History of Hymns: 'Welcome to Our World'
By Andrew Davis
“Welcome to Our World”
by Chris Rice
Worship & Song, 3067
For lyrics see https://genius.com/Chris-rice-welcome-to-our-world-lyrics.
A more contemporary selection for the Advent and Christmas seasons, Chris Rice’s “Welcome to Our World” was first published in 1995. Though the musical style is contemporary, the form is that of a traditional five-stanza hymn. Rice (b. 1970) acknowledged the world’s inescapable violence and turmoil, the first stanza, beginning with “Tears are falling, hearts are breaking,” setting a tone for the themes of Advent—darkness, waiting, and anticipating the light of the Promised One.
Stanza 2, beginning “Hope that you don’t mind our manger,” further recognizes a world of discord, poverty, and violence. Rice harkens back to Luke 2:7–8, where there is no room at the inn, but only a stable filled with animals and straw, a messy scene just like our world today. Yet amid the problems we face in our world, the last lines of stanza 2 invite the infant Jesus to “make yourself at home, please make yourself at home,” just like the Holy Family made themselves at home in the stable.
Stanza 3 petitions Jesus to “bring your peace into our violence, / bid our hungry souls be filled,” pleading for an end to the violence, but also food and aid for the hungry among us, especially where poverty is prevalent. In a reference to John 1— “In the beginning was the Word”—the composer offers a metaphor of hope for the one long-awaited: “Word now breaking heaven’s silence.”
Stanza 4 calls for healing, but also speaks to the paradox between Jesus’s birth and his eventual death, as it foreshadows why Jesus was sent to earth by God. The paradox is heightened in the powerful line that bridges the blood beating in the infant’s heart and the blood that would be shed for us: “Tiny heart whose blood will save us / Unto us is born.”
In stanza 5, the composer brings Jesus’ life full circle with a call to holiness and holy living. All that we do is given to God’s glory when we repent of our sin and follow Jesus. The theme “welcome to our world” has an ironic feel throughout. Yes, we do indeed welcome the infant Savior. However, we welcome Jesus to join us in our pain, hurt, and violence—welcome to the mess we have made of the world that God created.
While “Welcome to Our World” plays on the radio during Christmas time, Chris Rice did not have the Christmas story in mind, nor did he originally intend for the song to be a Christmas song when he composed it. In an interview with CCM Magazine, Rice shares some of the backstory:
[“Welcome to our world”] deals with the reality that God invaded our planet and became one of us, which is just astounding to me. I wrote about God coming to our world in a naïve way, knowing that it’s not ours anyway, it’s [God’s]. The thoughts that went through my head were about how tiny [Jesus] was and how He came into the world just like the rest of us do. How much did [Jesus] know at that point? When [Jesus] was human flesh, was He aware at all that He was really God, or did He just accept all the limitations and start from scratch? I thought of that progression, and about the fact that He took on what He did so that we would be able to find God and be found by God. (Rice, Songfacts, n.p.)
One of the qualities of Chris Rice’s compositions is that the lyrics relate to real-life situations and to the natural world. Many of Chris Rice’s songs reflect the many experiences he had in his own life in which words, science, humor, nature, questions, and faith are among his “muses” or influences when it comes to his music (See Rice, Bio, n.p.).
Chris Rice was raised in Clinton, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. where, after obtaining a degree in psychology, he moved to Tennessee, where he lives today. Upon his move to Tennessee, Rice began playing guitar for youth and college students before signing with Rocketown Records in 1996 with his album Deep Enough to Dream. He then moved to an independent label, Eb+Flow. A Dove-award nominee in six categories (1998) and a Dove-award winner (1999), Rice discusses in a recent article how he, an introvert, dropped out of the spotlight for ten years (2008–2018) and pursued poetry writing and the “Hymns Project”—resetting classical hymn texts (Price, 2019, n.p.). Much of his music is eclectic in style. In addition to his composition, Chris Rice has also branched out into painting and writing. He also maintains a blog at lyricandline.blogspot.com/.
To hear Chris Rice sing the song, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5K6gpLrnK9M&feature=emb_title. Numerous artists have recorded this poignant song, including Amy Grant (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4iR6uKE1PE&feature=emb_title) and Michael W. Smith (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVwmdPHzA0U&feature=emb_title). Lloyd Larson has published an anthem setting (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unn4UvKa3M4&feature=emb_title).
Kim Jones, “Chris Rice—Biography of Christian Singer/Songwriter Chris Rice,” Learn Religions (November 16, 2017), https://www.learnreligions.com/chris-rice-biography-709698 (accessed October 17, 2020).
Deborah Evans Price, “Chris Rice on Walking Away From the Spotlight—And His Sneak Return, Billboard (May 17, 2019), https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8512050/chris-rice-ultimate-hymn-interview (accessed October 17, 2020).
Chris Rice, “Bio,” Chrisrice.com, https://chrisrice.com/bio (accessed October 17, 2020).
_____, “Welcome to Our World by Chris Rice.” Songfacts®, https://www.songfacts.com/facts/chris-rice/welcome-to-our-world (accessed October 17, 2020).
Andrew Davis is pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Quincy, California (www.quincymethodist.org), and an ordained elder in the California-Nevada Annual Conference. Andrew spent nine years working in the grocery business before attending Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, where he served as an assistant for Dr. Eileen Guenther and completed his Master of Divinity.
This article is provided as a collaboration between Discipleship Ministries and The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. For more information about The Fellowship, visit https://www.umfellowship.org/.