My favorite Advent/Christmas song

If you ask people what their favorite Advent or Christmas song/hymn is, chances are you’ll get one of the old standards – Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Away In a Manger etc…  I love all these, in fact, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem is right near the top of my list.  But it’s not my favorite.  “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” probably IS my favorite hymn for congregational or choir singing, but there is another song that has a much deeper personal meaning for me.

My favorite Advent/Christmas song is a contemporary song by Amy Grant.  It’s called “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song),” written by Amy Grant and Chris Eaton, and you can listen to it here if you want.  Or you can just read the lyrics:

I have traveled many moonless nights

Cold and weary with a babe inside

And I wonder what I’ve done

Holy Father you have come

And chosen me now

To carry your Son

I am waiting in a silent prayer

I am frightened by the load I bear

In a world as cold as stone

Must I walk this path alone

Be with me now

Be with me now

Breath of heaven

Hold me together

Be forever near me

Breath of heaven

Breath of heaven

Lighten my darkness

Pour over me your holiness

For you are holy

Breath of heaven

Do you wonder as you watch my face

If a wiser one should have had my place

But I offer all I am

For the mercy of your plan

Help me be strong

Help me be

Help me

Breath of heaven

Hold me together

Be forever near me

Breath of heaven

Breath of heaven

Lighten my darkness

Pour over me your holiness

For you are holy

Breath of heaven

Breath of heaven…

It’s not an obvious favorite.  It’s a more “psychological” song – not focusing on the events, or on the person/mission/ministry/divinity of Jesus.  It imagines the thoughts and prayers of Mary as she approached giving birth, which is why it’s subtitled “Mary’s Song.”  The music is sad and almost haunting, the lyrics filled with uncertainty and fear.  But I think that’s what the approaching birth of Jesus must’ve really been like.  Poor Mary.  And poor Joseph too.  Mary is afraid, yet trusting that somehow God will take care of her.  That is faith.

My third pregnancy was unplanned.  I was SO looking forward to getting my life back with my youngest soon going off to full-day preschool (she was in special education, so preschool would be full-time).  Yet, late in September I discovered I was pregnant – there would be NO getting my life back.  My husband and I were frightened.  We had decided we did not want more children, especially after it became clear that our second child had so many problems.  Yet there we were.

As Advent came upon us I was nearing the end of my first trimester, the sunlight was waning, and the fear seemed to grow in me along with that new life.  I was 40, which put me in a higher risk pregnancy category.  It put my baby at a higher risk for “problems.”  How would we manage three children, especially with one already having special needs?  What if this child had problems too?  We hadn’t yet told anyone about the pregnancy except our closest friends and family because it was almost too hard to say out loud.  Then one Sunday in church a woman sang “Breath of Heaven” as a musical offering, and although I’d heard it before, I hadn’t paid real attention to it in a long while (the song had been out 13 years by then).  Right there in worship I was overcome.  It was all I could do to keep from sobbing.  It was MY song.  All the cold and weariness, all the fear and longing were mineI was Mary – hoping against hope that God would take care of me, that this child God had given to us would be okay, that somehow we’d be able to manage.  That song became my prayer.  I went home, dug out the CD and played that song over and over and over again, and cried and cried and cried – and prayed and prayed and prayed.

Eight and a half years later we have a healthy son, and though it’s not always easy or pretty, so far we’ve been able to navigate three children and autism too.  Our son has been a wonderful gift and we cannot imagine our lives without him.  Even so, I remember the fear and uncertainty as we waited for his birth – and so that song is still mine – it will forever be mine, because I remember.  No matter how many times I hear it, I still get chills…

***Not all the stories around our favorite songs have to be quite so heavy!  What’s YOUR favorite song of the Advent/Christmas seasons?

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