Once in distant lands

Having written a melody that I had set to the words of a U.K. hymn writer, I decided that it was time to give it words of my own when my son commented that “those aren’t Daddy words”. I wanted the song to keep with the advent theme and to look at the Christmas season from Mary’s point of view – that of a young, poor but devout girl who didn’t expect to find herself in the middle of a drama of cosmic proportions. The mysterious circumstances under which Jesus was conceived and born definitely tainted him with accusations of illegitimacy in a society where a traceable lineage defined a person. How easy it is to lose track of the message when we focus only on the mechanism. Could those at the grimy bottom actually be the most important (and legitimate) of all? Our modern view of Christmas is a sanitized one – even the straw in the stable seems dry-cleaned. At one point I had toyed with using the word “stable” but substituted “barnyard” to reflect the squalid conditions of that first Christmas. Mary could have easily died in childbirth or from some nasty infections that could follow, yet she still said “yes” to the task God put before her. What is our reply to God’s challenges? In the end, the story isn’t just about that first family – Mary, Joseph and babe – but about how the whole idea of “family” has suddenly expanded to include us as well.