335475304One of the downsides of a theological education (and/or an overactive theological imagination) is an inability to sing some favorite old hymns with naive gusto. During this Christmas season in particular, we simply know too much about the biblical story (and the reality of childbirth and babies in general) to fully believe all of the touching words in some of the most popular Christmas carols.

So as a public service, I have written historically accurate versions of three of the most beloved holiday hymns:


Angels we have heard on high,
And we nearly peed our pants.
And yes, OK, some of us cried
As they yelled into the dark expanse:
In excelsis deo.”
We’ll do whatever you say, oh!


Silent night, with earplugs and such,
Otherwise not so much.
Mary’s screams are heard from afar.
Then baby’s cries ring out through the air.
Chicken and sheep and cows.
No one is sleeping right now.


We three kings of Orient are
Not really kings nor oriental.
Truth is that we
Aren’t even three . . .
But we really did follow that star.
Oh, oh, star of wonder, star of night.
Maybe Saturn and Jupiter tight.
Or Haley’s comet—we were on it—
Or a hypernova spreading it’s light.


Aside from historical accuracy, there are theological issues to consider. The first verse of “Joy to the World,” for example, could not be sung enthusiastically by people of all theological persuasions. So, without personally endorsing any of the theology below, I offer these alternatives:

Joy to the elect, the Lord has come.
Salvation you need not earn.
You’ll reign with God in glory, forever and forever.
The rest of you will burn. The rest of you will burn. The rest, the rest of you will burn.


Joy, yeah, I guess. Jesus has come
To teach us some good stuff.
He’ll tell some real strange stories that make the leaders angry.
And that must be enough. And that must be enough. And that must, and that must be enough.


Joy to the rich, the Lord has come.
Let us receive our wealth.
We’ll name it and we’ll claim it. So those with faith are happy
With money and good health, with money and good health, with money, money and good health.


Joy to the straight, the Lord has come
To make sure no one’s gay.
And marriage will be forever between one man and woman
So all will be O.K. So all will be O.K. So all, all will be O.K.


Joy to the queer, the Lord has come.
Let earth receive her Queen!
Let every heart prepare a fashionable room,
And Broadway medleys sing. And Broadway medleys sing. And Broadway musical medleys sing.


Joy to the nerds, the Lord has come.
Christology is born.
We’ll argue form and substance, begotten and created.
Theology untill morn, soteriology though we’re torn, and hypostatic union ‘till we’re worn.

Merry Christmas, friends!
May all of our hearts make room for the Christ child and live within the sacred singing of heaven and nature.

Joanna Harader


15 thoughts on “Wits-Ends-Day: New & Improved Christmas Hymns

  1. Thank you so much for the belly laugh! It is just what I needed as I (finally) sit down with the Christmas Eve order of worship and decide what can stay and what can change in my second year with this congregation. Merry Christmas!


  2. My task this morning was to finish the Christmas Eve bulletin. I will have this impish smile on my face singing on Christmas Eve…everyone will think “Oh, the pastor is so full of joy because of this night” when in reality I will be visualizing these verses. Thank you for the much needed…and deep laugh.

    On a serious note: can I say “Amen!” to you first sentence.


  3. There’s one that bugs me because I overthink it, and then I think about what inaccuracies we’re teaching our people, and I really just can sing the hymn: “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Maybe we could rewrite the lyrics to that one…

    In the bleak midwinter, in Bethlehem
    Nothing much was happening, Jesus wasn’t born then…


  4. I don’t have any ideas but could someone please do something to the dreaded “Good Christian Friends Rejoice” – thankfully in our current hymnal it is no longer Good Christian Men – it just really leaves me wondering which one of us are the “good Christians” and what do we do with the bad Christian friends and the friends that are non-Christians? This year I insisted that it be removed.


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