Do you prefer “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?” or “At the Cross,” which is the same song with a much happier chorus added to Isaac Watts’ s stark original:
Alas, and did my saviour bleed
And did my sovereign die?
Did he devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon that tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree.
Saying or singing those verses out loud really makes you stop and examine yourself.
Am I living up to this great love that was and is being shown to me? Am I sharing that “love beyond degree” with others, regardless of whether I think they deserve it?
This questioning and turmoil isn’t necessarily fun, and it isn’t the stuff of a properly cheerful church social.
And so a later writer, Ralph Hudson, added a refrain that ties everything up in a neat triuphalist bow, so you can smile and move on, putting all those sharp introspective edges right out of your mind.
At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day
There is a time and a place for triumph: Easter, less than 2 weeks ago, was a perfect time to celebrate.
We’re celebrating Jesus’ resurrection victory over the darkness without and within us, the powers and principalities, the adversary, the corrupting power structures of this world and beyond.
Our triumph doesn’t come from candy coating everything that reminds us of that darkness, everything that pushes us to question just how much we’re still wallowing in it.
If you’re really “happy all the day” in this world, you’re probably not paying attention.