Songs of Christmas…Angels We Have Heard on High

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This is part 18 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.

There is a legend that goes with “Angels We Have Heard on High.” It would seem that, as the legend goes, the carol originated by French shepherds watching over sheep in the countryside. These shepherds identified with the shepherds in the Luke 2 story and came up with the hymn. Through oral tradition these shepherds passed the carol from one generation to the next. They would gather around campfires during the Christmas season, their carol making its way across fields and valleys to tell other shepherds they were not alone and to celebrate the birth of the Christ.

It’s a nice story but the legend probably isn’t true. Elements are true. The carol, as first appearing in a hymnal was French. The carol is based on Luke 2. The hymn was probably used to teach the Church through oral tradition, perhaps even around campfires. Beyond that, there is little evidence to prove this.

Maybe more than any other carol, “Angels We Have Heard on High”is truly anonymous in it’s origins. The lyrics of the carol suggest that the lyricist was someone with a strong knowledge of Scripture and a gift for being able to turn Scripture into musically workable verse. This would seem to point to a priest or a monk.

The song first appeared in a French hymnal in 1855. This has given credence to the idea that the carol is French in origin. While it may be that some of the hymn did originate in France, it has its roots to a time before Christianity had gained a foothold in western Europe. There is one school of thought that suggests at least the chorus of the hymn could predate Christianity’s acceptance by the Roman Empire. Some have even suggested that it is possible that the person who wrote that part of the carol could possibly have even known Jesus! I am not trying to suggest that such is true, only that some have suggested it as a possibility.

“Gloria in Excelsis Deo,”translated into English means, “Glory to God in the highest.” This is a phrase that played an important role in early Church worship dating back the the second century.

During that period, Pope Telesphorus ordered, that on the day the Church celebrated the Lord’s birth, all churches would have special evening services (perhaps the origins of Midnight Mass). After the reading of Scripture and the saying of specific prayers, the congregation was to sing the words, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” Monks then carried the Pope’s decree throughout the land. By the third century it was the practice of almost every congregation.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” fits well with the French tradition of the crèche. Handmade nativity scenes are found in homes, around towns and even in the country side. Excellent craftsmanship is given to these scenes, and towns and communities producing them take great pride in their work. It is interesting that “crèche” is also the French term for a nursery for young children during the day.

This tradition is particularly strong in Provence, the south of France, with a crèche includes the usual host of characters but has some special ones as well. Local figures such as the mayor, the little drummer boy, or a peasant dressed in traditional attire are also present. There are also traditions in some places where people dress as the shepherds and join in a procession to the church. Children also traditionally contribute to the crèches by pebbles and rocks, moss, and pieces of evergreens to complete the nativity scene. When the scene is set, everyone in the town joins in singing traditional Christmas carols.

What are your traditions of Christmas?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_We_Have_Heard_on_High

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-angels-we-have-heard-on-high

Songs of Christmas…Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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This is part 17 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. This post is the 100th post of “Pastor’s Ponderings” since I began writing again August 29. Thank you for your support. Because you read, I write.

What has become one of the favorite Christmas songs of all time, (Some argue it holds the second spot behind Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” My research,however, shows Gene Autry’s version, the original recording, holds fourth place behind “White Christmas,” Bing Crosby’s “Silent Night” and Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You.” It may be that with the addition of other recordings such as Burl Ives, The Temptations, The Supremes and the Jackson 5 to name only a few, the combined sales bring it up the the number two position) almost didn’t happen because no one wanted to record it. The likes of Bing Crosby (He did later record the song, after it was already a hit) and Dinah Shore turned it down because they thought the song to silly.

The story behind the song is anything but silly. As Christmas 1938 approached the country was beginning to recover from the Great Depression but many were still hurting. One of those was a copywriter for Montgomery Ward, Bob May, who was watching his wife, Evelyn, unsuccessfully battle cancer. The fight had gone on for two years and both knew the end was near.

The couple had a young daughter named Barbara. One night after visiting her mother’s room, young Barbara climbed up in her daddy’s lap and wanted to know why her mother wasn’t like all the other mothers. Barbara couldn’t remember a time when her mother played with her or read her stories or went for walks with her the way all her friend’s mothers did.

All his life, Bob had been a story teller. He sat down with his daughter and started telling her a story about a reindeer named Rollo who was part Bob and part Evelyn and definitely different from all the other reindeer. Barbara loved it and the next night wanted to hear the story again. The pattern continued for more than a week. Each time Bob would retell the story to Barbara it became more complex. Bob visited the zoo to observe the reindeer. As he walked home he noticed red lights in the Chicago harbor that could still be seen through the growing fog.

