Earlier today, I read a news story where record producer, David Foster was quoted as saying that those who record Christmas albums should stick to standard Christmas classics because no one wants to hear any new Christmas songs. What’s more, he stated that it takes years before a new song is considered a Christmas classic.
I remember back to Christmas 2000, when Newsong released their song, “Christmas Shoes.” It was a quiet release in many ways in that Newsong didn’t use the song to make the group members out to be better than other people. Nothing in the song said that this was the way that Christmas had to be done. There was no finger pointing and no blame and no judgment.
And because it was such a “Christian” song in so many positive ways, it touched the hearts of many who heard it on the radio that December. But who were these five musicians — Michael O’Brien, Stephen Reischl, Billy Goodwin, Matt Butler, and Eddie Carswell — who had written and recorded such an impactful song?
Originally, back in 1981 at Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia, four church members — Eddie Carswell, Billy Goodwin, Eddie Middleton and Bobby Apon (who passed away in 1999) — created a group and named it, NewSong. Over the years, the group underwent a number of changes with musicians coming and going but the group continued to record and release music and cultivate a following.
In 2001, “Christmas Shoes” became a #1 mainstream radio hit and made it to the top of the Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart. It was no longer a song pigeon-holed as “Contemporary Christian.” The song inspired a book by the same name written by Donna VanLiere and that book made the New York Times Bestseller list in 2002.
That book was made into a made-for-television movie for CBS and it became their second highest-rated made-for-television movie for the 2003 season. Non-Christians and Christians alike found personal truths in the song’s lyrics.
The story itself — so simple and without manipulation — took people back to a place in time where a touching story could be told without skepticism and doubt tainting its telling.
It took people back to a time when the people being spoken of were important, not the desire to be seen as the hero who saved the day. It took people back to a time when concern for your neighbour — even if you didn’t know him or her — was genuine and untainted by thoughts of what one might receive in return for involving one’s self in situations where neighbours needed help.
This holiday season, I would ask readers to step out of their busy lives for a moment and look around you. Is there someone in your neighbourhood or community in need of your help? Are you willing to give of yourself unconditionally where you can?
Help doesn’t have to be about hours volunteered to a charity. It doesn’t have to be about donating hundreds of dollars to a worthy cause. It can be as simple as sharing a quick phone call once a week with a shut-in or helping a harried mother who is trying to lift a box of formula into her shopping cart while trying to calm a cranky toddler and a hungry infant.
In other words, it’s not only the big things in life that matter and go a long way; the small gestures of kindness and concern oftentimes go much further than one can imagine.
So as the season kicks off, I want to share this video by NewSong with all of you. Remember that all of us are connected in some way and that there is merit in the words “but for the grace of God, go I.”