I don’t know when I first noticed this, but there are some extremely popular worship songs with some really bizarre lyrics. We’re talking weird statements, made up history, and blatantly misquoted scripture. And yet, we ignore these lyrical flubs, and sing them year after year.
I mean, I’m mostly okay with songs like “Little Drummer Boy,” which function primarily as Christian musical fan fiction. The three songs I mention below, though, are used in worship services; We sing them as worship to our Savior, but we say things which aren’t true, and that aren’t in scripture (thus probably not true).
Away In a Manger
Wasn’t a baby just born? He didn’t cry His entire first day of life?
Why isn’t He crying?
Why are we adding this strange detail about Jesus not crying? Was He not a human baby?
Seriously, I don’t know what this means. Is it supposed to be a metaphor about His wonderful personality? I’ve never once sang a song about adult Jesus with radiant beams coming from His face. Why does sweet baby Jesus have a glowing face?
Though…I am aware of a toy for children where another part of Jesus glows:
We Three Kings
From the orient?
The text mentions that magi came bringing three gifts. It doesn’t count off the number of magi, or mention any kings. It’s just a bad reading of the text or made up. How did this song ever become wide-spread without having the lyrics corrected?
We Don’t Do This Anywhere Else
Why This Really Matters
I have a six year long tradition of giving my middle school students a Christmas quiz. The current version is 15 questions long, all true or false. The answer to every single question is FALSE. Each question presents a common Christmas myth. Every year, the majority of my students fail the quiz.
The nativity story is surrounded by a great deal of Christian fan fiction at best, and reckless myth at worst. Between songs, movies, and other media, there’s so much being said about Christ’s birth, but a great deal of it isn’t in the Bible.
If we treat these songs like Christian fan fiction, I’m fine with the embellishments and mistakes. But we don’t. These songs are added to worship services. That means the standard must be higher. We can’t say things because they MIGHT be true. We can’t tweak details. We must worship in TRUTH.
Likewise, people learn theology through music. Stop and think about it. How many songs do you have memorized (or a good paraphrase) versus how many verses do you have memorized? Almost certainly, you know more lyrics to songs than verses. When we sing sloppy lyrics in our churches, we teach sloppy theology to our congregation.
To honor Christ, we must focus on the truth or acknowledge our embellishments. When we treat fiction like fact, we do not worship in spirit and truth.