Skip to main content
Updated date:

Five Christmas Songs About Mary and Jesus

Author:

Lori Colbo loves to write about her Christian faith and the Bible to encourage and inspire others.

christmas-songs-about-mary

Most people like the holiday standards that have been around for decades as well as the sacred Carols. I love all the sacred songs like Oh Holy Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Silent Night and Away in the Manger are probably the most beloved carols of all.

There are a few sacred songs written in the past forty or fifty years that are wonderful. Here I will highlight four of my favorite contemporary Carols and one obscure old classic that focuses on Mary and Baby Jesus. I love Mary because I'm a mom. I never gave birth to the Savior of the world, but I know the wonder of a newborn baby and the joys and heartaches of being a mother.

I will list the songs in the order I like them.

# 1 Mary Did You Know

Mary Did You Know: Lyrics by Mark Lowry, music by Buddy Green (1991). © 1984 Rufus Music/Word Music LLC. CopyCare Limited/Integrity Music.

This breathtaking song has become a modern Christmas classic and has captured the hearts of millions.

Mark Lowry, who wrote the stunning lyrics, shared how he came to write the lyrics.

"I started thinking and wondering if Mary realized the power, authority and majesty that she cradled in her arms that first Christmas. I wondered if she realized those little hands were the same hands that scooped out oceans and formed rivers. I just tried to put into words the unfathomable. I started thinking of the questions I would have for her if I were to sit down & have coffee with Mary. You know, "What was it like raising God?" "What did you know?" "What didn't you know?" 1

In an interview with Scott Davis he talks about the idea of the humanity of Jesus:

"We talked about this all my life, all these ideas of the humanity of Jesus. Everybody knows about the deity of Jesus, at least in our world...He became a hundred percent human. Mary had to teach God how to walk. Mary had to teach the Word of God to talk." Later on, Lowry said, "And really, Mary Did You Know is not about Mary. It's about the Baby in her lap and the wonder of it. And it compressed and compacted; in that eight-pound bundle was the fullness of the Godhead. That's amazing. And so that's what the song is trying to do." 2

A long list of artists have covered it. There is no one who sings it like Mark Lowry, but Carrie Underwood knocks it out of the park on her Christmas album My Gift. Here is a list of just a few out of hundreds.

Carrie Underwood, My Gift (2020)

Clay Aiken, (Merry Christmas With Love (2004)

Dolly Parton, A Holly Dolly Christmas (2020)

Donny Osmond, Christmas at Home (1998)

Kathy Mattea, Good News (1993)

Kenny Rogers and Wynona Judd, Kenny Rogers' Christmas album, The Gift (1996)

Jordan Smith, The Voice Performance (2015)

Mark Lowry and the Gaither's, Still the Greatest Story Ever Told (1998)

Michael English, Michael English (1991) *Michael English was the first artist to record it.

Natalie Cole, The Magic of Christmas (1999)

Pentatonix, That's Christmas to Me (2014)

Reba McEntire, Secret of Giving - A Christmas Collection (1990)

Hundreds have covered this song and it's no wonder.

Here are two videos of Mary Did You Know; One from Mark Lowry and one from

# 2 A Labor of Love

A Labor of Love: Lyrics and Music by Andrew Peterson

©2004 New Spring Publishing Inc. (ASCAP).

This is a lesser-known contemporary Christmas song found in Andrew Peterson's Christmas album, Behold the Lamb of God Tenth Anniversary 2-Disc Set (2010) Jill Phillips sings Labor of Love on the album.

Oh, how we love to romanticize the Christmas story. The carol, Silent Night tells us that all is calm, all is bright, there is heavenly peace, and radiant beams are upon Baby Jesus' face. Andrew Peterson's lyrics to A Labor of Love portray the stark reality of Mary giving birth to Jesus in vivid detail. It was crude but glorious. It was cold and dark, Mary's labor cries could be heard by those nearby, she had no mother to hold her hand, the hay was dirty, there was blood and pain. Joseph's tender care of Mary as she birthed sweet Jesus is a moving depiction of a loving husband, handling the crisis. Toward the end of the song, we are told that Jesus was the maker of the moon and the author of faith. The song is tender in its own way, and though it describes the rough conditions, it does not lose the wonder and sacredness of Jesus' birth. As I listen to it, I am there in that barn, smelling the pungent odor of manure, flies hovering over the animals, young girl Mary writhing in pain from her labor, and a nervous Joseph, not used to acting as midwife, feeling the weight of watching his beloved crying into the night, He held her hand and prayed.

