To gain revealing insight into one of 2004’s most ambitious projects — "Gloria" — all you need to do is take a listen to Christine Denté’s new song, “Christmas Kind of Feeling.” Initially you may find yourself so taken with its delightfully catchy and jovial presentation that you ponder what it takes to become a classic such as “Winter Wonderland” or “Jingle Bells.” (After all, “Jingle Bells” was originally written to celebrate Thanksgiving Day.) But as soon as you engage in listening to the lyrics, you realize there’s something far more profound going on here than sleigh bells ringing or someone dashing through the snow.

“I wanted ‘Christmas Kind of Feeling’ to be light-hearted and to have depth to it,” Denté says of the track she co-wrote and performs on Rocketown Records’ newly-released compilation. “And so, in the midst of the ‘cookies baking’ and the ‘children making angel wings,’ there’s a feeling that ‘the world has felt its worth.’ This is the Christmas kind of feeling.”

The world has felt its worth? So much for a happy-go-lucky Christmas carol. With that potent lyric, Denté reveals the creative drive behind the album.

Last winter the project’s producers, Charlie Peacock (Switchfoot, Sara Groves) and Scott Denté (Christine Denté, Out of the Grey), gathered with some of Christian music’s most renowned singer/songwriters at Peacock’s Art House. Together they set out to fashion a Christmas album that would nurture a spirit of community, serve the church in its thematic profundity and, of course, own you musically.

On the spirit-of-community front, consider this: In addition to the Dentés and Peacock, "Gloria" features the collaborative songwriting skills of Michael W. Smith, Jars of Clay’s Steve Mason, Cindy Morgan, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Chris Rice, the women of Alathea and Taylor Sorensen. Furthermore, Amy Grant, Shaun Groves, Ginny Owens, Watermark’s Christy Nockels and George Rowe join most of those artists in sharing lead vocal duties. With such a turnout, one might be left to wonder whether the Art House is also a bed and breakfast. (It’s not.)

Now about that Christmas kind of feeling — you know, the one where the world feels its worth? According to the producers the “idea of Advent” inspired the collective songwriting process for Gloria. As a result the album is built on the foundation of anticipation that connects with the very heart of Christmas — the expectation of Christ’s birth 2000 years ago, and, ultimately, His return.

“The concept (for the album) is unique,” explains Shaun Groves, who, along with his Rocketown label mate George Rowe, performs “O Come All Ye Faithful,” one of only three traditional covers featured on Gloria. “We tried to make a record about the season of waiting for the birth of Christ instead of just the birth itself. The Jews waited for hundreds of years for the prophecies about the Christ to come to pass. We tried to focus as much on that anticipation — the darkness before the Light of the World came — as we did on the birth of the Messiah.”

Cherishing the Advent — the celebration period, which begins, for Western churches, the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas and is highlighted by prayer, fasting and repentance — is an early church concept that’s not only foreign to most evangelical Christians but also many mainline Protestants. Is that why it’s taken the Christian music community 35 years to make this album?