On Sunday morning at my church’s Christmas program, I’m going to be singing Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven. I love this song – have always loved this song – from Mary’s perspective about mothering God’s Son. There’s the scandal, the fear, the isolation, the awe, and the faith all at once.
I’ve been meditating on how Breath of Heaven is used as a name for God in the song, a cry to God, as all His names are. It’s a beautiful expression, Breath of Heaven, but it’s not used in the Bible, and I’ve been wondering what to make of it.
Earlier, I ran into this quote that I posted a year ago (those On This Day posts are actually good for reminding you about something other than ex-boyfriends as it turns out): “The ‘summum bonum’ [greatest good] is therefore the work of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Father’s testimony to men. He is the wisdom that sits by the throne of God. He is the expression and vindication of God among men. His life will more and more express itself through the sons of God among men” (John Loren and Paula Sandford, The Elijah Task: A Call to Today’s Prophets and Intercessors, emphasis mine).
What is breath, but life?
“In Him [the Word, Jesus] was life” (John 1:4).
“Whoever believes in Him [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26).
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b).
“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
“This is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
And what is life, but the presence of God?
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11 NIV)
It seems in this song that Mary is making an appeal to the Life-Giver, to the presence of God, further evidenced in the lyrics “Be with me now” (verse 1) and “Be forever near me” (chorus). And the power of God’s presence was not to have the overwhelming task of mothering Jesus taken away, but to have God with her in it, surrounded by God Himself.
It’s evidence is all throughout her life. Not long after her conception, she visited her cousin Elisabeth who instantly recognized God’s blessing in her life because her own baby leapt in her womb. Her fiancé first made a decision to leave her quietly so as not to shame her, but upon God’s conviction, married her and took care of their family. We know Mary and Joseph went on to have more children. Even dying on the cross, Jesus made sure she would be taken care of (John 19:25-27).
And that’s the essence of the Christmas message, isn’t it? God with us? That in our sorrow, hardships, and humanity, we can make the same appeal to the Breath of Heaven.
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.
Merry Christmas, y’all!