The Promise - A Celebration of Christ's Birth
Artist: Michael Card
Label: Sparrow Records, 1991
Time: 35:11 / 10 tracks
An issue of The Phantom Tollbooth celebrating favorite Christmas albums would not be complete without a review of this little Christmas album gem that doesn't sound like a Christmas album at all. In fact, it sounds just like any Michael Card album, incorporating his signature sounds with more gentle Renaissance flavorings provided by a Hammer Dulcimer and superb orchestration provided by the imminent Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under J.A.C. Redford's conduction. There are also some wonderful choral works, most notably on songs like "Vicit Agnus Noster" and "Thou the Promise."
Michael Card's gift is combining sound theology, simple sing-along lyrics, a worshipful attitude, and music that has great appeal, even among those who would not normally listen to such gentle MOR (Middle of the Road) fare. The Promise is no exception to these qualities--in fact, it defines them. As a Christmas album, however, it can only redefine. Every song is an original piece, and not one of them slips into the more sappy trimmings of the season because they are all squarely focused on the Christ Child, Jesus.
Thematically, this album celebrates Jesus coming as the fulfilment of long hoped for Biblical prophecy as God's gentle lamb, and as the title track states succinctly,
The Promise was loveFour of these celebrations take the form of witness testimonies provided by Mary the Mother of God, her husband Joseph, and those rustic shepherds surprised on the hill by a host of dazzling angels. Mary's song, "What Her Heart Remembered," lifts up Jesus as both mundanely human and transcendentally divine, in what has become one of Michael Card's trademark song themes.
The Promise was life
The Promise meant light to the world
Living proof that Yahweh saves
For the name of the Promise is Jesus.
Like a good"Joseph's Song" is the same sweet song Michael Card wrote as part of his collection "The Life," which chronicled Jesus' birth, ministry, death, and glorification. Actually, it is just one of the highlights worth repeating among a total of three culled from that earlier project.
She learned His cries
If He'd awake
With a bellyache
From hunger or fright
But now and then
The dark would descend
He would weep
A dark so deep
For all her love
She couldn't comprehend...
Can they understand?
That this Baby she's given him (Joseph)
Is theirs for a time
In truth came to give Himself
The Treasure and the Ransom of mankind.
The last of the four witness testimonies is "We Will Find Him," which serves both as the Wise Men's travelog and our response to God's saving grace. "We have found Him! We have seen the light!"
The Promise celebrates the only thing really and truly worth celebrating, with music that is grand, accessible, and aimed at glorifying God. Best of all, Michael Card's music encourages the listener to worship the human baby bearing undiminished deity of his parting message and our proud proclamation:
ImmanuelBy Steven Stuart Baldwin (11/19/98)
Our God with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us?
Our God is with us