But like every woman who has ever given birth, when that baby enters the world, she forgets it all and is in awe with that tiny, downy little creature. Mary knew in her heart her newborn Son was the Messiah. What a wonderful thrill it must have been. The end of the song speaks of the majesty and sweetness of it all:

But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

This beautiful song is wistful, winsome, haunting, and joyful.

The tune is a unique composition, but no less impressive. My favorite cover of this song is from the Isaacs. As the Isaacs' Becky Bowman sings, you can hear the cry in her soul. I cry every time I hear it.

The Isaac's covered this song on their 2010 Christmas album, The Isaacs Christmas.

Artists who have also covered this song:

The Lindsey Family A Lindsey Christmas (20150)

Merideth Andrews Recive Our King (2017)

Point of Grace Home For the Holidays (2010)

Randy Travis Songs of the Season (2007)

Tigirlily YouTube Video (2017) *Another great one.

# 3 Christ Child Lullaby

Christ Child Lullaby: Father Ranald Rankin (1855)

Public Domain.

This is a delightful Celtic hymn. Also known in Gaelic as Tàladh Chrìosda. Father Rankin wrote it for midnight mass in Scotland in 1855. There is the Gaelic version and it has been translated into English and other languages. Originally, Father Rankin wrote 29 verses. That's a long song. The English version is condensed into a much shorter version. Here are the lyrics:

My love my pride my treasure oh
My wonder new and pleasure oh
My son, my beauty ever you
Who am I to bear you here?

Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

The cause of talk and tale am I
The cause of greatest fame am I
The cause of proudest care on high
To have for mine the king of all

And though you are the King of all
They sent you to a manger stall
Then at your feet they all should fall
And glorify my child the King

Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

There shone a star above three kings
To guide them to the King of Kings
They held you in their humble arms
And knelt before you until dawn

They gave you myrrh, they gave you gold
Frankincense and gifts untold
They travelled far these gifts to bring
And kneel before their newborn King

Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

This lovely hymn starts out with Mary's adoration of her newborn Son, and wonders how a humble girl like her would be blessed to bear Him. I must say, the Alleluia's that follow are exquisite, captivating, and replays over and over in your head. And then Mary talks about the stories about her that have spread wide, and how she became famous because she gave birth to the Christ Child. Here we hear the Catholic theology of Mary's renown. She speaks to her Son, and ponders His going from being a King to a baby in a manger in a barn, but glorified by God. The magi follow the star and bring their gifts.

The tune is so enchanting and since it's Celtic, I think it's more pleasing for the ears if violins, mandolins, banjos, and guitars play that lovely melody. Some renditions leaven the Celtic flavor out of it and it's just not the same. Father Rankin was gifted in writing this hymn.

The video is of the Bluegrass Minstrels, a band in my community. The sound quality isn't the best, but I chose it because Nicole Johnson sings it better than any others I've heard.

# 4 You're Here

You're Here: Words and Music by Francesca Battistelli and Benjamin Glover.

© 2012 Word Music LLC, WB/Music Corp., Screaming Norman Music (ASCAP)

This song has a charming meoldy and Francesca Battistelli sings so beautifully. Like Mary Did You Know, You're Here is a story about the awe and wonder of giving birth to Christ. The song begins with Mary giving one last breath and then she's holding the One made the world before she was born. "You're here." Mary looks into His eyes and declares she is holding her Savior. You could have decided to not come but "You're here."

Mary realizes she only has a short time with Him, but she knows He will do great and mighty things and she'll be watching. She looks at those tiny little hands and knows one day they will be stretched and nailed to a cross to save us. I love this section:

Someday I'm going to look back on this
The night that God became a baby boy
Someday you're going to go home again
But you'll leave your spirit
And flood the world with joy

I love songs where Mary is featured pondering who her baby really is. It's even more precious because she is talking directly to Him, staring into that sweet face and kissing His downy head knowing she is holding God. Wow.

