A recent press release says: “For The Hagees, music is ingrained in the very fabric of their lives. Tina, Sandy, and Pastor Matt grew up gathering around the family piano singing along with their Dad, Pastor John Hagee-a memory painted in their minds like a classic postcard”. John is Senior Pastor of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church which has nearly 20,000 members. Matthew Hagee is Associate Pastor. Tina works in marketing, while Sandy is an attorney. The Hagees’ new cd is CHRISTMAS (2013, Difference Media). It was produced by Michael Sykes (Gaither Vocal Band, The Oak Ridge Boys) and Aaron Crabb. These words from the cd insert set the tone for the album: “As you walk through the front door of the Hagee home you are overwhelmed. Greeted by garland wrapped stairs and twinkle lights, the delicious aromas pouring from the kitchen stir your appetite”.
CHRISTMAS begins with a cover of Mercy Me’s 2007 hit ‘God With Us’. Matthew is on lead vocals. This song delights in spiritual freedom and victory through Christ: “All that is within me cries/For You alone to be glorified/Emmanuel God with us/My heart sings a brand new song/My debt is paid/And these chains are gone/Emmanuel God with us”. ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ has a warm feel to it musically. These lyrics paint a picture of utopia: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Make the yuletide gay/From now on our troubles will be miles away/Here we are as in olden days/Happy golden days of yore/Faithful friends who are dear to us/Gather near to us once more”. ‘Blue Christmas’ was written by Billy Hays and Jay Johnson in 1948. It has an old country feel to it and conveys heartache during the holidays: “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you/I’ll be so blue thinkin’ about you/Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree/Won’t be the same, if you’re not here with me”.
On ‘O Holy Night’ Pastor John takes the lead. The song is given a traditional, reverent treatment. These words make clear the deep significance of Christ’s birth for humankind: “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining/It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth/Long lay the world in sin and error pining/Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth/A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices/For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn/Fall on your knees”. ‘That Spirit of Christmas’ was penned by Parnell Davison, Mable John, and Joel D. Webster. The female lead vocal on this track is highly influenced by country music. The song wishes for Christmas cheer not to be just one day of the year: “I was sittin’ by the fireside/Taking a walk through the snow/Listening to a children’s choir/Singing songs about Jesus/The blessed way that He came to us/Why can’t it remain all through the year/Each day the same?/Yeah, that’s what I wanna hear/It’s truly amazing/That spirit of Christmas”. ‘Glory to God’, written by Matthew Hagee and Aaron Wilburn, is an inspirational style song of celebration: “More than a babe, He is the King/He’s the ruler of everything/My fallen soul He reconciled/Now I’ll sing with the angel choir/Glory to God in the highest/Peace on earth, good will to men/We sing glory to God in the highest/The King is born in Bethlehem”.
‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ is given the traditional treatment. This song is a sincere human appeal for intimacy with Jesus: “Holy Child of Bethlehem/Descend to us we pray/Cast out our sin and enter in/Be born to us today/We hear the Christmas angels/The great glad tidings tell/Come to us, abide with us/Our Lord, Emmanuel”. ‘Silent Night’ was arranged by Aaron Crabb. This version has a female lead and a lullaby quality to it: “Silent night, holy night/All is calm, all is bright/Round yon virgin mother and child/Holy infant so tender and mild/Sleep in heavenly peace/Sleep in heavenly peace”. Pastor John sings lead on Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ The song is sentimental: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/To hear sleigh bells in the snow/I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/With every Christmas card I write”.
Matthew takes the lead on ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’. This is one of three songs that uses a choir arranged by Wesley Pritchard. This first song could easily be delivered by a soldier serving his or her country overseas: “I’ll be home for Christmas/You can count on me/Please have snow and mistletoe/And presents on the tree/Christmas Eve will find me/Where the love light beams/I’ll be home for Christmas/If only in my dreams”. ‘A Baby Changes Everything’ was originally recorded by Faith Hill. It is a terrific song written from the perspective of an expecting Mary: “Teenage girl, much too young/Unprepared for what’s to come/A baby changes everything/Not a ring on her hand/All her dreams and all her plans/A baby changes everything (2X)/The man she loves, she’s never touched/How will she keep his trust?/A baby changes everything(2X)/And she cries!”.
The cozy sounding ‘The Christmas Song’ was written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells. It reminds us that Christmas is especially for children: “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow/Will find it hard to sleep tonight/They know that Santa’s on his way/He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh/And every mother’s child is going to spy/To see if reindeer really know how to fly”. The album closes with a song originally recorded by the late Whitney Houston. The song is filled with wonder: ``Mommies and daddies always believe/That their little angels are special indeed/And you could grow up to be anything/But who would imagine a King?/A shepherd or teacher is what you could be/Maybe a fisherman out on the sea/Or maybe a carpenter building things/But who would imagine a King?”.
Pastor John writes: “The first Christmas morning in Bethlehem’s manger was the birth of Hope itself for a world enslaved by the power of sin. The birth of Jesus Christ brought spiritual and civil liberty to all the world”. The vocals on CHRISTMAS are spot on and the musical accompaniment is pleasant. This album does indeed sound like Christmas music and it is a bonus that it includes both secular and sacred songs. I recommend this album to older folks and those who like their music more laid back. There is not much experimentation with the standards and Pastor John only takes the lead on a couple of songs. The spotlight is mainly on his children’s vocals. John’s daughters are beautiful, not taking a backseat to the Kardashian sisters. I’m rating CHRISTMAS 80%. For more info visit: www.jhm.org, www.differencemedia.org, and www.turningpointpr.com.