#476 - "Just A Girl" by Brandon Heath
Brandon talks about what it might have been like for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem in this Christmas song.

Brandon Heath released his first Christmas album, Christmas is Here, on October 15th. The album features "O Little Town Of Bethlehem," "Away In A Manger," and "Silent Night," and Brandon also offers his original songs, "The Day After Thanksgiving," "Just A Girl," and "Momma Wouldn't Lie To Me."

I really like the opening lyrics of "Just A Girl": "I wonder if you've heard the story?" That invites me in as a listener and makes me want to hear the story. Brandon has long been one of my favorite singer-songwriters with his brand of storytelling. His story songs from previous albums—"I'm Not Who I Was," "Give Me Your Eyes," "Wait And See," "Leaving Eden," "Love Does" and "Jesus in Disguise"—all rank among my favorite songs. I had the opportunity to interview Brandon about his great new song "Just a Girl."

Please tell me the personal story behind writing this song.

I wrote this song with a friend of mine, Lee Miller. We wrote a bunch of songs together on my last album, Blue Mountain. What I love about Lee is that he lets me lead and he's a great support to write with, and we like writing story songs together.

We wrote this song in the back of my bus, in May, which was a funny time to write a Christmas song. I told him I wanted to write a song about a character in the Gospel of Luke where it talks about Mary and Joseph coming to Bethlehem. We know about the innkeeper, but all we know about him is that he turned Mary and Joseph away. We don't really know for sure if the inn was full. He said it was, but he could have been lying. We also don't know if maybe he felt any remorse about turning them away. I wanted to paint the picture of him understanding that he had made a mistake.

So, you have Mary and Joseph show up at the door and he sees that she's pregnant and in labor. He says, "No way you're coming in here," and goes back to his wife and lies and says it was just a couple of gypsies begging at the door. That makes me tend to believe that maybe he was lying when he said that the inn was full. He hears Mary's cries and can't sleep and he goes out and finds Mary and Joseph in this barn to have the baby. He peers in, and Mary and Joseph don't see him, which is why that's not in the Bible, but he sees them. He realizes in that moment that he made a huge mistake. I wrote the song about the innkeeper. 

Please tell me about any Bible verses that you used to write the song. 

Luke 1:26-38 (NKJV): Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Luke 2:7 (NKJV): "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

What is the takeaway message for listeners?

I started out writing a song about the innkeeper. It's also for Mary, because it shows two different characters. Both had choices, and God wanted to use both of them. One said yes, and one said no. It was more apparent to Mary that God wanted to use her for the babe, but more commonly God wants to use us and we don't know. We don't understand and we think that something is inconvenient or inappropriate so we say no to a lot of things.

The innkeeper said no to the opportunity to welcome in the King. I wanted to contrast him and us that we all have these opportunities every day to say yes. Not that we are to say yes to everything, but if we keep our hearts open, and if the innkeeper had kept his heart open to Mary, he would have found room, even if the inn was full. That's what I was thinking about when I wrote the song. I want all of us to realize that we can extend good will to others, whether or not you are a person of faith. For the most part, we write things off as circumstance and we don't go out of our way to help others. I can empathize with anyone. We should all empathize with one another because we are all broken in a fallen world. 

I wonder if you've heard the story
Of little fame and lesser glory
The night the keeper of the innkeeper
The little town of Bethlehem
Encountered Joseph and his Mary
About to birth the Savior of the world

His wife said go and see who's knocking
He ran down to the gate unlocked it
The moment he heard Mary's cry
He couldn't look them in the eye
Denied them and went back to bed
When his wife asked who was there
He said I don't know

Just a girl
Just a couple gypsies begging at the door
Told them we don't have room for anymore
And closed the door
It was just a girl

He tried to sleep and wasn't able
He snuck out to the dirty stable
The two had found for covering
And later in her suffering
The keeper knelt outside the barn
And in the light of that great star
He prayed what have I done

He's just a babe
Just minutes old there trembling in the hay
I could have found a room for them to stay
I'm so ashamed
He's just a babe

There was no robe
There was no crown
The shepherds stood
On royal ground
The keeper wept
For what he'd done
He turned away
God's own Son

Just a King
Just a million angels crowding in to see
Jesus there among humanity

Just a babe
Just minutes old there trembling in the hay
Staring at his mother in the face
She's just a girl

Just a girl
Does she even know that she just changed the world
Does she even know that He will save the world
Does Mary know that He will save the world
She's just a girl
Just a girl
Just a girl

As Brandon takes me on the journey of this great new song, he makes me think about what I would do if I were the innkeeper. All we know about the innkeeper from the Bible is that there was no room in the inn. God includes those types of details in His Word as a lesson to us. I agree with Brandon's thoughts about the song that the innkeeper is a type or example of personality characteristics that many of us have.

I think God wants us to examine His Word and think about who we are in the story and what we would do in these circumstances. Am I the doting husband Joseph, doing everything I can to take care of my wife? I might ultimately feel like I've let my wife down, which I suspect is how Joseph felt when there was no room in the inn. Many times, I've been Joseph in this story in that I try to do something nice, and despite my best intentions, something goes wrong. Women can relate to being Mary in this story, and yet, all of us can be challenged devotionally to think about whether we say to God, "Lord, let it be to me according to Your Word." 

I've never empathized with the innkeeper before, however. Yet, many of us do what he did, and say we have "no room" for someone. In our busy society, many of us may miss God's blessings in our lives by turning away chances to live life with people. Biblically, we know that God calls us to look out for the "least of these." During this holy season, if we see someone who is hurting or needs comfort, it is our calling as Christ followers to show love. If we are aware of suffering in the world, we need to make an effort to reach out and help. This Christmas, we can all think about what God's purpose is for our lives, and find room in our schedules to make time for what really matters. That's how our King and Savior Jesus would like us to celebrate His birth.

(Here's a video of Brandon talking about the song.)

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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