May decided to make Barbara a homemade book of Rollo’s story. About the time he finished the book Evelyn passed away. Everyone who came to the May home was introduced to the story by young Barbara. One of the visitors worked with May at Montgomery Ward and convinced him to share the story at the company New Year’s Eve party. May had written many skits for the party in the past so it wasn’t something uncommon for him to be there.

Some people were confused by the story. Some thought it silly. Others loved it. One who loved it was Montgomery Ward CEO Stewell Avery. He saw potential in May’s story. For years Montgomery Ward had given away coloring books to children of customers during the Christmas season. Avery wanted May to turn Rollo into a marketing campaign for the next Christmas. He offered May $300, a good some in 1939, to produce the idea. May, cash strapped after his wife’s medical expenses, grabbed the opportunity. Avery wasn’t crazy about the reindeer angle. A moose was suggested, but May stuck by the reindeer, changing his name to Rudolph and Avery relented.

When Christmas 1939 came, Rudolph was a hit. They repeated the campaign in 1940. Rudolph went into hiding during the war years. Avery and others feared Rudolph sounded to German and didn’t want to be seen as not supporting the war effort. When the war ended Rudolph came back.

A couple of things happened next. Publishing companies were coming to Avery and May and wanting to make book deals. Avery, feeling it was the right thing to do relinquished all Montgomery Ward rights to Rudolph to May. The second thing was the story becoming a song. May had remarried and his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, was a song writer. Avery encouraged May to find a more experienced song writer but again May stuck to his plan. Marks said he went for a walk one day and when he returned he had the song. May received five percent of any sales for the song. Marks, always claimed himself as the lone writer but it is safe to say, at best the song was a team effort. The song also gained Marks “Songwriter of the Year” in 1949.

As said above, many people were approached about recording the song who turned it down. Gene Autry wasn’t crazy about the song. He was looking for a Christmas follow-up to his hit “Here Come’s Santa Claus,” but he didn’t think this was it. His wife had heard Rudolph and wanted Autry to record it. He had four hours of studio time where he planned to record three songs, all of which he thought had better chances than Rudolph. When he finished recording the three songs, there was 20 minutes left in his session. Autry decided to pull out Rudolph and give it to the band. They only had time for one take. It was the hit.

Debuting in November of 1949, the song made it to number 1 on the hit parade the first week of January 1950. The next week it fell completely from the charts, making it the only song ever to fall from number 1 to nothing in a week’s time.

Still, in all, Rudolph has become a perennial favorite everywhere. With stories, books, movies, merchandise and five percent of a very popular song, the Montgomery Ward Copywriter became a very wealthy man. That isn’t bad for a story that he made up to help his daughter through the illness and coming loss of her mother. Rudolph took on a life of his own.

Have you ever had a project that took on a life of it’s own?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer_(song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_singles

Songs of Christmas…White Christmas

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This is part 16 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.

When I was a kid I remember a trivia question that went around. “What is the best selling music single of all time?” The answer is our song for today. Even if you didn’t know the answer before you started reading this post, you probably figured it out just you know that today I am talking about “White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records.

What I didn’t know at that time was, there are other trivia questions one could ask about “White Christmas.” The first one that came to my mind is, “What popular Christmas song was written by a Jew?” The second would be, “What recorded single went to number one in three separate years?” I feel certain I could find others, but this will suffice.

I also learned something else while doing the research for today’s post. Bing Crosby not only sang the biggest selling single of all time, he also had the number three song on the list with “Silent Night.”

In the early 1940s, Crosby was at the height of his career. He had a recording contract with Decca Records and a film contract with Paramount Film Studios. Most everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. As a result, songwriters wanted, dreamed of Bing Crosby singing one of their songs. One song writer who was pretty successful in his own right but was even more so because of Bing Crosby was Irving Berlin.

Berlin, however, had his own Midas touch. He also had a knack for putting together heartfelt lyrics with simple tunes that the public wanted to hear and to know.

Berlin was contracted to write the music for the musical Holiday Inn. Most of it was fine but there was a Christmas intended for the script. Berlin, a Jew, had limited knowledge of Christmas. Still, he didn’t back away from the challenge. Berlin focused on what he did know about Christmas, snow and Santa. Berlin realized that people were nostalgic for snow covered fields and children had dreams of visits from Santa. Putting the two together was the direction Berlin took.

When Berlin finished the song he didn’t care for it and almost threw it away but instead took it to Crosby who read it and liked it, but some say he wasn’t all that excited about it. Others claim that Crosby told Berlin not to change a thing.

