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.