In the summer of 1992, Mark Harris was in the Christmas spirit. He, Don Cook, and Dave Clark had been piecing together a Christmas song, but the deadline to complete it for the new 4Him Christmas project was looming. And in the middle of an August night, Mark couldn’t stop thinking about Bethlehem.

“I was sitting there at the dining room table in the wee hours of morning thinking, ‘We’ve got to complete this song,’” says Mark. “My wife, Jodie, and I had this little nativity—it wasn’t a real expensive one. I set it up and looked at the different people in the scene. That’s when it hit me that the song needed to be about Joseph and how he felt inadequate for his calling. Then, part of the chorus came to me: ‘Why me? / I’m just a simple man of trade. / Why Him? / With all the rulers in the world. / Why here? Inside this stable filled with hay. / Why her? She’s just an ordinary girl.’”

The song, “A Strange Way to Save the World,” would go on to be one of the most popular Mark has ever written. Over the years, it’s been recorded and performed by dozens of artists, including Rascal Flatts, who performed the song for the 2013 CMA Country Christmas program on ABC.

But all of these accolades eclipse one of the song’s more interesting facts: it almost wasn’t recorded. “It was the last song we’d written for The Season of Love [4Him’s 1993 Christmas album], and the question we kept asking ourselves was, ‘Are we even going to finish the song?’” says Mark. “The day we went into the studio to record it, we didn’t have the finished lyrics for the second verse.”

At the last minute, Dave Clark wrote some lyrics to what became the most important verse—the one that invites the listener to imagine if Jesus’ birth had been different. “To think of how it could have been / If Jesus had come as He deserved. / There would have been no Bethlehem. / No lowly shepherds at His birth.” The song’s different perspective helps people relate to the Christmas story in a new way, and it also helps people examine their own lives. Mark says we all feel like Joseph from time to time—not fully capable of carrying out our callings.

“What I love about this song is that most of my life I’ve never felt qualified or talented enough to do the job I’ve been given,” says Mark. “Then later on in life, I looked back at my journey and realized, ‘I’m really not, but God is.’”

 

“A Strange Way to Save the World,” from Mark Harris’s album Christmas Is, can be purchased on iTunes.