Friday, December 24, 2010

Rebel Jesus

Well, the family is set to take off for Florida for a week of much, much needed travel and relaxation. I'm feeling guilty for all the writing that's not being done but I'd feel far worse to not take advantage of this opportunity to soak up some vitamin D and maybe grin at a manatee or two. I will be back in the new year with whatever it is that I do here. I am very much looking forward to 2011 and achieving some goals that will be defined on the highways between Chicago and wherever it is we find ourselves in Florida, let the sun shine on them some, then let them start to take root on the long drive back.

This time of year can be a complicated, challenging one for a non-Christian. It can feel isolating, lonely and depressing not just for non-Christians, but for anyone who is estranged from her family, isn't part of a relationship, isn't affluent. Cutting away all the baggage that surrounds Christmas, though, we are left with the story of a man who - agnostic, pagan-leaning Jew that I am - I have a lot of admiration for, I have to confess. I have never been into Bible stories, but the idea of this man truly rebelling against the current, living a life full of complexity, courage and compassion, I can get with that. Someone who preached a life of simplicity and kindness, well, I see no harm in that. I think that so many of us have been so stung by the manner in which many religious people conduct themselves we reject the story of Christ because of all that damage. I can understand that. My point is that whether you believe in Christ or would sooner believe something you read in a supermarket tabloid, there is something to learn and grow from with the story itself.

With that long-winded introduction, here is my favorite Christmas song, The Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne. It captures my feelings about the holiday beautifully and I'm sure many people feel the same way. I will see you in the new year! Be well and be happy, from a heathen and a pagan on the side of the Rebel Jesus.

The Rebel Jesus

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


  1. Your comment box doesn't seem to like the cut and paste method, but if you google "Be nice to yu turkeys dis Christmas", the Benjamin Zephaniah poem will appear.

  2. Maybe the best song lyrics I have ever seen re this time of year...thank you. I have always loved the lyrics for Lives in the Balance by Mr. Browne, but was unfamiliar with this one.

    Best wishes back to you from another heathenish, paganistic Jackson Browne-phile.

  3. I will check that out, Vanilla Rose! Thanks for the suggestion.

    Thank you, Vegan Elder. I wasn't familiar with Jackson Browne's performance of this song until I'd heard it on a Chiefton's CD. The one that really blows me away, though, is on the McGarrigle Christmas Hour with Martha Wainwright singing. A very beautiful, heartfelt recording and a wonderful CD all the way around. It gives me chills every time I listen to it.

    Have a great holiday season, too!

  4. Wow Marla, I wish I had seen this sooner.
    And I must say, as one of those crazy Jesus worshipers myself, I love it! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I like a lot of Benjamin Zephaniah's other poems too. There's one about bombs that amuses me.


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