Chart topping Christian music artist Chris Tomlin stopped in Knoxville Dec. 7 on his 2019 Christmas tour, “Chris Tomlin Christmas: Christmas Songs of Worship.” For Tomlin, the Tennessee Theatre has a “home sweet home” aspect, as it’s been a destination tour stop on four of his past five Christmas tours.
“I know this night is gonna be so special. I love this night, I love this time of year and I love this tour,” Tomlin said. “And it’s awesome to be back year after year. It’s become sort of a family tradition here in Knoxville, Tennessee. We play a lot of theatres across the nation on this Christmas tour and not many look this this. How beautiful is this place?”
The night started off with Tomlin teaching the crowd the chorus to his song, “Christmas Day,” before he jumped into Christmas classics such as “Angels We Have Heard on High” and a more upbeat version of “Away in a Manger.”
Tomlin and his band didn’t enter the theatre alone Saturday night as they shared the stage with musicians Tomlin referred to as friends. These friends included band “We the Kingdom” and singer-songwriter Jorge Mhondera, who has accompanied Tomlin on many Christmas tours.
“We the Kingdom” is a family band, the band consisting of father Ed Cash, songwriter and producer who has worked heavily with Tomlin, as well as brother Scott Cash, daughter Franni Rae Cash, son Martin Cash and Andrew Bergthold, who the Cash family consider one of their own. Tomlin’s new song “Christmas Day” is one made with the family band.
“There’s an incredible, brand new band who just released their first record this year. They’re called We the Kingdom,” Tomlin said after he announced his excitement for his guests on stage. “They’re so good and what an honor to share this night.”
The family took off with their most streamed song in “Holy Water” before Ed Cash shared his personal story of finding his faith with the audience. Cash voiced his thanks for being on stage as he noted the last time he played in Knoxville was at a cafe 20 years ago before sharing his story.
“I can’t help, when I think about Christmas, to think about what all God has done in my life. God is not afraid to get down into the mess of where we are,” Cash said. “And I have to be honest with you, I love this season. I love these lights. I love the smell of Christmas cookies filling the lobbies and all the joy that comes with Christmas, but I cannot help but think that in this room tonight, there’s some pain in this place.”
Cash talked further about the past pains in his life as he noted that while he grew up in a Christian home, he got tired of trying to earn grace and ran from it. He ran straight into addiction, attending five treatment centers by the end of it, was in and out of jail and was dealing drugs to support his addiction.
“I lost the will to live and I was too chicken to take my own life. And it was there, in that absolute dark abyss, that Jesus Christ reached down, in a way that I can’t even explain to you, and grabbed ahold of my heart,” Cash said. “If you’re walking into this place with some stuff going on in your life, whether that’s anxiety, depression, addiction, marriage troubles, then you’re in the right place. You’re in the right place because the presence of God can minister to all of those things.”
Cash’s testimony concluded as the group jumped right into an acoustic version of “O Holy Night” before Tomlin reappeared on Stage to introduce friend Jorge Mhondera.
“Seriously, if you look up the nicest person in the dictionary, you’ll see Jorge Mhondera,” Tomlin said. “I just love having Jorge on me with this tour and he’s been with me on pretty much every Christmas tour I’ve done.”
Tomlin referred to him as “Mr. Worldwide” as he shared Mhondera was born in Zimbabwe and has lived in London, Germany and now Nashville. As Tomlin requested Mhondera to play one of the best American Christmas classics, Mhondera took off with “The Christmas Song.”
All musicians joined back on stage as they continued to sing Christmas classics, as well as some of Tomlin’s most popular songs in his song “Noel” with Christian music sensation Lauren Daigle, “Our God,” and “Good Good Father.” Tomlin continued to interact with the crowd on a personal level.
“We all have a story, right? That’s the beauty of Christmas. I hope you’re all reminded that God sees you,” Tomlin said. “Whether you’re married or single, Democrat or Republican, you’re this or you’re that, we’re really good at labeling people. And I want you to know God has a label for you tonight. He says, ‘you’re my son and you’re my daughter and that’s how I see you.’”
Tomlin voiced his thanks for the crowd traveling from close and far to see him, remembering his childhood dream come true of wanting to write songs that would help people sing to God. The night closed with all the musicians singing “Silent Night” on stage together.