Ah, Christmas music.
Love it or hate it, this time of year it’s everywhere you go. Some of our local radio stations start playing it 24 hours a day before Thanksgiving even arrives. So it’s easy to get really sick of it by mid-December.
Problem is, we hear the same playlist of songs over and over. It’s not that they aren’t great songs, it’s just that too much of a good thing gets old quick. (NERD ALERT: I’m just gonna go out on a limb, though, and admit that Carnie and Wendy Wilson’s “Hey Santa” never gets old.)
I have a long list of Christmas favorites. Listening to some of the old songs makes me remember Christmases past, and what I was going through or feeling at the time those songs were popular.
Which led me to the decision to write a short series on some of my favorite Christmas music. . . and the personal stories behind them.
The Very Best Christmas Music: A Blog Series
Breath of Heaven
When I was a mere 23 years old, I endured a traumatic, life-changing experience involving an abusive relationship and an intense amount of shame. Emotionally bruised and battered, I became a shell of my former self. Life was in pieces all around me. I was thankful to be alive, thankful beyond words to God for rescuing me from terrible circumstances when I was simply too weak to save myself.
But it was the lowest point I’d ever experienced. Heart-crushingly, mind-numbingly low. I was all alone, depressed, and completely unsure of anything.
It was 1992. I had a new job, a new apartment, and was attempting a new start.
That fall, Amy Grant’s new Christmas album Home for Christmas was released. I hightailed it to the music store (remember how we actually had to go to the music store to buy music?) and bought the CD.
And just like millions of other people, I fell in love with Breath Of Heaven, sung from the point of view of a pregnant young Mary, afraid and unsure and wondering with amazement why she was chosen to be the mother of the anointed one.
I, too, was young. I was so afraid of where life had dumped me, so terrified of never escaping from the pit of loneliness and depression I’d fallen into. The world was indeed, as the song says, cold as stone.
All that fall of 1992, the lyrics repeated over and over in my head and on my stereo:
“Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Light up my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy”
I programmed the song to endless repeat every night when I went to bed. The words were my prayer, the one I couldn’t pray for myself, because I was too shaken to cry out to God. Shame consumed me. I didn’t know how God could forgive me, let alone love me.
Breath Of Heaven – and the very Holy Spirit himself — interceded for me when I was shattered to pieces. When my heart was too wounded to muster an offering of any kind. When my soul was damaged and in danger of being extinguished, Amy Grant’s smoky alto sang words of life and hope and comfort over me. . . night after lonely night.
Her voice would crackle ever so slightly as she crooned the words:
“Help me be strong.
Help me be.
If I could have summoned a prayer from the deepest part of my being, those two words would have been its entirety. Help me. The plea of a drowning person.
How I ache for the girl I was, but how amazed I am at God’s provision and comfort and loving care. He pulled me from a miry pit of despair and set my feet upon a rock. After a few lonely months, he began to move me in a new direction. He rescued me again.
God comforted me and wooed me back to Him during that difficult time. But Breath Of Heaven played no small part in giving me just enough hope to keep looking up.
Hold Me Together
The holidays can be painful for so many people. Loneliness magnifies itself during this time of year, and the pressure of trying to do too much and be too much somehow becomes infinitely heavier at Christmas time.
Maybe you’re going through a difficult time. Maybe, like my 1992 experience, your world and your heart have broken into a million pieces and you’ve found yourself trying to put it back together. . . only to fail.
Maybe you’ve finally realized that you can’t hold it all together anymore.
I know the feeling. There’s another who knows as well. His specialty is holding things together. He can put you back together and keep you mended and safe.
And He’s as close as your breath. All you need to do is whisper, “Help me.”
Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven” with scenes from The Nativity Story
(If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.)