Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mary Did You Know, Reconsidered

"Mary Did You Know?" is one of my least favorite of all Christmas songs. Most times I hear the "Mary, did you know..." refrain, I want to respond, "Nope." Of course she didn't know that Jesus would "one day walk on water" and "calm the storm with his hand". The whole idea is absurd.

Some friends of mine and I have talked about some of the stranger things that Jesus did that Mary wouldn't have known, and the possibility of adding them into a new version of the song. Below were a few of our ideas- tell me what you think:
  • "Mary did you know that your baby boy would rub some mud in a blind dude's eyes?"
  • "Mary did you know that your baby boy would make a whip to clear the temple?"
  • "Mary did you know that your baby boy would say the Pharisees were whitewashed tombs?"
  • "Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day curse a fig tree?"
  • "Mary did you know that your baby boy would say that you aren't really his mother 'cause his disciples were his real family"
  • "Mary did you know that the church fathers would have councils about your baby's divine/human essence?"
It might take some extra work to get the phrasing on the melody down on some of them, but you could make it happen. Any other ideas are welcomed...


Randy Stuck said...

I tend to believe that this song poses rhetorical questions to remind the listener that while celebrating Christ's birth, we should remember His purpose. This hypothesis is further bolstered by the song being in a minor key whilst most Christmas songs are joyful and in major keys. Read the lyrics to What Child is This, it is similar in its purpose, if not it's delivery (although it's in a minor key as well, granted it takes it's melody from Greensleeves and it was written by a depressed man who had just almost died...).

Damian Romano said...

Perhaps the most grand thing about randal's comment is his usage of "whilst."

Norman Jeune III said...

I'm sorry to say it Andrew, but I think Randal is a bit more convincing here. I don't have the musical background to speak to this in the sense that he did, but before he commented, my first inclination was that some form of raw or wooden exegesis of the song probably misses the point. I'm not endorsing the song, but I don't exaclty understand what you're going for with this post either. Maybe you could elaborate?

Andrew Faris said...


Randal- or "Randy" as we all call him (he's a friend of mine)- is definitely right. There's no question about it.

That said, I still think the song sucks, and I just couldn't help but laugh about it. So most of the themes honestly are pretty reasonable, and clearly the author doesn't think that Mary really knew any of it. I just thought to myself, "What if we took the song at face value?"

I also hate the anthemic/ballady music and melody, for what it's worth.

Sorry if I wasn't clearer, but I was just going for a laugh.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I see the song as posing questions. The answer to those questions could be, and probably is, 'No.' But they seem to simply be questions within the song, not positive statements of affirmation.

My more difficult struggle is with Away In A Manger, which states in the third stanza, 'No crying He makes.' I think we super-spiritualise Jesus at times. I don't know any baby that doesn't cry and get poopy diapers. So I suppose Jesus, if truly and fully human, also did the same.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that many of us didn't mind this song the first time.

The problem was the second; and the third; and the fourth; and the fifth; and the sixth...