Crosby debuted the song on radio on Christmas Day, 1941. The song spoke of a simpler time, a simpler dream that people longed for some three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Crosby recorded the song six months later. That same summer, Holiday Inn opened. At first movie goers were more excited about another song, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” But, the song gained in popularity over the next few months. Before Christmas 1942 the song was at the top of the Hit Parade and remained there for several weeks into 1943. Interestingly, the song returned to number one on the Hit Parade again in 1945 and 1946.

For many, even still today, it is not Christmas until they hear the crooning voice of Bing Crosby singing the all time best selling single, “White Christmas.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Christmas_(song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_singles

Songs of Christmas…Away in a Manger

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This is part 15 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.

Much as we saw yesterday with “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” there is controversy surrounding the authorship of this beloved carol. In the end, the words are from an anonymous source. Some believe the song originated in Philadelphia around 1883.

There is no question about who discovered the hymn. In 1887 James R. Murray, a well recognized publisher and musician published the carol in his songbook Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses.

When Murray published “Away in a Manger,” he credited the 15th century theologian, reformer, and pastor/priest Martin Luther. Murray claimed that Luther not only wrote the hymn but that he sang it to his children when they were small. In theory that sounds wonderful but in truth, we already have a song Luther both wrote and sang to his children, “Von Himmel hoch da komm ich her.”

Some music scholars believe it is obvious Luther did not write the hymn and that it is an American creation. To support such a belief the scholars point to the work of Rev. Carlton Young, an editor on the United Methodist Hymnal. Young says when one looks at the German it is an obvious translation from English. Not being an authority on German in any way, I will have to take his word for it.

In the original version published by James Murray there were only two verse to the carol, both are considered anonymously written. Verse 3 is also unattributed. It first appeared in a songbook by gospel composer Charles H. Gabriel.

There are three primary tunes used with “Away in a Manger.” Two have used the title, “Luther’s Cradle Song.” Most popular in the United States was the tune Murray published in 1887. Much like the carol itself being mis-attributed to Martin Luther, credit for this version wrongly given to Carl Mueller. While the name of the “American” tune is “Luther’s Cradle Song,” the tune carry’s the more common name “Mueller” as well.

In England, “Luther’s Cradle Song,” more commonly just called, “Cradle Song” is the preferred tune. My wife Cindy and I have worked out an arrangement of both “Cradle Song” versions for flute and guitar.

A third tune often associated with “Away in a Manger” is “Flow Gently Sweet Afton.” This tune was used by many Americans during World War I as a negative response that seemed to follow all things German. When the war ended, Mueller became the most accepted tune once again.

The country-western singer Anne Murray has done an arrangement of the carol that actually uses all three tunes. She sings verse one to the tune of “Mueller.” Verse two using “Cradle Song.” And, for verse three she sings to the tune of “Flow Gently Sweet Afton.” It is a beautiful arrangement that I have admired for several years now.

With the exception of “Jesus Loves Me,” “Away in a Manger” may be the first Christian song children learn in Sunday school, church or at home. It is quite common for many children, particularly in Christian households to know this carol by memory and be able to sing it before they are ever able to read.

The simple tune and verses make this holiday standard a favorite. Because Christmas, even in the secular world, is so much about children, “Away in a Manger” will continue as a beloved hymn of the Church for generations to come.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Away_in_a_Manger

http://www.hymnary.org/text/away_in_a_manger_no_crib_for_a_bed

http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-away-in-a-manger

Songs of Christmas…O Come All Ye Faithful

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This is part 14 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.

Jesus was born into controversy when King Herod learned of the birth of the King of the Jews from the Magi who traveled to find the new baby. The controversy happened when Herod ordered male children executed.

So, why should a song about Jesus’ birth not have some level of controversy surrounding it? Such is the case for “Adeste Fideles,” the original name of the popular carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

The lyrics were first believed to have come from a group of Cistercian monks, but even that theory was surrounded in controversy. During different historical periods, monks in Germany, Portugal and Spain have received credit. Another who received credit was St. Bonaventure in the 13th century. Yet another theory gave credit to King John IV of Portugal, known as the Musician King.

Just as with the lyrics there has been controversy around the music too. Men such as John Reading, Frederick Handel and Christoph Willibald Gluck have received credit. Others who received credit for the music are Thomas Arne, Marcos Portugal and King John IV of Portugal.

Probably the most common assertion for both the music and lyrics was they were that of an unknown cleric of the Middle Ages. Many theories all proven wrong by English scholar, Maurice Frost who discovered seven handwritten and signed manuscripts from an English Catholic Priest named John Francis Wade.

