Christmas traditions old and new, keeping Jesus as the focus of the holiday season and bomb mac-n-cheese are just a few highlights of the lively conversation that I had with one of the most dynamic worshippers of this generation.
“I am excited that this is our first Christmas together, both of us are really excited” says Cobbs Leonard. “One thing that is a bit challenging is that both of us are huge on family. We are used to spending the holidays with our families, and we have big families (aunts, cousins included). So, we are trying to find a way to include everybody. A big focus is on our children (Tasha has three “bonus babies” with Kenneth) and building our blended family. We are making sure the children have time with all of the family members and that each parent has a moment to share with them. Our children are coming to us for Christmas this year and that will be part of the tradition that we start. They are a bit more spoiled this year since they have a new bonus mom. They are excited about that, and we are excited about spending time with our blended family and making sure the children feel the extreme extra love. We consider it a blessing.”
Growing Up Cobbs…
“Christmas was so much fun growing up because, again, we have a HUGE family. I have a lot of cousins, and all of us were raised more as siblings. We would all pack up every Christmas morning and take all of the gifts and all of the kids and my mom and all of her sisters and brothers, and gather at my grandfather’s house in Jessup, Georgia. Needless to say, it was loud and there was a bunch of singing, and a bunch of kids running around. That was Christmas my entire life! Even when I was in college, I would come home and share those Christmas moments at my grandparents’ house. That was the tradition that we had back then. There were so many people in that one little house, but one thing that my grandfather loved was having all of his kids in the same place at the same time. So, we made sure we dedicated that time for him to be able to enjoy his family and his children.
“My mother’s side of the family is full of singers; my father’s side is full of musicians. We would sing all types of songs: Christmas carols, Gospel songs, songs we would make up on the spot. I believe a lot of my songwriting skills were cultivated during that time…I recall that my mom (who was very musical as well) would sing any phrase you spoke to her. Literally anything you said to my mom, she would sing. That is the kind of home that I grew up in. I had one aunt who was the choir director for the family…this is such a fond memory…she would give us all our different parts, and we would sing like we had thousands of people watching, but it was just us in the house.”
The Reason for the Season…
“I don’t believe that Jesus feels like we are neglecting Him at all because we celebrate one another on His birthday…I believe it honors him, actually, because He is love. One of the greatest gifts we can give is love during this season…I do believe that Jesus loves the fact that we choose his birthday to show some of our greatest displays of love, and that is because of who He is. That is what the bible says – “God is Love.
“One of the things I do remember, though, is when I was 15 or 16, my father started a “Happy Birthday Jesus” celebration at our home church. It was a Christmas night of worship. People would bring personal gifts that God had given them and they would sow them back into a moment of worship to God. It was an awesome experience every single year.
Sometimes we take for granted the things that many people don’t have, like food every day and shelter, or something extra like a cell phone. There are so many things that we have and consider necessities that are far-fetched for other people. When I was 19 or 20 I started to pick out a family who was a little less fortunate, and I would – because I had what I needed – I would share gifts with those children or with the mom. That was very fulfilling for me. I believe that God’s heart is pleased when we express love during this time. Kenny and I instill into our children that, yes, we praise God for everything that we have, but we cannot forget those who may have less than we do. Our two youngest are 6 and 11 years old, and they went out a few months ago to feed the homeless. We are instilling into them to always be appreciative of what they have, but never forget to give back to those who can’t give anything back to them. So, when it is all said and done and all the fun and all of the singing is done, I want to make sure that we have shown love to God’s people, because God loves everyone and so should we.
Tasha’s Christmas Favorites…
Food: Macaroni & Cheese, one of my aunts makes THE BEST mac & cheese. Whenever there is a holiday gathering, they know to have mac & cheese for Tasha!
Album: Hands down, Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas!!! She just blew that album out of the water and it will be a classic forever. If you don’t have this in your music repertoire, then you don’t like Christmas! Now, my husband has five favorite Christmas albums that he MUST listen to every holiday season. One of them is Fred Hammond’s. His album is so awesome. I had never paid much attention to it until Kenneth said we had to play it every year; he actually started playing it on Thanksgiving day. So, in the Leonard household, we have to have Mariah and we have to have Fred Hammond.
Movie: I really am not a Christmas movie person. My husband, though, is a holiday movie person. I am the worst with holiday movies. I have never sat all the way through one. There is one though, about a lamp with Christmas legs – we watched it last year and I wondered ‘how have I missed this my whole life…’ I am going to intentionally watch it this year BECAUSE of my husband. He is big on Christmas, it is a huge holiday for Kenneth and he loves all of the traditions.
Christmas Gift She Most Hopes to Receive…
The bible talks about what ever state you are in, to be content. I honestly have to say that I am content, but I am also happy. I have everything that I have ever dreamed of. My husband is amazing, our children are amazing, my family is happy, my mother is in one of the greatest places she has ever been. That is such a testimony after having gone through the grief and the sadness and all of the emotions that come along with loss. The peace of God and God’s joy and his grace have been so amazing in my life. I cannot think of one thing that I am lacking. I praise God for that. Now this doesn’t make Kenneth’s job any easier (he has been asking me what want)! He is a great gift giver, so whatever he gets I know it is going to be awesome.
Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s latest album is HEART.PASSION.PURSUIT. The album debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel chart and was one of this year’s top-selling Gospel debuts. For the recording, Tasha brought together 20+ worship leaders from around the country from different backgrounds and denominations to help create a universal sound of worship. I asked Tasha why the album would make a great Christmas gift, and she told me: “A lot of the testimonies that have come through – people are saying the album speaks to them…God told her the album would be for ALL people….there is something on this album that can minister to anyone no matter where they may be in life…That is why this album would make a great gift.”
In 2018, Cobbs Leonard will host her inspiring bi-annual conference, iLead. Registration is open now, and more information is available, at www.theileadescape.com.
A version of this interview appears in Rolling Out.com