Songs of Christmas – Mary Did You Know?


This is part 12 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

I love a great deal of Christmas music (there is also a lot of Christmas music I’m not so crazy about). There are two relatively new songs that at least at the moment top my personal charts, one is spiritual in nature and one is secular. The secular one (I will not be writing about it because to the best of my knowledge there isn’t much information available) is “Frosty the Blues Man,” performed by Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. The song that is spiritual in background is the song for today, “Mary Did You Know?”

Mark Lowry, the lyricist for “Mary Did You Know?” was living in Houston when he got the idea for the song. He had been given the task of writing transition music for his church’s Singing Christmas Tree. The choir used hymns but they needed additional music to transition from one song to another. As Lowry wrote a piece about Mary, he began to imagine that he was a reporter interviewing Mary. There was a line that really spoke to him, “When you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.” I can see why the line spoke to him. As many times as I have heard this song, it still gives me chills.

When Lowry finished his “Singing Christmas Tree” assignment, he went back to those lines he had written about Mary. The “kissed the face of God” line he felt like really needed to be a song so he went to work. In the end Lowry wrote a poem that he said truly moved him. Yet writing a song is no easy task. He gave the poem to a solid well-intentioned music writer but the end result didn’t move Lowry in fact he felt it took away from his poem. He decided to file the poem away and wait for God’s time rather than force something that he knew wasn’t right. There is a lesson for most all of us in that.

All of that happened in 1984. In 1988 Lowry received an invitation to join the Gaither Vocal Band. It was a tremendous opportunity and Mark jumped at the chance. Two years later the Gaither Vocal Band received another newcomer, Buddy Green. Lowry decided to share “Mary Did You Know?” with Green. He intended it more as a joke but Green took him seriously and wrote the music we know today.

Within a week of Green finishing the music, the two contacted Michael English and convinced him to record the song. They all thought that would probably be the end of it. It was only the beginning. In short order, Kathy Mattea, Natalie Cole and several others, now including Lowry himself have recorded the song.

“Mary Did You Know?” became an instant hit. Today it is sung by soloists and choirs in churches and elsewhere throughout the Christmas season. In very short order, it has become a favorite and a Christmas classic.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved


Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.,_Did_You_Know%3F


Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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