As timeless as the story

Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of the Christ
Andrew Peterson
Label: Centricity Music
Length: 12 songs/41 minutes

I wonder if Andrew Peterson considers Behold the Lamb of God as one of his greatest achievements. This Christmas recording first saw the light of day in 2004. A concert of it on DVD followed in 2005. Another version came out in 2009 that in addition to the studio tracks added a live performance. This completely new recording, reunites many of the original artists, and commemorates 20 years of it being on tour.

Perhaps the continued attention reflects Peterson’s estimation of it. “It re-centers me again and again of what got me into this in the first place—which is God loves us so much that he put on flesh and dwelt among us,” Peterson said.

Part of what makes this recording unique is its scope. It tells the story of Christ’s birth from the foreshadowings in the Old Testament to the fulfillments in the New Testament.

This sounds like the definitive edition. I like to think that being road-tested for 20 years contributed to making this even more excellent. The changes are subtle, but enhance it enough to make it worth getting if you have a previous version. This is the one to hear.

One of the noteworthy additions is Jess Ray singing lead on “Passover Us,” which originally was sung by Peterson. Ray is a fresh voice that sounds at home here. I like how Peterson alternates with others in singing lead, allowing them to make the material their own.

The chorus of “Passover Us” has some clever wordplay, which gets at the meaning:

Lord, let your judgment Passover us
Lord, let your love hover near
Don’t let your sweet mercy Passover us
Let this blood cover over us here

Another intriguing song is “So Long Moses,” which traces Israel’s desire for a king through Saul, then David, and that would ultimately be satisfied beyond expectation in David’s offspring. The chronology covered is epic. It’s a somber reflection with Beatlesque strings.

Andy Gullahorn takes the lead this time on “It Came to Pass.” Dobro and pedal steel serve to give this a country/bluegrass style and a light feel. It’s an underrated gem about the census making it necessary to travel to one’s birthplace for registration.

“Labor of Love,” sung just as dynamically as before by Jill Phillips, adds realism into what it must have been like for Mary. It wasn’t the neat and tidy affair that more romantic notions tend to leave out.

Instrumentals may not always get their due when compared with their vocal peers. So I want to give a shout-out to the brief but wonderfully crafted, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “The Holly and the Ivy with the Next Egg Jig.” There is a reason for the addition of the “Next Egg Jig,” which was not part of the original title. Among other things on this track, I hear mandolin, cello, flute and distinctive Celtic percussion. Hello Irish-sounding music.

These brief interludes are not wasted efforts just taking up space preceding the next vocal track. The intricate playing is gorgeous and not to be overlooked.

The words on the title track are simple and the tempo slow making it a song that could be easily passed-over for more lively fare but that would be a mistake. The classical influence coupled with worshipful reverence make this one of Peterson’s finest compositions. The pace and repetition make this meditative. It highlights the reason why Christ came—“to take away our sins.”

This song is on the same level as Peterson’s “Is He Worthy?” and Michael Card’s “Immanuel.”

If Peterson considered this his most important work, it would not surprise me, not would I argue with him. It’s as timeless as the story.

Michael Dalton