Francesca Sings You're Here with her Baby girl. Adorable.

# 5 Breath of Heaven

Breath of Heaven: Lyrics rewritten by Amy Grant. Music by Christopher Eaton.

© 1992, 1997 SGO Music Publishing LTD.

Breath of Heaven is another contemporary Christmas classic. It has an interesting history. Originally, it was written by Christopher Eaton and according to Amy Grant in SongFacts, 3 "It had nothing to do with Mary or Christmas..." With Christopher Eaton's permission, she rewrote the song into a Christmas ballad about Mary. Like in Labor of Love, the lyrics describe Mary's hardships and challenges, not only in birthing her baby, but in her travels to Bethlehem. Breath of Heaven is in the voice of Mary, praying to God (whom she calls Breath of Heaven) to help her through this harsh time. She is weary after days of travel, great with child and she wonders what she's done. She's cold and overwhelmed and it's dark. She claims she must walk this journey alone. Some have criticized the theology in this song, and I have to agree in some parts. Mary didn't have to go it alone. She had God and Joseph with her. She acknowledges in her prayer, that God has chosen her to bear His Child, but asks for the strength to go through this time. The chorus says,

Breath of Heaven

Hold me together

Be ever near me

Breath of heaven

Breath of heaven

Lighten my darkness

Pour over me Your holiness

for You are holy

breath of heaven

At the end of the song, she surrenders herself and asks for strength.

In her SongFacts interview, she refers back to an interview she had with CCM Magazine Presents 100 Great Songs in Christian Music. "I was very pregnant at that time, and I felt that was part of the inspiration for the song as I tried to imagine Mary's experience."

That's one wonderful aspect of being a mother that helps women relate so much to Mary.

Breath of Heaven was featured on Amy Grant's 1992 Christmas album, Home For Christmas.

The song was also featured in the 2006 movie soundtrack, The Nativity Story.

In 2001, Amy wrote a book based on the song and titled it appropriately, Breath of Heaven.

This song has been around since the 1990s and has been covered by many artists.

Donna Summer, Best of Twentieth Century - Christmas (1994)

Guy Penrod Christmas (2014)

Kathy Troccoli Christmas Songs (2011)

Kutless This is Christmas (2011)

Melissa Manchester The Colors of Christmas (1998)

Vince Gill with Patrick Williams and His Orchestra Breath of Heaven: A Christmas Collection (1998)


Amy Grant's Book Breath of Heaven

Sources

1How Well Do You Know “Mary Did You Know?” (n.d.). Sheet Music Direct Blog. Retrieved 20 October 2021. http://blog.sheetmusicdirect.com/2017/09/how-well-do-you-know-mary-did-you-know.html

2 Mark Lowry talks about writing Mary Did You Know. (n.d.). Www.youtube.com. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsoYABkR6T0&t=314s

3 Songfacts. (n.d.). Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song) by Amy Grant - Songfacts. Www.songfacts.com. Retrieved 20 October 2021. https://www.songfacts.com/facts/amy-grant/breath-of-heaven-marys-song

© 2021 Lori Colbo

Comments

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on October 22, 2021:

Dear Pamela, my heart always speeds up a little when I see your face and comments pop up. I am so glad this article blessed you.

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on October 22, 2021:

Bill, you and me both. Merry Christmas early,

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on October 22, 2021:

Maria, I am so glad to meet you and thank you for your comments. You have such a sweet face, Blessings.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on October 22, 2021:

Thank you for sharing the interview, and the other songs with us. "Mary, Did You Know?" is my all-time favorite Christmas hymn, followed closely by "Oh, Holy Night".

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 22, 2021:

I still get goosebumps every single time I hear "Mary Did You Know." It is that beautiful!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 22, 2021:

This is a beautiful article about Christmas songs, Lori. The videos you chose were sos lovely to listen to and really help me think about the reason we celebrate Christmas. I enjoyed everything in this article.

Related Articles