His introspective “Dark Sacred Night” is a compilation of Christmas music he’s recorded over the past 14 years. Bazan will play Neumos on Sunday, Dec. 18.

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The holidays often elicit a complicated swirl of emotions, and traditional holiday music can be a tonic, putting people in a good mood, full of cheer.

Seattle songwriter David Bazan has little interest in being that tonic on “Dark Sacred Night,” a compilation of introspective Christmas music he recorded over the past 14 years. Bazan will play Neumos on Sunday, Dec. 18.

“One thing about me in general that makes it hard to do Christmas music, I feel there is some music whose message, the subtext of the message, is that everything is OK in the world,” Bazan said. “I am not really capable of playing or singing music that has that message at its core. Christmas music is especially difficult.”

Concert preview

David Bazan with Advance Base

8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $18 (206-709-9442 or neumos.com).

Bazan’s relationship with Christianity makes it even more difficult. When he was performing as Pedro the Lion, Bazan was a practicing Christian but stepped back from his faith in 2009, announcing his break from the church with his first solo album, “Curse Your Branches.”

That break has made traditional Christmas tunes like “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” more challenging for Bazan to present in a way that still feels true to who he is.

“I had to be careful I wasn’t intoning anything I just didn’t believe,” he said. “I think it’s really difficult to remove Christianity from Christmas. I see it as a time that people are open and are thinking about the best ideals of Christianity. But there are still some positive things to say — loving thy neighbor and yourself, turning the other cheek, loving thy enemy. So many things are embodied in the vulnerable form of Jesus, the baby Jesus.”

It isn’t lost on Bazan that this year in particular — when some families are convening for perhaps the first time since the presidential election — seems like a good year for a different kind of Christmas album. In particular, there is a lyric in Bazan’s version of “Silent Night,” which he calls “really extreme,” that asks the listener to consider the violence done “in this baby’s name.”

“Now that I’m singing it every night, I’m just so glad to be holding up that mirror,” Bazan said. “It’s such a juvenile thing to have to put into a tune, and I’m glad I did. There are moments on the record I’m glad are there because you just can’t get around them. You can’t really be practicing Christian Christmas and avoid these errors we’ve all made together on race and gender and all these issues of justice.”

It would be easy to interpret “Dark Sacred Night” as a negative look at the holidays, but the title is a lyric from Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” which Bazan said he interprets as a call to turn the other cheek.

“That Louis Armstrong song is a really potent tune, but it’s a protest song, you know?” he said. “’Dark sacred night,’ whenever I heard that I could picture something that felt like Christmas to me. It evoked that feeling to me, but there was an echo of racial justice that was being brought to bear.”