For Chris Tomlin, Christmas has always been about the surprise of a baby born in Bethlehem. This year, though, the popular Christian singer-songwriter is getting his own personal Christmas surprise: His wife, Lauren, is unexpectedly pregnant with their third daughter — and her due date is just 11 days before the holiday.
Not about to ignore the parallels, Tomlin has created a new Christmas song that simultaneously celebrates both births.
"I started thinking about how I could write a lyric that talks about my baby being born at Christmas and then talks about 'the baby,' Jesus, being born at Christmas, and that each line would match and would have a double meaning," the 48-year-old Tomlin explains to PEOPLE.
For listeners who know Tomlin's inspiration, the lyrics of "Miracle of Love" — released Friday on his new holiday EP with the same name — are as clever as they are joyful. As Tomlin sings in the first verse: "I got the news today / I heard that you were coming / It took my breath away / and the tears filled up my eyes / Surely you change some things / the way that I was living / I hit my knees to pray / so grateful for new life."
The words, Tomlin reveals, are a spot-on portrayal of his reaction to his wife's pregnancy. Already the parents of two daughters, 9-year-old Ashlyn and 6-year-old Madison, Tomlin says the news was "the surprise of all surprises."
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He tells the story: One morning last spring, Lauren took a home pregnancy test after experiencing some familiar symptoms, but still she thought "there's no way," Tomlin says. "When she got the test result, she said she just started laughing. She's like, 'Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?' "
Breaking the news to her husband obviously called for a suitable amount of fanfare: She gift-wrapped the positive test and gave it to him that evening.
"I opened the present, and I was like, what is this?" Tomlin says. "I couldn't compute it. It wasn't going through my head. And then I almost passed out."
Tomlin says he immediately seized on how much a baby now would rock their world — taking on the responsibility of another child, returning to the diapers and strollers that had gone away years ago, doing the math on how old he would be when this little one finishes college.
But then, just as his song's lyrics suggest, he says, "you come around to the realization of what an incredible thing, what a precious thing, what a gift from God this is."
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Now, Tomlin is eagerly anticipating his life as the dad of a third daughter, whom the couple has already named Elle. "It's an incredible privilege to be a dad with these girls, and especially girls," he says. "I feel like there's a special thing that a dad has with girls, and so I'm really grateful."
Tomlin says the idea for "Miracle of Love" was born a couple months after his wife's big news while he was assembling his tracklist for the new Christmas EP. Once he'd jotted down the lyrics, he shared them with his wife.
"She just started tearing up," Tomlin says. "I don't think she's ever done that before when I've just read lyrics to her. She just loved it. She was like, 'Wow, what a beautiful picture of both things happening.' It was real special."
Tomlin has built his career on sacred music specifically suited for worship, but as he worked on this song's melody, he decided to take a cue from his most recent project, Chris Tomlin and Friends. The Christian album, released in July, is filled with pop-tinged collaborations with country stars, including Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line and Lady A.
"I broke every rule I've ever had for music," Tomlin says of that album. For the baby's song, "I was already there in my mind. I just went with it and stayed with it."
The result is a bright and jazzy tune lit up by jingling bells and a blast of brass. It joins six tracks in Tomlin's more traditional vein, including a new sacred song, "All the World Awaits, Hosanna" (featuring We the Kingdom), four songs that appeared on his 2019 Christmas EP, and "Noel" (featuring Lauren Daigle) that appeared on his 2015 Christmas album.
As Tomlin and his wife look ahead to the Christmas season, he knows it will be unlike any that they've celebrated in their 10-year marriage. It is, after all, the first time in more than a decade that he won't be going out on a Christmas tour. The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, has taken care of that.
But knowing there will be a baby in their Nashville-area home this Christmas, Tomlin isn't dwelling too much on what he'll be missing.
"The baby, you know, that changes everything," he says, referencing Faith Hill's famous Christmas song. "A baby changes everything — and changes it in a really great way."
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