A Christmas Lament

by Brian J. Walsh

I know, I know, Christmas is all about good feelings, family, magnaminity towards the less fortunate, etc., etc., etc. But how do you celebrate Christmas in an empire that has made a blasphemous sham out of that counter-imperial narrative of all counter-imperial narratives – the birth of Jesus? Well, you pray.

That’s what people who are subject to the Kingdom do in the face of the empire. And often that prayer takes the shape of a lament. So at the risk of sounding like Scrooge (who did not, to our knowledge, pray), I offer to you this Christmas lament. Best prayed the day after Christmas.

In painful honesty, let us pray to the Lord together saying,
Lord, still we wait.

It doesn’t make sense, Lord,
it doesn’t make sense.
“Glory to God in the highest”
the angels sang,
of a homeless child born of the lowest of the low.

Good news of a Saviour, a Lord, a Messiah,
wrapped in rags and sleeping in a feeding trough.

The feasting is still a warm memory
– or a mild case of indigestion –
the celebration of a birth,
the realization of a hope,
but there is an emptiness in the
pit of our full stomachs
a hope yet unfulfilled,
could this have been a birth stillborn?

And so, Lord, in painful honesty,
we pray to you, saying
Lord, still we wait.

We do not wait without hope, Lord.
The people who have walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
and those who lived in a land of deep darkness
– on them light has shined.
And while the darkness cannot extinguish the light,
the darkness remains.
We are a people who still walk in darkness,
ours is a land and a time of deep darkness.
And so we have become at home in the darkness,
but hungry for the dawn.
Dawn on us and in our time, O Lord,
with light that cuts through our darkness.
Because, in our darkness and with painful honesty,
we pray to you, saying,
Lord, still we wait.

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Prince of Peace
Your authority will grow continually,
and there will be endless peace.
Endless Peace
Glory to God in the highest!
and peace on earth.
Peace on earth

Jesus this song you wrote
the words are sticking in my throat
Peace on earth
Hear it every Christmas time
but hope and history won’t rhyme
so what’s it worth?
this peace on earth

There is no peace, Lord.
violence follows violence,
bloodshed follows bloodshed,
hope and history won’t rhyme,
and yet we still sing to you as our Prince of Peace
but we sing through our tears and our anxieties
and so, in painful honesty,
we bring our prayers for peace to you, saying,
Lord, still we wait.

All of creation is groaning, Lord.
All of creation is in travail and pain,
longing for redemption.
Yet, another voice can also be heard,
a voice of joy in the midst of the pain
a voice of triumph against all the odds
a voice of peace in the face of war
the voice of all the earth blessing the Lord
the voice of the sea,
in the midst of pollution and oil slicks,
singing praise to the Creator
the voice of the fields exulting,
and the trees singing for joy
the voices of all of creation seeing what we miss,
– glory, righteousness, truth, and justice –
all of creation rejoicing in the cry of a tiny babe

Like a stone on a surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

And our tears mingle with the tears of that baby in the manger
our tears of joy in the face of it all
our tears of hope against despair
our tears of longing
for then there will be no time for sorrow
then there will be no time for pain.
This, our Messiah, is our prayer,
and this too we offer in painful honesty
and in stubborn hope as we pray to you saying,
Lord, still we wait.

[With thanks to Isaiah, the Psalms, St. Paul, U2 and Bruce Cockburn]

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

One Response to “A Christmas Lament”

  1. Dale

    Great Stuff, Brian.

    “…of the increase of His Kingdom there shall be no end…”



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