Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Tag

Two more BRAND NEW Carols from OZ   Leave a comment

Thanks to everyone for their enthusiastic responses, shares, and praise for George Stuart’s lyrics! In response, George has written two BRAND NEW sets of lyrics.  More Christmas than Advent, one is to the tune of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and the other is to the tune “The First Nowell.”

In keeping with LtQ’s encouragement to actually read the birth narratives in the Bible (see our “Version Births” Christmas Pageant for children), these carols stick to each gospel’s unique story without blurring the lines.

We think you’ll find the theological perspective, the inclusive language, the social justice bent, and the keeping of the two stories separate as refreshing as we have.

Thank you, George!

Matthew’s Story

By George Stuart, The Uniting Church (Australia)
Tune: Mendelssohn (77.77 D with Refrain) 
“Hark the herald angels sing”

As we ponder Christmas tales,
And a hope that never fails,
We give thanks for all new birth,
Wondrous miracle of earth;
Jesus, helpless, meek and mild;
New born baby, undefiled;
Mary’s, Joseph’s great delight;
Jesus grows to be ‘The Light’;
In his human-ness we see
What our lives can truly be.

Ancient stories set the stage
For this humble Jewish sage;
Wise men come; look for a king
With the precious gifts they bring;
Herod was perplexed when told
What their searching could unfold;
Blameless infants must be killed;
Scripture thus, can be fulfilled;
Modern Herods work against
All that loving has commenced.

In a house is where they find
Jesus, born of humankind;
Frankincense and myrrh and gold
Are their gifts; and we behold
Jesus and his star so bright
Shines for us each day and night;
So for infants born today
Stars shine brightly as they play.
Deeds of love are gifts we bring;
Joyful praises we now sing.

Luke’s story

By George Stuart, The Uniting Church (Australia)
Tune: The First Nowell  (Meter: Irregular)  
“The First Noel”

When Christmas comes it brings great joy;
This story of a baby boy;
These tales that tell of this new birth;
The miracle of Mother Earth;
Noel: Noel: Noel: Noel:
Jesus is born and all is well.

No room was found for this young maid;
She felt alone and quite afraid;
A shed was where his birth took place;
It was unclean, a sad disgrace;
Noel: Noel: Noel: Noel:
Jesus is born and all is well.

Some shepherds woke and searched to find
A baby born to humankind;
They felt at home where herds would feed;
These outcasts were the lowest breed.
Noel: Noel: Noel: Noel:
Jesus is born and all is well.

So all are welcome to the stall;
For us, this is the gospel call.
We join to lift the chorus swell;
For God is here; Emmanuel.
Noel: Noel: Noel: Noel:
Jesus is born and all is well.


George Stuart at the 2013 Common Dreams Conference in Canberra, ACT

George Stuart at the 2013 Common Dreams Conference in Canberra, ACT

Lyrics by George Stuart. These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Without any further permission, the lyrics herein can be copied, stored or printed for public worship or private devotions, screened through a data projector or projected by an overhead projector, as required.

When the lyrics are used, acknowledgement of the author is requested.

There is however, a strict copyright prohibition regarding copying any of the lyrics in any way whatsoever for re-sale.

Crossan on Structural Injustice – be it Vineyard OR Fast Food Workers   Leave a comment

STRIKE-McDonalds-v2As fast food workers strike across the U.S., the idea of structural injustice takes center stage:  low-wage fast food workers are pitted against owners who feel confident that if their current employees are unhappy, there are plenty of other people who are desperate enough to take the non-living wages they offer without complaint.  Jesus had something to say about that.  In First Light, Living the Questions’ DVD curriculum on “Jesus and the Kingdom of God,” Dom Crossan and Marcus Borg explore the culture and times in which Jesus lived.  For Labor Day here in the U.S., here’s an excerpt from the participant guide: John Dominic Crossan reflecting on the structural injustices that Jesus is critiquing in the parable of The Vineyard Workers.

vineyard_workers_cropped_medTHE VINEYARD WORKERS.

Imagine, for example, how that process worked in an oral delivery of the Vineyard Workers in Matthew 20:1-16. It is harvest time in the vineyards and a landowner goes to the marketplace to hire day laborers. But instead of hiring all he needed at once, he went out five times—at 6am, 9am, 12 noon, 3pm, and 5pm. (Are you already sensing a comment on his character in that procedure?).

At the end of the day, all alike are given a silver denarius for a full day’s pay. They grumble immediately about the landowner’s injustice. And, from Matthew on, we tend to focus on that problem of personal and individual justice or injustice. Was it fair? Was the owner equitably generous or provocatively condescending? And in focusing there, we do not focus elsewhere.

