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Amazing grapes, how sweet and round

There’s an old joke about a father who asks his son what his favourite Christian song is, and the son replies, “The one that uses God’s real name.” The father asks curiously, “Which song is that?” and the son replies, “You know, the one that says, ‘Andy walks with me, Andy talks to me, Andy tells me I am his own’.”

Misheard lyrics can play havoc with our theology and understanding of the Bible and matters of faith. Who hasn’t sung, at some stage in their life, “While shepherds washed their socks at night”?

Speaking of Christmas carols, when I was a wee lad, I would sing a well-known Christmas carol and wonder why no one thought to reposition the cows in the stable at Bethlehem to protect our Lord and Saviour. After all: “The cattle are blowing the baby away.”

Even one of my favourite carols can be problematic. ‘Silent Night’ is a beautiful carol, but – just as a warning to you – it’s best sung with the line, “Holy infant, so tender and mild”, not “Holy imbecile, tender and mild”. Singing the latter may cause a lightning bolt to descend on one’s head.

A quick mention, also, of Kraft, who benefited from generations of Christian mischief makers singing, “What a friend we have in cheeses” – a great promo slogan but a twisted hymn. Kraft may also have liked the old harvest classic, “Bringing in the cheese”.

Easter brings its own issues. A classic Easter hymn, ‘Up From the Grave He Arose’, is sung with great joy in churches across the globe on Easter Sunday. I used to wonder why Jesus was lying there at all when we sang in the first verse: “Low in the gravy lay Jesus my Saviour”. Why would you sink someone’s body in gravy, let alone Jesus? Is that any way to treat a Messiah?

Perhaps a more modern confusion, given the popularity of shows like ‘The Walking Dead’, is over the scary lyrics of the old Sunday school classic, ‘Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam’. One little girl was heard singing it as “Jesus wants me for a zombie”. Sure, he raised Lazarus, but I don’t recall reading in Scripture that Lazarus walked out of the tomb singing that lyric.

One old hymn, rarely sung these days, seemed to highlight a vision-impaired bear named Gladly, which may or may not have had something to do with wanting to carry Christ’s cross for him. In the age of Dumbo the elephant, Bambi the deer and Pluto the dog, generations of confused children learnt to sing, “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear”, before realising they had it all wrong.

So, let’s pay attention to what we’re singing. Lyricists can toil for hours and hours over lyrics, seeking to help us draw closer to God and go deeper into faith. Let’s praise God for his amazing grace, not his superb vineyard that produces amazing grapes.

– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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