Aaron Shust is a well-known Christian recording artist and songwriter who has received Dove Awards for Song of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and New Artist of the Year. His songs My Savior, My God, My Hope Is In You, and To God Alone are beautiful examples not only of his musical ability, but also of his heart of worship and His deep love for God. Those same attributes were apparent when I had the opportunity to talk with him recently and discuss his new Christmas album Unto Us.
Unto Us is full of joy and celebration that will undoubtedly usher you into the Christmas spirit this holiday season. This album includes a lovely blend of tracks, which combines amazingly arranged instrumentals with the heavenly sounds of a boys’ choir. It was recorded with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, so the instrumentals take you back to the beauty of classical music with a modern twist. I always love knowing the thoughts behind albums, so I hope you enjoy my interview with Aaron. And of course, I’d encourage you to buy a copy and worship along with Aaron this Christmas season!
Holly Hrywnak: Your most recent album, Unto Us, is a Christmas album that focuses on three main themes: Proclamation, Adoration and Celebration. In telling the Christmas story, why did you choose to focus on those specific aspects?
Aaron Shust: To put the cart before the horse, as it were, I stood back from all the songs I’d written or arranged and considered the best flow for the album. I loved the idea of making the instrumental Star of Wonder (a theme on We Three Kings) the overture to introduce the story, the wise men already being on their way before the angels ever make their announcement to the shepherds, which became the perfect second track because of the story. It may have made more sense for the high-energy Unto Us to be track one or two, but I wanted it to fit the story: Unto Us is the shepherds’ response to the angels’ Gloria. Musically, the album rests in three obvious “acts,” and it just so happened that thematically the songs rest in the same three acts.
These 10 songs, therefore, have a very intentional order to provide a sense of story.
Tracks 1-5 represent THE PROCLAMATION as we see the star of wonder appear and then hear angels proclaiming the Good News to the shepherds: A Savior has been born in the city of David!
Tracks 6-8 represent THE ADORATION where we find ourselves mangerside, or at least peering into the stable, along with the shepherds as Mary sings a quiet lullaby.
Finally, tracks 9-10 represent THE CELEBRATION, the shepherds running through the streets of Bethlehem, in neighboring villages, over the hills and everywhere, spreading this incredible news, “Rejoice! Give heed to what we say: Jesus Christ is born today!”
HH: You’ve mentioned that Christmas celebrates the fact that God is coming on a rescue mission. What other revelations have you had concerning the character and heart of God through this season?
AS: Well, I’m certainly not the first person to believe Christ came to rescue us; we read that throughout the Bible (consider Galatians 1:4 and Colossians 1:13). But the fact that God chose to come the way He did—as a baby, in an impoverished region, under a Roman rule that eventually crucified Him—never ceases to amaze me. He could have come triumphantly from the start, but He demonstrated His love vividly by becoming a servant.
HH: For some people, Christmas is a painful season marked with difficult memories and hardship. In your track, Advent Carol, you use the lyrics from an old hymn you love that reads: No more sadness now/ Nor fasting/ Now we put our grief away. What encouragement can you bring to those hearts, specifically in regard to the importance of worship?
AS: Israel had survived 400 years of silence from God—no words of prophets saying, “Thus saith the Lord …” I imagine they began to wonder if God had forgotten them or just didn’t care anymore. Then the angels announced the Savior was born, and Israel knew they were not forgotten; they believed that they were cared for by their God. No more sadness or fasting, put your grief away, God came down, yes, the everlasting God, taking human flesh. When we see our circumstances in the light of the immense love of God demonstrated through His becoming human, His life, death and resurrection, defeating sin and death, we find room for thanksgiving and reason to worship.
HH: The holidays seem to be a time full of busyness and hustle and bustle, but that can cause us to miss the unfiltered beauty of the season. What important truth have you begun practicing to keep a healthy pace in family life and ministry?
AS: Someone told me today that once every week they plan to have no plans! Between deadlines, church, parties, decorating, acquiring gifts for loved ones, etc., we can quickly come to dread the season. I place a great amount of value on rest. When I decline participating in something and I’m asked what I’m doing instead, I’m learning to confidently reveal that I need to rest and recover. We too easily work ourselves out of any passion or creative ability by overcommitting to too many good things. I not only apply that principle to December—the Sabbath of the Year as I like to think of it—but all year long.
HH: Be sure to purchase Unto Us on Amazon by clicking on the album cover below. I admit I’m guilty of playing it before Thanksgiving.
I love Christmas music and how it so eloquently stamps the season with sound, celebrating the beauty of the earth and the beauty of God’s coming to earth, becoming one of His creation, taking on the very nature of a servant so that He could rescue us and reunite us to Himself!
May this collection of songs take you on a journey with those whom God first invited into His story, the wise men and those lowly shepherds, and may you experience the awe and wonder that is the story of Christmas. ~ Aaron Shust