21 December 2015

Thinking too much about Christmas carols

I have an issue with a Christmas carol I heard while driving.

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 Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Really? The Virgin Mary and Christ on a ship? I think I missed that part of the New Testament.

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

OK, now you’ve really broken my suspension of disbelief. Look at this map:

Bethlehem

Bethlehem is 50km from the coast. There is no way three ships sailed in there. Best case, you’re still 25km from the nearest body of water. And that’s the Dead Sea, and there’s a desert between there and Bethlehem. Are we talking Martian sandships? Ridiculous.

No, I think too much poetic license was taken with this hymn. Obviously they were trying to sugar-coat the truth, which is that Mary was hanging around down at the docks near Tel Aviv trying to make a few shekels to get Jesus something nice for his fourth Christmas. After all, the Three Wise Men had totally failed to deliver anything age-appropriate when he was born, and a toddler’s only going to be amused by shiny gold for a while.

The only mystery in this scenario is why she didn’t leave Jesus with his step-father. Presumably Joseph was busy trying to earn some money at the carpentry store — which, let’s face it, is no place for a small child.

I think that would make for a much more believable carol.

© mathew 2017