The closest thing I have to a tradition on this blog is this Christmas day offering.
Each Christmas I post the Isaiah passage below (which is a reading for Christmas Eve worship every year); John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” which I find the world’s best and most challenging Christmas song; and a second song that moves me or makes me laugh.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined…For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.
No, not “all the boots of the tramping warriors” or “all the garments rolled in blood” have been burned as fuel just yet. But I do believe there will be a day when both the weapons and the uniforms of war will be obsolete. I think that’s why I like “Happy Christmas” so much: it simultaneously acknowledges the reality of evil in the world and reminds us, with Isaiah, to hope for – and actively strive for – a better future. A war-free future.
Our sisters and brothers in Israel/Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, and so many other places, know all too well that war isn’t over. This year we’ve become inescapably aware that there is a war of sorts on our streets with police killing and humiliating Black folks. (I know this has been going on for 400+ years. But this year our reaction to that war feels different.) I’m convinced the Prince of Peace wants all wars to end. To worship the babe born in Bethlehem means facing reality, means seeking to end war. But following God in the way of Jesus also means we don’t believe in hopelessness. It means we’ve got some work to do.
Until last year, I used the same “Happy Christmas” video each time. But once again this year…I just can’t use it. With all the images of war, especially of maimed or dead children, I just can’t. It still strikes me as emotionally manipulative rather than as a beacon of light shining on tremendous evil. Maybe that’s a copout on my part. With toddlers still in cages at our southern border, ripped from their parents, most likely never to see them again, maybe we should be forced to look at those images. Maybe I simply don’t want to be confronted by those images. Or maybe it has always been manipulative and I only just figured it out. I don’t know. I would love to hear what you think about that.
In place of the graphic violence version, I offer this one by Sarah McLachlan. I find her melancholy tone hits this song just right.
For a second song: Despite all that’s wrong in the world — starting with the lunatic soon-to-no-longer-be in our White House and all his deplorable enablers — I’m choosing to be hopeful this Christmas. I’m choosing “Those Who Dream” by The Many. The Many is a Chicago-area band whom I love. They offer a weekly service of lament to help us get through this pandemic together. They have a powerful Longest Night service that inspired our own (look for that in a future post). They offer quality music and liturgies for churches, including some alternative lyrics for Christmas carols that are more inclusive. I love this band. One probably could make the case that “Those Who Dream” is more of an Advent song than a Christmas one, but I don’t care. It moves me and inspires me. It seems to me the perfect song for this year we’ve had — and are having. Along with this song, I am convinced:
It’s time to dream fierce dreams, like Mary did. Brave dreams, like Joseph did. New dreams, like Jesus did. ‘Cause those who dream change everything. Those who dream change everything.“Those Who Dream” — The Many
This Christmas let’s dream together and change everything and bend this world we share a bit more toward justice.
From the Buerstetta family to yours: Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! Happy Holidays to all!