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Updated carols call for justice in a troubled world

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2That was the comment a Facebook friend posted a week ago. He was complaining about being subjected to White Christmas and Little Drummer Boy and other hoary old Christmas tunes again and again in malls. "I've had just about enough!" he exclaimed in frustration.

I'm sure he's not the only one to feel this way. There are times when I want to tell that drummer boy to get the baby a new gift -- a book, video game or stuffed toy--anything but that drum!

Fortunately, there's hope. Many new worship songs for Christmas have been written, and new ones are penned every year. Andrew Pratt, for example, must have been channelling contemporary anger over the world financial crisis when he wrote Bankers, Politicians and the Magnificat this fall. It can be sung to the tune Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.

Upturned World, the bankers humbled,

 

Politicians brought to book,

 

Children shown new ways of living,

 

Heads will spin and turn to look.

 

Love incarnate's gentle thunder,

 

Wakes the earth to truth and light.

 

Hypocrites meet naked justice,

 

Find no place in fear for flight.

 

Alternatives for Simple Living is an organization started 38 years ago as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas. It has produced a collection of updated carols on the theme of justice. Here's some new verses for Away in a Manger:

 

Teach all the world leaders there's no room for hate.

 

Peace, love, and compassion will justice create.

 

Let kindness and fairness for all folk prevail.

 

Our care for each other shows God's love is real.

 

The Lord asks for justice and I nod my head,

 

But here we're not hungry; no tears will I shed.

 

Here I am laughing and feasting in peace,

 

Both near and far starvations increase.

 

Here's their version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

 

Let justice like a beacon glow,

 

In every willing heart.

 

To shine a path of righteousness,

 

Where greed or envy start.

 

That knowledge and forgiveness might

 

Illuminate the dark.

 

Hear our prayer, Lord of all things Right and good, right and good.

 

Hear our prayer, Lord of all things right and good.

 

Divest, you merry gentlemen,

 

Your military schemes.

 

Return your cash back to the poor,

 

Fulfill the children's dreams

 

That those who claim the name of Christ

 

Shall live where justice gleams.

 

O tidings of justice and rights, human rights,

 

O tidings of justice and rights!

 

 

 

God rest you weary labourers,

 

You need a living wage

 

And fact'ries healthy, safe and clean

 

And just eight hour days

 

To save us all from corporate power

 

And values gone astray.

 

O tidings of justice and rights, human rights,

 

O tidings of justice and rights

 

And here's their new stanza for What Child is This?

What child is this in every land

 

Who cries when food is lacking,

 

Whose parents mourn their newly born,

 

Whom sickness is attacking?

 

When will injustice cease,

 

When will the nations live at peace?

 

When all have learned from him,

 

The babe, the son of Mary.

 

 

Fred Kaan has written a carol titled Each Year We Sing With Bated Christmas Voice. Here are a couple of sample verses:

Each year we sing with bated Christmas voice, as if events in Bethlehem were nice; when every house and pub had shut its door, and Mary in a shed her baby bore.

 

Forgive us, God, that things are still the same, that Christ is homeless under other names; still holy fam'lies To our cities come where life sick and Sore in a crowded slum.

Just making a wild guess here, but I'm betting you won't be hearing any of these songs in the local mall anytime soon -- and maybe not in most churches, either. Like so many others, Christians, too, have sentimentalized Christmas, covering its radical and revolutionary message in a gauzey commercial haze.

I wonder: Would we have the courage to see the Christmas story as more than a cultural celebration of goodwill, warm feelings and excessive consumerism?

Could we also sing about justice, homelessness, refugee flight, war, poverty and oppression, too?

We've got a year to think about it.

jdl562000@yahoo.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 24, 2011 I12

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