In 1984, while developing a Christmas program for his church, Mark Lowery jotted down a poem. Seven years later Buddy Greene wrote a tune, and they recorded “Mary Did You Know” for the first time.
That poem emerged as Lowery pondered Mary’s role in the historic moment that fulfilled prophecies and revealed mysteries. In a conversation with his mother (also a musician) she said, “If anyone knew for sure that Jesus was virgin born – Mary knew!” That led Lowery to jot down questions he’d like to ask Mary about what she knew. The popular song came from those questions.
Lowery emphasizes that the purely rhetorical questions are intended to express wonder and amazement, which are surely warranted. “I didn’t mean to be profound, just pondering the mysteries of God Incarnate,” he says, “of God with us, Immanuel! He had to become one of us to take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Lowery imagines exclaiming to Mary, “Can you believe who is in your lap!”
Lowery as a 26-year-old may not have meant to be profound, but the lyrics certainly are. They talk about the miracles of walking on water, healing the blind, calming the storm, and raising the dead. But those are not nearly as profound as “when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.” Just who is this baby, this Jesus?
The lyrics unpack that question. “Your baby boy is Lord of all creation,” who “would one day rule the nations.” The final crescendo arrives, “Did you know that your baby boy is Heaven’s perfect Lamb? That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I Am!” That is the very name of God claimed by Jesus Himself (John 8:58).
During his earthly ministry when Jesus spoke about entering the kingdom of God, his astonished disciples asked, “Who can be saved?” Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). That is what the angel Gabriel told Mary when he explained what was happening (Luke 1:37). That’s all Mary needed to know. That’s what you need to know. God with us. Amazing!