She was his girl; he was her boyfriend
She be his wife; make him her husband
A surprise on the way, any day, any day
One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy
The wise men came three made their way
To shower him with love
While he lay in the hay
Shower him with love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around
A few years ago, my church organized an art show on the theme of Easter. Emma, then 5 or 6, created two pieces of art for us: a manger scene and a Golgotha scene. When her mom reminded her that this was an Easter themed art show, she responded “Mom, you can’t have Easter without Christmas, you know.”
So in the season of Lent as we head for Good Friday so we’re singing this song, called Christmas Song, although, really, this song is misnamed. It’s not strictly a Christmas song; it’s really a story-telling song that tells the story of Jesus’ whole life. I love it when artists re-phrase a familiar story to make it new again.
When Jesus Christ was nailed to his tree
Said “oh, Daddy-o I can see how it all soon will be
I came to shed a little light on this darkening scene
Instead I fear I’ve spilled the blood of my children all around
The blood of our children all around..
(See? Good Friday.)
Preparations were made
For his celebration day —-
He said “eat this bread and think of it as me
Drink this wine and dream it will be
The blood of our children all around…
I fell in love with this song the very first time I heard it but as I examined the lyrics a little more closely it was these references to “the blood of our children all around” that I struck me as odd, even troubling. I’ve been sitting with it for weeks now and this is what is emerging for me. I think it helps to know a little bit about the songwriter, Dave Matthews.
Born into a Quaker family in Johannesburg, South Africa, Matthews would have had an upbringing that focused on social justice and peacemaking. Paired with what he witnessed during apartheid, he would have witnessed enormous injustices – these themes come out in a lot of his music. But Matthews refers to himself as an agnostic. I’ve read and listened to a few interviews with him and what I get from these is his enormous dissatisfaction with organized religion and with a depiction of a God who is only concerned with judgment. “Where is the God that calls us to love our neighbours, to make a difference in the lives of the poor and oppressed?” – these words in an interview with Q TV struck me. “He’s right here! Weeping beside you at the same injustices you see!” I wanted to scream. What is sad is how the church has killed that God for Matthews – and others, sometimes, even me.
I worship a God who is deeply concerned with injustice. Jesus spent his whole life on earth living with, tending to, and lifting up the poor and oppressed. No wonder, when he was hanging on the cross, he felt forsaken – and couldn’t you see how he might have had doubts? “I fear that all I’ve done is spilled the blood of our children? Nothing will change! They’ll keep doing this to each other, to our creation…”
But then come the redemptive words: Drink this wine and dream… believe that when you drink this it is my blood shed for you. Dream that this will be the blood of our children all around…
I worship in the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition and our confession of faith refers to the communion meal as a time when we renew our covenant with God and with each other. It is in Christ that I live and move and have my being but I also live and move in community and so I need to be just as deeply concerned as God is, as Jesus demonstrated, about all of God’s children, all of His creation.
That’s what I’m meditating on when we sing this. How do you connect with that lyric?