what is even more apparent is the distinct and overt theological message expressed by the band in this song.  This is atypical, because Emery is fairly direct in their assertion that while the band’s mission, at the core, is the spreading of the gospel, they do not necessarily craft their music to explicitly do this (although there are distinct examples in their music that does, in fact, do this fairly explicitly).  To put it another way, they are self-styled as a group of Christians who happen to be in a band, and do not consider themselves to be the stereotypical “Christian” band.

In light of this, then, it is interesting to see an offering that is so blatantly theological.  There are a million sterilized Christian Christmas songs that they could have covered (how many times has “O, Holy Night” been covered by, well, everyone?)–but Emery elected to contribute something new, something overt, and something beautiful.

The thing I appreciate most about Jesus Gave Us Christmas is that I believe Emery has managed to latch onto the meaning of Christmas that is so often buried under not only the secular world’s gloss of consumerism and greed, but also of the Church’s all-too-often mindless rehearsing of the nativity story without a proper context for establishing the importance of the Incarnation.

As Emery asserts in this song, the core message of Christmas is the simple and timeless proclamation of “Emmanuel”, the recognition that the coming of Christ signals the unique and transforming invasion of the cosmos by the very Creator of all.  As they mention in the conclusion of the song, the reason for the manifestation of God in Christ is ultimately to free us from the powers of sin and death, to rescue us from the annihilating power of every “sin and sorrow made.”  It is in this coming of the God-man that the true meaning and power of Christmas is revealed as gift, the gift of salvation and new life that God has given to humanity through Christ.

The Song

Born in a manger, sent as a Savior to all of the world

The voices of angels singing his praises

Sing Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Shepherds and wise men came to adore him

With gold, incense and myrhh

How could this child bring the whole of God’s glory?

Sing Alleluia

Emmanuel, he will be God with us, and ever shall be

Emmanuel, he will be God with us, and ever shall be

From a child to the cross, he gave his life for one and all

And peacefully came to graciously save

From every sin and sorrow made

Sent from above, Jesus gave us Christmas

Alleluia, Alleluia

Emmanuel, he will be God with us, and ever shall be

Emmanuel, he will be God with us, and ever shall be