It's A Wonderful Christmas

Michael W. Smith and I go way back. WAAAAAY back. Back to the time of argyle and pinned jeans, when having a big comb stick out of your back pocket was the epitome of cool, and it was very possible that your calves had ugly red marks from too much Chinese jump rope.

So, like most people of a certain age, I’m always pleased to hear that Smitty has released a new album. That’s why I jumped all over this offer from his promotions company back in late November. Free MWS music? Go ahead, make my Christmas.

The guidelines stipulate that we should listen to the album (or whatever they are called these days) while we do something Christmas-y, like decorate our tree or sip hot chocolate next to the fire. Then we should simply blog the story and – viola. Instant Christmas cheer due to free music.

I had planned to have “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” playing in the background last weekend. My parents were visiting from California for a few days (my Mom was thrilled with all the snow and cold; my Dad, who is sane, was thrilled to have round trip tickets), so we snuck in an early Christmas with Grammie and Papa.

I pictured it something like this: The fireplace is roaring turned on. The family sits around the tree. The music plays gently in the background, while the kids take turns opening a few presents from the California-branch of our family tree. It would be peaceful, joyful and merry – in that order.

Of course, life rarely operates cooperates with our vision of how it should be. Our early Christmas evening was fun – but it was also noisy. (My husband is laughing his head off right now. He has never known my family to be anything but noisy.) I could have played “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N Roses, and we would never have heard a note.

So. Plan B. I didn’t have any other Christmas-y activities planned this week – unless you count going to the post office to mail a package to my brother and sister-in-law in San Diego, and I figured setting up a boom box in the corner of my neighborhood USPS could land me in the slammer. Which isn’t so Christmas-y, if you know what I mean.

In the end, I decided to just listen to “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” while I went about my normal everyday routine. And truly, that was probably a wise decision. Because I actually got to, you know, listen to the music instead of just using it as background filler.

A few thoughts after listening to the CD this week:

Michael W. Smith is an amazing composer. (Which might be expected, considering he wrote his first song at the age of five.) In recent years, he’s released more and more music that has an epic sound, as if he were writing a soundtrack for a movie that’s playing in his head. This album is no exception: Of the 11 tracks on "It's A Wonderful Christmas," five are solely instrumental. They range from sweet melodies that evoke a still winter’s night to songs reminiscent of “The Nutcracker.” Smitty reportedly wanted “lush arrangements” and “powerful orchestrations” to characterize this album. He got his wish.

Of course, the songs with lyrics are unabashedly Christian. The focus is on the baby Messiah who came as God’s gift to the broken world. There’s very little mention of Santa or presents or all the other things our culture tells us are vital for a memorable Christmas. Personally, I love that. If I want schmaltzy Christmas music, I can get it on the radio station in town that’s playing 24 hours of Christmas music everyday until December 25.

Having said that, I feel I must add that Michael W. Smith is no Josh Groban. Now, I love me some Smitty, so don’t take this the wrong way. But it seems like Michael’s voice has tarnished as he’s gotten older. It’s more raspy, less smooth. If he were a 24-year-old unknown, I don’t think he’d make it on “American Idol.” However, his other skills and his vast industry experience more than make up for this. And he always has great singers accompanying him. My favorite on this album is Mandisa, joining him on the warm “Christmas Day.”

Intrigued? If you’d like to hear more – or even buy the album on iTunes, like all the kids do these days – click on the “It’s A Wonderful Christmas” banner on my sidebar. Personally, I’m happy to have Smitty’s latest offering to add to my Christmas music playlist. It’s a classic – and something tells me it will be around a lot longer than “Your Christmas Whiskey” or the other recently released "Christmas songs with staying power" highlighted by "USA Today" this week.

(Of course, I also never would have thought Wham’s “Last Christmas” would still be in rotation in 2007. So these things do have an air of mystery about them.)


  1. No one would hear Guns and Roses around here either, we are just as loud...though I wish we were quitely sitting by the fire and listening to music while enjoying the tree and each other. I think that only happens on commercials.

    Although, it's probably better my people are too loud to here the Guns N Roses playing, 'cause then they'd hear me singing. I do believe I would still know all the words.

  2. Michael W and I go way back too...I remember seeing him playing keyboard for Amy! I had all his early album, oops I mean cassettes! When he tried to go pop, my interest waned somewhat. He's a legend in the Christian music business, that's for sure!