Easter could well be the most important celebration in the Christian calendar. The death and resurrection of Jesus marks the culmination of ancient prophesy, a pinnacle moment for the earthly expression of God’s love in the great biblical narrative of reconciliation. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus that paves the way for Pentecost, and lays the cornerstone of our faith in its place; eternal life that triumphs over death and looks forward with hopeful anticipation to the absolute completion of Jesus’ work upon His return.
Revelation 5 speaks of Jesus opening a scroll that represents the salvation and promises of God, that He alone had the ability to open through His death and resurrection. As Tom Wright implores in His book ‘Simply Christian’, our songs must reveal this reality. Easter provides us with an opportunity to reflect on this imperative and to realign our lives, our faith and our songs with the reality of our resurrected saviour.
So… here goes the near impossible task of trying to distil the list of my favourite songs for Easter into a mere TEN. Because I am obviously biased :), I have split my top 10 into songs that have come out of our church, and those that have not.
Top 5 (Non-Hillsong)
1. Because He Lives (Gaithers)
I grew up singing this song at Easter. It occupies a special place in my reminiscing. I love how the lyric brings the reality of His life into the reality of our lives in such a simple and beautiful way. My friend Matt Maher has written a tip of the hat to it. Matt is a great worship leader, writer and ambassador for the Church to sing a new song. I really like him and Because He Lives (Amen).
2. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
This is obviously a classic. It is always risky to try and add anything to a song that has been loved since 1779. But Chris Tomlin is one of the great hymn writers of our generation, and he ushered this incredible song back into regular singing in modern church settings. It is a gift to the Church as is Chris himself. I love that people that have never stepped foot inside a church know Amazing Grace and so singing this is like inviting a familiar friend to your Easter services – which are often attended by those who are less familiar with the interiors of our churches… And thank God for that.
3. Forever (We Sing Hallelujah)
The first time I heard this song I knew it was an epic song. But it just keeps growing on me. “Now death where is your sting, our resurrected King has rendered you defeated”. There is not a weak section in this song. I love it.
4. Here I Am To Worship
Another classic, written by Tim Hughes – who as well as writing this song, basically introduced me to my now wife Karalee. He’s inspired me for years as a songwriter and worship leader. I love the story of this song: at first it was passed over when Tim showed it to one of his song-writing mentors. But I think we would all agree, this song has been an incredible gift to worship leaders everywhere. I remember the first time I heard it – I could not get the bridge out of my head. I tracked down whatever version of the song I could find (which I think was a live Passion version) and listened to it over and over again. I love how the verses tell the story of the work of Jesus and the choruses provide the most fitting response… And then the bridge still gets me – that on this side, we will never know the full extent of the cost of our salvation. We only worship in part. Our gratitude will be ever growing.
5. This Is Amazing Grace (Wickham/Riddle et al)
This song has notable writers and champions behind it. It has been adopted into the regular song lists of churches everywhere and would no doubt contribute to Easter services everywhere. It is bright, accessible and singable. It grounds grace in the most unmerited act of generosity of God our Father – that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Hillsong Top 5
1. What A Beautiful Name
When we wrote this song, we imagined the power of declaring it at Easter – especially singing the bridge on Resurrection Sunday. At Easter we remember and declare that there is one Name that is above all others. Anything that can be given a name bows under the Name of Jesus. In that one Name is immeasurable beauty, wonder and power: BEAUTY – Jesus was there even at the very beginning of creation, His Name reveals the hidden glory beautifully woven into the story of salvation; WONDER – at the depth of love; that while we were still sinners Christ would die for us; “my sin was great, Your love was greater”; POWER – death could not hold Him, the boast of sin and grave has been silenced for the unrivalled and unequalled One, Jesus, has risen to life again. This song brings the message of Easter back to the very foundation of our faith, not just in WHAT has been accomplished through the resurrection, but IN WHOM. This Easter we are releasing some of my favourite versions of this song that our team have created over the past few months. I hope you love these versions as much as I do.
2. O Praise The Name (Anástasis)
We released this song at Easter 2015. We have sung this song nearly every week since. The verses are spectacular, both melodically and lyrically, and the chorus is complimentary in its simplicity and ease. Each verse has so much of its own unique personality and dynamic, it almost feels like you have at least 3 or 4 songs folded into one. It tracks from the cross, to the resurrection, through to the anticipation of the return of Christ. All the while providing the opportunity to reflect with gratitude and praise at each step.
3. Man of Sorrows
The first time we sung this in church, our whole church cheered at the resurrection verse. Every time we have sung it since, there it invariably engenders the same response. It is thematically the most poignant Easter song.
“My anchor holds within the veil” – Jesus is the foundation of our faith, and the anchor with which we are permanently attached to the presence and goodness of God. This song grounds our hope within the person of Jesus, within His blood and His righteousness. It is so well written.
5. Mighty To Save
This is awkward… While I did have a small part in writing this song, it means I know that it was written with the intention of helping to expound the purpose of God’s great power. God is omnipotent, but that power is not turned against us, but rather works for us, for our salvation and the salvation of the world in which we love. Jesus is the personification of compassion, of love and of the fullness of God. I secretly still love this song as much as when it was first written.
(AND ONE MORE…) Alive
I couldn’t not include this song.. It has got to be one of the most accessible up tempo songs of recent times. It has been sung A LOT in our church. It is lyrically light and fun and would be perfect for Easter Sunday.
Happy Easter everyone! He is risen.