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December 23, 2012

MAY: Mary, Did You Know

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a multicolumn series about Christmas. Read a new entry tomorrow.

One look at the 54-year-old man today and you can just know that as a 9-year-old he walked the line between mischievousness and calamity. His head is just a little larger than normal, with eyes that are constantly dancing and hair that has a mind of its own. He is never seen without a smile, the corners of which kiss his ears more often than not. If your look becomes a stare, he is likely to bring a smile to your face as well.

Mark once described himself as the poster child for hyperactivity.

“When I was a kid, my hyperactivity was always getting me into trouble. Most people figured I would grow up to be a criminal. A little voice inside me convinced me I was a failure, that I would never amount to anything. I had what’s known today as A.D.H.D. Back then, they called it B.R.A.T.”

He was raised outside of Lynchburg, Va., significantly influenced by a mother who loved gospel singing. He graduated with a degree in Youth Ministry from Liberty University in 1980 and began singing at independent Baptist churches along the coast.

When there were long pauses on stage while the accompaniment tapes were changed, the still hyperactive young man started telling stories of his life in between songs to interrupt the silence. His comedic timing was so well-received that soon the songs became breaks in the comedy routine.

Mark Lowry is probably best known today as a member of a gospel singing group the Gaither Vocal Band. Mark’s antics on stage with the straight-laced Bill Gaither became an instant hit with the concert audiences. Mark has been featured on almost all of the more than 100 Gaither Homecoming videos — often in a co-hosting role with Gaither.

In 1984, Mark’s home church asked him to write a Christmas play that could be performed that holiday season. To help transition from scene to scene, he wrote down a series of questions that he would like to ask Jesus’ mother, Mary. Six years later, Mark’s friend Buddy Greene wrote music to the lyric and “Mary, Did You Know?” became a musical reality.

This moving song, which has become a modern Christmas standard, has been recorded by more than 30 different artists including Michael English, Kathy Mattea, Kenny Rogers, Wynonna Judd, Natalie Cole, Clay Aiken and Michael Crawford.

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