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This Christmas song tells the nativity story from Mary's perspective. It portrays the mother of Jesus as a frightened young girl, attempting to deal with the circumstances of giving birth to the Holy Father's Son. Despite her human doubts, Mary's faith in the goodness and mercy of God remain and help her deal with the unique situation she finds herself in.
English songwriter Chris Eaton originally penned this song, with the title "Breath of Heaven." When Grant first heard it, she decided she wanted to record the tune for her holiday album, but with the verses rewritten to personalize them. She explained in CCM Magazine presents 100 Greatest Songs In Christian Music: "That song is so profound, but the chorus is so simple. It's authentic and perfectly written, because it uses an incredibly moving economy of words. And, selfishly, I just really wanted to be able to use the song on my Christmas record. So finally Chris said, 'Well, OK, just for this one version, we'll let you put a different lyric on there.' I said, 'Well, you couldn't possibly have written the lyric I'm thinking of, because I'm going to write it from a woman's perspective.' I was very pregnant at the time, and I felt that was part of the inspiration for song as I tried to imagine Mary's experience. We went into the recording studio with Brown Bannister producing and Shane Keister playing the piano and basically got it within one take."
Chris Eaton is best known for the UK hit singles that he has written for Cliff Richard, which include "Little Town," "Saviour's Day
" and "Santa's List." His version of this song, without the references to Mary, can be found on his 1995 album Wonderful World
Amy Grant wrote a book titled Breath of Heaven in 2001 based on this song. She wrote in the release of the book that she considers the intimate nature of this tune has transformed it into a prayer. She explained: "It is a prayer that fits a lot of people'' circumstances, because it is a cry of mercy. Some nights on stage I can hardly get through the song for knowing all of the collective, unspoken pain of the lives in front of me. And so the words become my prayer for the listener and the reader, as well as the singer."
This song appears on the soundtrack of the 2006 movie The Nativity Story
. Mike Rich, who penned its screenplay, told Catholic Online
, that he began each day of writing for the film by listening to this song.
Many artists have covered this song, including Sara Groves, Melissa Manchester, Point of Grace, Jessica Simpson, Donna Summer and Grant's husband, Vince Gill.
Chris Eaton is a good friend of Amy's and when she first came across his song "Breath of Heaven," he was a member of her touring brand. Amy told us
that she'd heard "Breath Of Heaven," which she said "painted a lot of nature pictures" but had nothing to do with Mary or Christmas, a couple of times. Amy was writing and collecting songs for a festive record, and was going straight into the studio at the end of the tour to record it. She saw the song's chorus, "as being universal, but also it could be so specific in light of Mary, the mother of Jesus." Amy asked Eaton, if she could revise the song for her Christmas album and he agreed, so she rewrote the verses and he revamped the chorus.
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