I recently borrowed an album from my parents by the Chieftains (a traditional Irish folk band), and the title of this song (featuring Jackson Browne) piqued my interest. The lyrics are quite convicting:
All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus
Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus
Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There's a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus
Politically conservative Christians of the United States may take issue with the lyrics' allegations of materialism, stinginess and complacency found in modern Christmas celebrations in the West. (Bebo Norman also recorded the song in 2007). One reviewer reduced and accused this older message (the song was first released on an album in 1991) to an attempt to make Jesus more "cool" and having a socialist agenda. However, in this argument, he nitpicked Scripture and limited Jesus's earthly purpose to only its spiritual and theological implications.
Even though "The Rebel Jesus" is a Christmas song, the message applies to us year-round: as we celebrate Christ, how Christ-like are we? Do we store up treasures on earth and ignore the causes of poverty? Do we worship Him with new innovation and opulence in His beautiful temple or by imitating His and His disciples' loving sacrifices for the less fortunate? What are our priorities?
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