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This Christmas song has become a modern classic—and the source of much teeth-grinding, eye-rolling and head-scratching on social media. But it has an interesting backstory.
This comes from an item in the St. Augustine Record, from a profile of lyricist Mark Lowry (who sings the song in the video below):
Following is Mark’s story behind his now famous song, as he told it to me:
“In 1984, Jerry Falwell called and asked me to write the program for their next Living Christmas Tree.
As I wrote the ‘speaking parts’ I began to think about Mary. I have always been fascinated with the concept that God came to earth.
…As my mind went back to the manger scene, I began to think about the power, authority and majesty she cradled in her arms. Those little lips were the same lips that had spoken worlds into existence. All of those things were contained in the young child lying quietly on her bosom. Even now, he was the very one who had given life to his mother, Mary.
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I began writing a list of questions I would like to ask Mary if I could sit down with her — questions such as, ‘Mary, do you know who is in your arms?’
‘Did you know the one who holds creation together, and the one who holds you together is lying helpless in the manger?’
‘Did you know that your baby boy will walk on water, give sight to a blind man and calm a storm at sea with his hand?’”
Lowry carried his lyrics with him for the next seven years. In 1991, he asked his good friend, Buddy Greene, to write suitable music for his poem.
Greene told me in an interview, “Mark handed me his lyrics, and I held on to them for about two weeks. One day I pulled them out and looked at them. They seemed to suggest a minor key approach to writing an accompaniment. I completed the musical setting in about 30 minutes. I called Mark at his home in Georgia and on the phone played and sang the song to him. He was ecstatic! He said, ‘That’s it!’
The rest is history.
More of Lowry’s own story:
While attending Liberty Baptist College (now known as Liberty University), Lowry joined a college evangelistic team made of Charles Hughes and David Musselman and began singing. His comedy career inadvertently began from here. There would be an elongated pause in his singing performance while he waited for the soundtrack to be changed. Lowry began to fill this pause with a monologue. He soon realized that the audiences at his performances were laughing not at him but at his monologues.
In 1978, Lowry was badly injured in a car accident near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, while touring with his college evangelistic team. He sustained eleven broken bones, and spent a good deal of time in physical therapy recovering from the accident.
He’s had a thriving career in concerts and doing stand-up comedy. But that one song is likely the one he will be remembered for.