Shepherds and street people, hookers and bums

28 Feb

I’ve been really struggling with how to be real in my faith lately, especially given my Tuesday night class “Trinitarian Theology: Texts, Traditions, and Trajectory.” Sounds quite lofty, no? Just the new vocabulary alone is enough to fry my brain and give up trying to figure out how God is three yet one, etc. Thanfully, my readings in Colin Gunton’s The Promise of Trinitarian Theology have kept my feet planted on solid ground: “The Trinity has more often been presented as a dogma to believed rather than as the living focus of life and thought” (p.3). He also emphasizes that theological dialogue must take place in the entire Christian community, not just between seminarians or pastors because Christianity is a “faith that takes shape as the faith of a community of worship.” One such distant member of the community of faith is Bruce Cockburn, a Canadian guitarist and lyricist extraordinaire. When I first heard the song below, I was shocked by how “earthy” he made Jesus. He tore my flannel graf Jesus to shreads. So in the same vain as the “Popular Mechanics” Jesus, this song has helped me realize the scandal and the hope of the incarnation of the Son of God. What’s Jesus got to do with shepherds, street people, hookers and bums? Read on!

Cry Of A Tiny Babe
Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph get upset because he doesn’t understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says “God did this and you’re part of his scheme”
Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says “forgive me I thought you’d been with some other man”
She says “what if I had been – but I wasn’t anyway and guess what
I felt the baby kick today”

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

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
‘Cause the governing body of the whole land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there’s a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

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

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you’ve got ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It’s a Christmas gift you don’t have to buy
There’s a future shining in a baby’s eyes

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

Bruce Cockburn


Posted by on February 28, 2005 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Shepherds and street people, hookers and bums

  1. John Borgquist

    February 28, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    Gunton meets Cockburn; quite a lot to think about. You have highlighted the very challenge for every seminarian, I think: making our intellectually-informed faith make a difference in the real world.

    I myself have been doing some of the same thinking, which is especially brought about by my Jr Highers. I learn all this stuff in class, and yet sometimes fumble about for words to explain to them the most basic concepts of our faith. It is even more difficult when it comes to demonstration.

    I am glad that you bring it up; we need to help each other along in the move from knowledge at seminary to action in the world.

    PS. You should pass this post on to Dr Lim, I know he is very concerned about this topic.

  2. Dave

    March 1, 2005 at 10:45 pm

    love the integration, that’s the way it should be done. you need to post the woop ass t-shirt pic!

  3. Josh

    March 2, 2005 at 9:35 pm

    Remind me to play Cockburn’s song next time you guys are over our apt. It’s one of my favorites.

  4. DAO

    March 2, 2005 at 9:50 pm

    Yea a sweet time with Dave. There are several other bros @ K of G that would love to hang at the WHI.
    We too enjoyed your company. A spring time hang @ MDC is a must, afterwards hang with Angel and co over a brew and cigah!


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