I saw three ships – a contemporary re-working by Daniel Charles Damon

I am grateful to Daniel Damon, a well known hymn writer, jazz musician and composer from the USA who has offered a new perspective on this text, so fitting, sadly, for our contemporary world:
I saw three ships come sailing in
on Christmas day, on Christmas day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
on Christmas day in the morning.


And what was in those ships all three
on Christmas day, on Christmas day;
and what was in those ships all three
on Christmas day in the morning?


The hungry and the poor were there
on Christmas day, on Christmas day;
the hungry and the poor were there
on Christmas day in the morning.


Those yearning to be free were there
on Christmas day, on Christmas day;
those yearning to live free were there
on Christmas day in the morning.


If we will serve and welcome them
on Christmas day, on Christmas day;
if we will serve and welcome them
on Christmas day in the morning;


Then all the bells on earth shall ring
on Christmas day, on Christmas day;
then all the bells on earth shall ring
on Christmas day in the morning.

Words and Music: English traditional; Music arr. and vss. 3-6 Daniel Charles Damon © 2022 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Please report any use of this through your copyright licence, or approach the copyright holder for permission.

Tune: I SAW THREE SHIPS
Metre: Irregular
Topical Index: Christmas, Hospitality, Refugee, Migration, Social Justice
Scripture: Luke 2:1-20, Leviticus 19:33-34; Matthew 2:1-12; 13-23; Hebrews 13:2

Daniel says: I have loved and played this English carol for years but struggled with the ancient text. I wrote some new stanzas that may give this carol new liturgical use. Carl Daw helped me finish this text.

Dan Damon’s recordings can be found here

His printed music is here

Three ships, watercolour copyright Andrew Pratt

Out beyond our understanding – a hymn inspired by Graham Adams’ book – Holy Anarchy

Rev Dr Graham Adams, of the Luther King Centre, has written a book entitled Holy Anarchy. Graham summarises the book here. The heart of Jesus’ vision is a reality he called the kingdom of God - 'a realm in which all dynamics of domination, not least in the church, are subverted'.
So this is Holy Anarchy of which Adams writes and in this hymn/poem I have been inspired by this vision.

Out beyond our understanding

Out beyond our understanding, 
holy ‘truths’ that have us bound,  
Holy Anarchy is waiting: 
shakes, disturbing what we’ve found. 
Strands beyond our human measure 
test what’s certain, where we stand, 
draw us out beyond our treasure 
to an unknown holy land.

Far from what we thought was certain, 
bound by darkness, hid by light, 
dare we risk this strange adventure, 
dream-like drifting, endless flight? 
Might we yet glimpse sense and purpose, 
seeming distant, yet so near, 
here within our present context, 
such a love as casts out fear?

More than we at first envisaged, 
broader than our widest scope, 
challenging our firm conceptions, 
thoughts on which we’ve placed our hope:  
this will strain imagination, 
take us from our comfort zone, 
seem like some incarnate chaos, 
nothing like we’ve ever known.

Andrew Pratt
Words © 2022 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider 
and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tune: DIM ON IESU (a Welsh tune to reflect Graham's background)
Words inspired by Holy Anarchy, SCM, Graham Adams (2022). 

Reclaiming ‘How great Thou art’

When Carl Boberg wrote the hymn that we know as How great Thou art’ it was, I believe, written in Swedish. Some of the wonder and beauty of that hymn has survived in the English translation which is most widely used. Sadly, for me, some of that English version has unaccountably veered into a penal substitutionary mode. Having lost a son aged 22 I cannot sing verses which speak of a God as ‘great’ who has sacrificed his son. If this is how a ‘Father God’ behaves I want none of it. In addition it rides light to the incarnation, to God dying, Jurgen Moltmann’s crucified God.

I am aware of the theological gymnastics that people employ to get round this, but why when Atonement theories, are just that. Why not simply return to a translation that more clearly reflects Boberg’s original? Thanks to Hymnary.org for offering E. Gustav Johnson’s translation


When I behold His Son to earth descending,
to help and heal and teach distressed mankind;
When evil flees and death in fear is bending
before the glory of the Lord divine,

With rapture filled, my soul Thy name would laud,
O mighty God! O mighty God!
With rapture filled, my soul Thy name would laud,
O mighty God! O mighty God!

When, crushed by guilt of sin, before Him kneeling
I plead for mercy and for grace and peace,
I feel His balm and, all my bruises healing,
He saves my soul and sets my heart at ease.

Author: Carl Boberg; Translator: E. Gustav Johnson

Translation by E. Gustav Johnson (1893–1974) From Hymnary.org http://www.hymnary.org/text/o_mighty_god_when_i_behold_the_wonder accessed 9/6/2014.