The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay…”
– Matthew 28:5-6
- Low in the grave He lay,
Jesus, my Savior,
Waiting the coming day,
Jesus, my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
- Vainly they watch His bed,
Jesus, my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead,
Jesus, my Lord!
- Death cannot keep his Prey,
Jesus, my Savior;
He tore the bars away,
Jesus, my Lord!
– Robert Lowry, Christ Arose (1874)
What did the angels say to the women? “Come, see where Jesus lay. He is not here. He has risen.” In other words, “Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.” But up from the grave He arose! He arose!
Even when we celebrate one of, if not, the most important day on the Christian calendar, there can still be levity, especially in a choir. You practice long hours. You must let your hair down. Right?
When I first arrived in Germany, my battalion commander’s wife found out that was wife was a veteran at singing before large audiences and that I could sing tenor. My wife and I were then invited to join the choir for the protestant service where the enlisted had their barracks, at the chapel next door to the battalion headquarters. The larger church was walking distance from the house in family housing, but to have a choir five kilometers away for the enlisted people that were there without family was important also. Since our choir director, the LTC’s spouse, was also the director of stage plays at the community theater, she had the cream of the crop in our tiny choir, but only one tenor, until I showed up. We all did it because we enjoyed singing. Hopefully, everyone equally loved the Lord.
I loved singing in that choir because it was the first choir that I had been a member that had another strong tenor. The other tenor was a Signal Corps enlisted guy who had tried out for a musical part in a community play and was roped into the choir although he lived in a different barracks area. After I joined, the two tenors quickly gained the reputation for being the choir cut-ups. Our director often chastised us for grinning. We grinned when either of us screwed up: the wrong words, the wrong notes, or coming in at the wrong time. She would tell us that grinning gave away the secret. Most of the worshippers would never have a clue that we screwed up unless they saw us grinning.
On our first Easter in Germany, we were preparing for a major singing event. Our director picked out a lot of great music. One of the songs, the only one that I remember, was Christ Arose by Robert Lowry. To make the hymn, that had been written over 100 years before, more interesting, the musical arranger of this arrangement had set the music to a Calypso beat. The choir director had already fussed at the sopranos and altos for swaying their hips to the beat, but then she saw the two tenors laughing.
Director: Now, what’s so funny?
Me: The way this arrangement is laid out with the Calypso syncopation, the men have to take a breath between “He” and “lay.”
The other tenor: The first line sounds like we are saying, “Lo… in the gravy.”
(Laughter from all the choir.)
A bass: What kind of gravy?
Another bass: I don’t know. I’ll check with the mess hall to see what they are serving on Easter.
Someone Else: Mmmmm. I love gravy.
Director (now with a face that was beet red): We are singing about our risen Savior! Do not joke about this! And tenors! I have my eye on you two!
But the damage was done. From that early practice until the performance on Easter morning, the song forever remained, “Lo, in the gravy.” Every practice, someone, male or female, would ask to go over a tough spot in “Lo, in the gravy.” Each time the director would turn red, but we practiced it again and again. Of course, we practiced enunciating the “H” in “He.” We practiced so well that our little choir was asked to sing that particular hymn at the main church for the military community on Easter evening where they had also invited a local German choir. It was a big hit.
When the choir sang that well practiced hymn, did the choir members think of Jesus, the son of God, risen from the dead or did they think, “Mmmmm. I love gravy.” To the worshippers, the secret was never revealed. The worshippers heard a small choir that was singing so loud that they shook the dust from the ceiling. The syncopation was so well done that people were ready to dance in the aisles. And the secret was safe because the worshippers saw smiles on every choir member’s face, not just the two naughty tenors.
We didn’t sing Christ Arose this Easter at our home church. There are so many great Easter hymns and so little time. I asked myself, “Where’s the gravy?”
What will Jesus have to say to the naughty tenors when they reach heaven’s gates?
I think He’ll laugh and say, “I love gravy, too.”