But think about this interchange: “About five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard’” (20:6-7). How would Jesus’ listeners—especially poor day-laborers—have responded to that interaction? Would nobody from the oral audience have objected to such a blatant blaming the victim? Would nobody have protested that looking for work all day was not laziness?

What would have happened in such a discussion was a raising of the audience’s consciousness on the difference between, in our language, personal and individual justice or injustice as against systemic or structural justice and injustice. Why did it happen mysteriously that, even at high harvest in the vineyards when labor should have cost top denarius, day-laborers were still looking for work at the end of the day? And, of course, the owner knew that situation full well since he had tried all day to have just the amount of labor needed and no more. He knew he could go out as late as 5pm and still find workers. How did things happen just as the landowners wanted?

The audience would have been lured by that story into thinking, debating, and understanding the crucial distinction between individual charity (a denarius for each) and structural justice (no work for all), and in that collaborative process they would—Jesus hoped and intended—begin the collaborative process of eschatological transformation with a God of distributive justice.

— Dom Crossan excerpt (from First Light reader) © 2010,, “Vineyard Workers” graphic by Ky Betts

FirstLight4First Light is a 12-session DVD and web-based study of the historical Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Follow John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, two of the world’s leading Jesus scholars, on location throughout the Galilee and Jerusalem as they ask, “Why did Jesus happen when he happened?” “Why the tiny villages around the Lake?” “Why were the titles of Caesar Augustus — Divine, Son of God, God from God, Lord, Redeemer, Liberator, and Savior of the World — taken from a Roman emperor and given to a Jewish peasant?”

John Dominic Crossan says that First Light “is all I have to say about Jesus after half a century of study — in succinct summary.”

Crossan for webJohn Dominic Crossan is one of the world’s most respected Jesus scholars and author of numerous books, including “Jesus, a Revolutionary Biography” & “God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now.”  He is featured in a number of Living the Questions programs, including “First Light” and “Eclipsing Empire.”  In 2012, Crossan served as the President of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)

A Progressive Christian Christmas Pageant: Matt & Lucy’s Version Births   Leave a comment

Churches across the world are deep into planning for Christmas. Living the Questions offers everything a progressive Christian church needs to put on a Christmas pageant this year. Take a look at Matt & Lucy’s Version Births:


There are four “canonical” gospels in the Bible. While Matthew and Luke are the only gospels to tell the story of Jesus’ birth, their stories are very different from one another.

Our play opens as Matt & Lucy volunteer to help with this year’s Christmas pageant. Little do they know that the Director will give them each a different script and leave them to work out how to put on a play with conflicting story lines, characters, and settings.

As the play ends, the Director explains how having two stories gives us an appreciation of the diversity of ways early Christians expressed their understanding of who Jesus was.


Matt & Lucy’s Version Births can be as simple or elaborate as you decide. There are four speaking parts for youth and seven delightfully singable songs for young children (aged 3 and up). The LtQ Equip-kit includes two CDs: a TRAX music CD containing separate instrumental and vocal tracks of the seven musical selections, and a CD-ROM with printable pdf files of the script, production notes and lead sheets (arrangements) of the songs.

Click here for addition information.

A couple of testimonials:

“This is a fabulous script. We adapted it by dividing up Matt and Lucy’s lines between about 6 other theater staff to create more speaking roles. It was convenient that the theater people could rehearse separately from the choir. We had choir members play the character roles. The theology was outstanding, and meaningful to the kids as well as the adult audience. The rhythm of songs and spoken lines kept it all interesting. Our audience clapped after each song, which gave us lots of time for transitions. This script format is really a masterwork, and we look forward to more productions like this. Thank you very, very, much.”

Sue Ellen Braunlin at First Congregational UCC, Indianapolis 

“Dear LTQ, We did Matt and Lucy’s Version Births yesterday at church. Parents and my senior minister agree that it was the best program the church has ever produced. The script was clever, the kids loved the songs, it was very easy to put together, and the parents were proud as could be. Thanks for making our holiday program great!”
Dan Rodriguez Schlorff, Director of Religious Education, Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist
Kenosha, WI

 “We absolutely loved this program. Traditionally the Church School would hold a “Christmas pageant” after lunch on the Sunday before Christmas, followed by an all-church party. We decided what “Matt and Lucy’s Version Births” had to say was too important for anyone to miss: our children took over the sermon slot so that everyone could hear. We have a tiny, but enthusiastic, Church School – in fact we used the large puppets the young people had created for telling other stories in church, as the holy family, to help us out when one family of several children could not attend at the last minute. The songs are catchy and fun. The backing music is provided. It does not take memorization so much as stage directions, and those are not complicated. The message fits our preaching and it opened doors to encourage people, once again, to our Living the Questions stable studies. Thank you!”  

Janet Douglass, Assistant Pastor, Christ Church, United Methodist, Troy, NY

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