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Making songs for Sinner-Saints


Come Hither ye children O come one and all
to visit the manger in Bethlehem’s stall

and see what the Father in heaven so true
has done to prepare a bright Christmas for you.

When I was a child, in the week after Christmas, after tea our family would sit around the Christmas tree and sing carols (acapella of course – no-one played an instrument). Including that old German one, a favourite of mine. I can still hear Dad’s voice singing it.
I grew up in a Lutheran family, weekly worship. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love hymns. I also had older siblings who were fans of ‘50s pop songs & I loved singing them too: The Great Pretender, The Rock Island Line, Bye, Bye love.

I was going to be a minister, but an angel called Dorothy helped me find a better way! Not preaching sermons, but singing songs. The songs I write are predominantly to nurture the faith of Christians – just like the sermons that ministers preach!

Dorothy is going to join me for some song bits in what follows. Dorothy & I will celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2 weeks’ time. My journey in music would have been utterly different, may not have even happened, if we hadn’t got together.

    Father welcomes all his children to his family through his son;
    Father giving his salvation, life forever has been won.

Little children, come to me. For my kingdom is of these;
life and love I have to give, mercy for your sin.

Again & again we need to remind each other what it is we believe, on what we are basing our life’s journey. It’s easy to lose the plot. So, let’s sing the basics: God loves us, one and all, includes us, no matter who we are, & baptism tells us that God has decided to make us part of the family.


So I'm walkin down the road, … walkin down the road with you.

To encourage people to sing together, let’s provide tunes that are singable, not always simple, but ones that people easily pick up & readily relate to.
Likewise, to communicate with songs, let’s use language that people understand. And we’re in Australia so why not sing about it, in ways Australians understand.

Here we are, under this sky — oh, what a land to live in.
How did we come to be in such a place?
A sky that talks day after day, telling of endless glory,
the glory of God, the work of his own hands.

But how do we say our thankyous? Anything would be far too small.
How do we show we care? We could try to share

Let’s talk plainly, sing plainly. Jesus used the language of the day, & everyday images. Let’s follow him. It baffles me that so many want to use language, lyrics & music, which tries to take us somewhere else – up there, out there. It can’t be done - God’s here, now.


They were moving through the desert — they were hungry and sore —
and they started asking loudly, "What for?!"
Why are we here? Where are we going? Don't like the scenery, don't like the plot.
Is the Lord with us, Is the Lord with us, Is the Lord with us, with us or not?

Exodus 14 – the people cross the Red Sea. By Exodus 17 – they’re complaining, Is the Lord with us? Us fickle humans! The Old Testament songbook, the Psalms, include every human emotion. And the prophets are full of questions - Our songs can do the same.


Coming from Lutheran roots, & still firmly in this tradition, I’ve made a lot of songs that are directly or partly about baptism & communion. While ‘Father welcomes’ & ‘Feed us Now’ are the best known, there are many others. One grew out of the name given to a special baby.

♪ From the air and from the light, from the water and the ground,
God, you gave this world its shape, made it smell and feel and sound:
from the crisp of early dawn, colder than our skin can bear,
to the heat of rock and sand boiling in the summer glare.

And you made this little child - God, your act of love is good -
though the process may be known, still it’s hardly understood.
This new life is one more sign of your kindness to us all,
born of closeness, two made one; like the rain these wonders fall.

I’ve also written several communion songs, including ‘Bread of Angels’, which began from Psalm 78.

You're like the sun that warms me, with wind and clay you formed me,
and yet we touch and taste you here, you are the bread of angels.

You are the heart of laughter, the beauty we’re all after,
the perfect joy in every dream, you are the bread of angels.


The Christian faith is not passed on as a set of propositions but in a story, the story of God active in the world. From Genesis to Revelation, culminating in the story of Jesus, the Word become flesh. The story continues – let’s keep telling it, & singing it.

Let’s remind each other how the world was won —
not with mighty army, nor with soldier’s gun;
his unlikely palace: Mother Mary’s womb;
Operation Jesus from a borrowed room.

Flesh and bone, so fragile, his strategic way:
with a broken body Jesus won the day.
Cluster bombs and rifles — he had none of these.
They were never needed for his victory.

May I lie beside you, in your manger bed,
Will I know or care what danger lies ahead?
If I feel your breath upon my face, I know
heaven’s power is with me everywhere I go.

As you begin a new chapter in your life we’d like to finish our part of the evening with a blessing for all of you. Julie Perrin’s words made this traditional blessing Australian, with images of our country.

For you, deep stillness of the silent inland, For you, deep blue of the desert skies
For you, flame red of the rocks and stones, For you, sweet water from hidden springs.
From the edges seek the heartlands and when you're burnt by the journey
may the cool winds of the hovering Spirit soothe and replenish you.
In the name of Christ, In the name of Christ


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