Wade was a holy man caught in a great conflict within England. The conflict was so great, Wade along with many other English-Catholics were risking their lives to live and worship in England. It resulted in Roman Catholic worship moving underground. Many priests, including Wade were forced from the country. Wade immigrated to France.

During this period of history, many in the English government attempted to rid the country of all its Catholic records, including the music of the Church. Wade, a calligrapher by training as well as being a notable musician, was given the task of finding as much of the music and to log and preserve it for future generations. Wade took the job very seriously. He searched everywhere to find the music and make record of it.

During this period Wade not only logged and preserved music, he was also inspired to write music as well. Because he was a Catholic priest it is completely reasonable that he would write in Latin. Around 1750 Wade finished writing his most well-known tune, “Adeste Fideles” and the next year published the work in his own book, Cantus Diversi. It would take Wade another ten years to put lyrics with his melody.

It is entirely possible that Wade’s work on “O Come All Ye Faithful” was influenced by someone like St. Bonaventure or some other cleric of his era. The legends giving St. Bonaventure or others still persist. In light of evidence of the manuscripts discovered by Frost and other published writings, Wade should be given credit for the work.

In 1841, some sixty years after Wade’s death, Frederick Oakley translated the Latin to English. For some reason, however, Oakley neglected to give Wade his credit and thus started the many legends about the hymn’s authorship.

In the United States and other English speaking countries the hymn really became known in the early 1900s. It was at that time many churches began using the carol, it was included in many hymnals and it became a caroling standard.

The first group known to have recorded the carol was the premier musical group of the era, the Peerless Quartet in 1905. At a time when radio was not yet playing music to the masses,  thousands of singles were sold and the release went to number seven on the National Hit Parade. In 1915 Irish tenor John McCormack took the carol to number two. Ten years later the carol made it back onto the charts with a recording by the American Glee Club.

In a period of history when the Church was quite literally at war with itself, a time period when Christians were killing Christians over being Christians, we have the voice of a lone Catholic priest who quietly sings, “O Come all ye faithful.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Come,_All_Ye_Faithful

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Francis_Wade

Songs of Christmas…What Child is This?

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This is part 13 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.

As a pastor, it is not uncommon for me to hear from someone saying, “We need to sing more of the old hymns. At times it makes me tempted to go through the hymnal and find the oldest hymns in the book. Along with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we discussed several days ago, today’s selection could easily make the list. The song’s history goes back at least as far as King Henry VIII or England who lived from 1491-1547. This is the same King Henry who broke from the Roman Catholic Church when Pope Clement VII refused to grant him an anulment from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon in 1527.

According to legend, King Henry wrote the original lyrics of “Greensleeves” when he courted his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The song became permanently tied to King Henry through the work of William Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The song was originally registerd to a man named Richard Jones in 1580. In truth, music scholars believe the tune is much older. It is an ancient English folk song and people have written as many as 20 different sets of lyrics for use with the song. For much of it’s life, “Greensleeves” was a song living in the pubs of England. It was a popular drinking song almost as beloved by Englanders as “God Save the Queen.”

It is doubtful that when William Chatterton Dix began writing the words to his poem “The Manger Throne” he had “Greensleeves” in mind at all. Dix was a poet, not a lyricst. It is said that for Dix it was all about poetry though he made his living in the insurance industry in Glasgow Scottland. For him, his business, insurance, was just a means to an end, writing poetry.

Tragedy struck Dix with a near fatal illness that left him confined to bed for months. During this time he reflected on his faith and read his Bible. When he did regain his strength he was inspired to write his greatest work, including “What Child is This?”

In an era where Christmas was not a commercial enterprise and the Church worked hard to keep it as a day of worship, few writers wrote about the birth of Christ. Dix bucked the trend. There is no record as to why Dix choose to write on the first Christmas but it is known that he was inspired. He wrote “The Manger Throne” in a single sitting.

Dix published the poem just as the Civil War in the United States was coming to an end. The poem not only spoke to those in Great Britian but also to Christians in both the North and the South in the United States.

As inspred as the words of Dix might be, they would probably be forgoten by most, only a few serious readers of poetry remembering them had it not been for the efforts of an unknown Englishman who paired Dix’s lyrics with the “Greensleeves” melody under the name, “What Child is This?”

Unlike many others, Dix actually did live to see his words become famous. And, as we all know, today it is a Christmas classic.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Child_Is_This%3F

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_VIII_of_England

Songs of Christmas – Mary Did You Know?

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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,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_Did_You_Know%3F

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Lowry