Prime Cuts: Behold the Lamb of God, Matthew's Begats, Gather Round Ye Children
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
In a genre where songwriters write on a whiff: churning out paltry lyrics worthy only of a twelve year-old, Andrew Peterson is a scribe of note. Instead of approaching his writing palette with an empty mind, Peterson comes equipped with a heart immersed in Scripture and poetic expressions. Like a modern day C. S. Lewis, his songs are theologically rich treasure troves worthy of mining. One of Peterson's tour de force efforts is his debut Christmas "Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ." Released some twenty years ago, Peterson has decided to update this classic record by re-recording all the tracks over a two day period. Now abbreviated to "Behold the Lamb of God," this new collection, albeit being reimagined, features the same songs with most of the original players and singers.
Having not heard the original (which is not on Spotify and is apparently out-of-print), it's a privilege to hear this much esteemed collection. The first thing to note is the richness of scripture that has been interwoven into the fabric of each song. Peterson doesn't just cites the most blatant Messianic verses as evidences that Jesus is the Promised seed of Abraham. Rather in a song like "Passover Us," he actually walks with us through the Passover story making observations along the way how Jesus is the better Passover Lamb. Not since Rich Mullins has any songwriter been such a careful exegete of Scripture. The pensive "Deliver Us" is another excellent example of how Biblical theology unfolds in a song without turning the whole piece into a dry theological lecture.
Crossing over into the New Testament is "Matthew's Begats." While many Christians often bypass the genealogy of Jesus mentioned in Matthew 1, Peterson turns these "begats" into an infectious foot-tapping romp, which is actually quite fun. Those who have embraced Peterson's "Is He Worthy?," may also be taken by the title track "Behold the Lamb of God." Boasting a congregational friendly melody undergirding lyrics that expound on the atoning work of Jesus, this is not only a great worship song to sing in church over Christmas but over the year.
"Gather Round Ye Children," which has a marching Celtic overtone, is a gorgeous call to worship that could work well as a congregational piece. Jill Phillips (who is long due for a record of her own) offers an unplugged take of the somehow draggy "Labor of Love." Meanwhile Andy Gullahorn takes the lead on the soft-rock-cum-country sounding "It Came to Pass." A couple of instrumentals ("O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "The Holly and the Ivy") allow Peterson to explore his bluegrassy side.
Overall, this record's drawing card is in the Peterson's craftsmanship as a songwriter. Rather than recycling through the Christmas carols with one eye closed, Peterson has taken the time to study and rework the Scriptures. In the process, he has given us 12 accessible ear bites that are essentially a feast for both the mind and heart.