(from the archives)
I had a hissy fit on Christmas Eve. In the candlelight service. Fortunately, my husband was the only observer and he managed to keep me under control.
We were at our folks’ church, singing from their hymnal, the New and Improved one. I was already mildly miffed at the alterations in the lyrics when we started singing O Come All Ye Faithful. When the second verse began “Highest of highest” instead of “God of God” I just stopped singing, now indignant.
Someone had ruined my favorite verse! I started jabbing at the hymnal, thumping the spot where in tiny letters were the letters alt. My husband, who missed my meaning but understood my emotion, shrugged and in a sign of solidarity started poking his finger at the hymnal too, but not in the right places. Which made me snort but didn’t diminish my disgust.
“Alt!” I hissed.
“Alt.” he echoed. Whatever alt. meant, he was together with me on it. He didn’t ask “Alt?”. He firmly said Alt. but the required passion was missing; there was no corresponding hiss.
“They ALTERED the text.” I further hissed. “It’s as if Athanasius never lived.”
We went back to singing choirs of angels.
At the next carol, he jabbed the alt. before the organ had finished the introduction. Good Christian Men were not rejoicing; Good Christian Friends Rejoice. In protest, I cheerfully sang “Good Christian men“, all three verses. I have no patience with gender neutral humankind nonsense. Please.
With each new carol it became a race between us to see who would thump the alt. first.
We heard the tune of Lo, How a Rose Eer Blooming, without noticing the title was, Lo, How a Rose is Growing.
This was no alt.: this was a completely new translation.
I’m sure that Gracia Grindal’s translation has much to recommend it, but you know–you know!– how hard it is to sing or recite a verse in a different translation than the one you memorized as a child, the one firmly lodged in your brain. There was a sense of disorientation.
Away in the Manger came through unscathed: evidently the Little Lord Jesus (my nephew–decades ago–said Yittle Yord Yesus) could sleep on his bed. We ended with lovely unaltered carols Silent Night and Joy to the World.