It was the Christmas season and I was driving through in my neighborhood with some of my kids on the way to church. I saw an old blow molded nativity scene in one of the yards and the phrase came to me: “Shine on Electric Jesus! Shine on!” This was the start of writing this song.
I decided to do a slow reveal for the first verse of the song. The first line set the tone for the song. “Your head and your body are made out of plastic”. When I perform this live for people that have never heard it before, I tell them that I’m going to sing a Christmas song. This first line doesn’t sound anything like what you would expect from the typical Christmas song. It’s not “dashing through the snow” or “sleigh bells ring, are you listening”. The word plastic is abrupt, almost industrial and isn’t going to rhyme with anything fun. The verse is written as a puzzle to get the listener to try and figure out what I’m singing about. I describe properties of the Electric Jesus that you usually don’t think about. You might be able to figure it out by the time I’m talking about using it to decorate the lawn. The final reveal is the chorus.
The main idea of the second verse is that this nativity scene is old and hasn’t been taken care of very well. In comparison, the narrator of this song has taken really good care of the Santa. He at least has all of the reindeer. The Santa is either a more recent purchase or just taken care of better. The nativity scene is missing major pieces (no mention of Joseph) and some parts are held together with duct tape. This is the part of the song that is seen by some as social commentary in that Santa gets more attention that Jesus. The comparison is there but wasn’t the reason for the song. I was focused on writing something funny, even slightly irreverent. Not only is the narrator taking better care of Santa, it seems that he doesn’t know the story of Jesus well enough to know his country of origin.
I perform this song year round and it always gets a good response. Watching an audience of people hearing it for the first time, I usually notice nervous laughter. It’s as though they don’t know if it’s ok to laugh at some of the lines in the song. Many times, the second chorus becomes a sing-a-long.
Here is a video of a live performance:
Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer, Storyteller