This Christmas season marks twenty years of Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. Wow. What can I say about an album so beloved by so many people? Some of you were there in 1999 when AP first took his show on the road. I was four. My first Behold the Lamb experience didn’t come until just last year, and I feel like that negates anything I have to say about this record.
Then again, if AP held that attitude twenty years ago, we wouldn’t even be talking about this album. Because what can anyone really say about a tale, a “true tall tale,” so beloved by so many people across 2,000 years? Yet, Andrew tackled the story anyway. He took the CCM artists’ Obligatory Christmas Album (two or three in some cases) and dared to offer something unique—something that reminds us of both the gravity and joy of the Christmas season, the necessity of rehearsing our stories, and the power of music to fill our hearts with longing.
I could geek out for quite a while about the musical elements of Behold the Lamb, but I’ll try not to bore those less interested in the technical side of music. Just let it be known that AP and producer Ben Shive approach the task of creating a cohesive, conceptual album with excellence, filling the smallest musical crevices with motifs and reminders of the album’s journey from overture to finale.
Note: In particular, listen for the repetitions of the “Deliver Us” melody throughout the record, sometimes switched from minor to major. OK, I’m done geeking out.
But what a journey this album is. So often our Christmas stories begin with the angel appearing to Mary or perhaps the birth of John the Baptist. But Behold the Lamb, like the Gospel of John, reminds us that those moments were the flickerings of a hopeful light ready to break into a much older, colder story filled with pain, suffering, and darkness. This story begins in captivity.
It begins with God’s people crying out in anguish for deliverance from oppressive evil thousands of years before the coming of Christ. But even then, God was foreshadowing what he would ultimately do in Christ: offer salvation through the blood of the Lamb, defeating death and sin with peace and perfect love. The story outlines God’s faithfulness despite Israel’s brokenness from Egypt (“Passover Us”) to the embrace of human kings (“So Long, Moses”) to exile (“Deliver Us”). And despite every failing across humanity’s history, God offered himself without blinking twice at the sacrifice that would have to be made.
This is why we sing out with joy: so that no matter when you come into the story, whether it's 1999 or 2019 or 2039, we may proclaim together 'the power of death undone by an infant born of glory.' Chris Thiessen
This is the story of Behold the Lamb of God. It may not sound like anything novel, and that’s because it isn’t. It’s all right there in the Bible and has been for a long time. But the power of this story isn’t in its originality; its power is in its reminder that this is our story. Just like the Israelites in Egypt, each one of us feels the pangs of sin, separation, and darkness. For each one of us, God made himself nothing, giving up his pride to come here and die like a man.
I wasn’t there when it happened. Neither was Andrew. So for our sakes, we rehearse the story. We participate in the liturgy of the Christmas season to remind ourselves and each other of God’s goodness and unfathomable grace, even when we feel entirely broken. This is our protest against the darkness we encounter daily. This is why we sing out with joy: so that no matter when you come into the story, whether it’s 1999 or 2019 or 2039, we may proclaim together “the power of death undone by an infant born of glory.”