Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Lyrics

Today in church we sang Joy to the World. I thought I knew all the words to it - especially since I have been singing it for thirty+ years. Evidently, according to the UU hymnal, I don't. As most UUs know, we have a long tradition of rewording hymns to fit our more inclusive perspective. In all honesty, I don't like this practice. I put up with it because I love the music and the lyrics are mostly secondary to me. Today, though, I have had enough. I want to sing Joy to the World, the way I know it - not in some generalized format to appease the most people. It is a Christmas song. Yes, it is about Jesus, but so is Christmas. I don't understand why we try so hard to deny our Christian heritage. It seems like we are so eager to sing songs with every other religious or non-religious background, except our own. What is wrong with owning up to our Christian heritage and celebrating it just as loudly as we do our other sources? Whether you like it or not, it is our history. As longtime readers know, I do not claim Jesus as my Savior, but I can appreciate his influence on our denomination. I am fine with acknowledging and celebrating that. Maybe, someday, we will all be more comfortable celebrating our past while shaping our future.

7 comments:

Modern Girl said...

We had our Hanukah service today, so we definitely didn't sing about Jesus. I liked one particular song, Rock of Ages.

Sometimes I like the rewording and sometimes I don't. It depends on the quality of the new lyrics, and on how attached I was to the original version. In some cases, I hated the original new, and love the new one.

danack said...

I'm not necessarily a big fan of changing lyrics either, but I also understand that some people have been very hurt by religion and that singing about Jesus as a savior is a bit too close to the traditions they left behind. In our fellowship, we don't change the lyrics for Christmas songs as far as I can remember.

There is a pageant this year at church...our little one will be a lamb. Now THAT is a new one for me—we never had pageants in my Lutheran church growing up!

Joy said...

At times we open the hymnal to find the words changed and sing the original any how. At times we open the hymnal to find the music changed and we sing the original.

In the last year we have decided to stop changing the poetry of others and sing it how it was written (the choir is no longer changing brother to sister half of the time and etc.) I like the change and we've hard remarkably little blow back.

I think if we respect the inherent dignity of each person and support their path to spiritual growth. We can sign to Jesus at Christmas time. That's how we are doing it in my congregation.

Rebecca Hecking said...

I think UUs tend to downplay Christian elements in our worship for a couple reasons. First of all, many UUs are formerly members of Christian churches of various types, and many have a lot of personal baggage and emotional damage from those experiences.

Secondly, we are surrounded by Christianity in the culture, and may feel the need to distinguish ourselves from the churches all around us. By giving more "pulpit time" to minority faiths, we accomplish that.

just my 2 cents...

Bridgett said...

I'm fascinated how you could change Joy to the World and still have it make any sense. Sometimes we change things, too, mostly "mankind" to "people"--that sort of thing...but I think it would be a stretch to sing Christmas songs without reference to Christ....

Virginia said...

My observation is that the songs in our UU hymnal are generally rewritten to avoid use of words like "Lord," "Master," and "King"; references to "God" and "Jesus" abound. There are some rewritings I like and some I don't, but I agree that our revision of "Joy to the World" ("Joy to the world, the Word is come") is utterly lame. For the past six or seven years, I've gotten around this by organizing a carol sing-along party in our chapel in which we sing a variety of Christmas songs (plus "Rock of Ages," if it happens to be Hanukkah) using mostly traditional lyrics. I produce the lyric sheets, so I get to decide which words we use!

Soprano1 said...

Thanks for this. In the 14 years I've attended my local UU church, I don't think we ever sang Joy to the World until today. I can live with changing a word or two here and there, but Joy to the World really did not gain from being Unitarianized.