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christmas in a time of war

Composed in the wake of 9/11, The Dream Isaiah Saw became a contemporary Christmas classic. The hymn’s powerful evocation of the peaceable kingdom, described by the prophet Isaiah (11:6–9), is wrenchingly difficult to hear at Christmas 2023. For once again, “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

Adapted from an opinion piece by George Weigel in “The Catholic Difference” the official publication of the Archdiocese of Denver.

What Hamas did October 7—swooping into a music festival on paragliders, beheading infants, slaughtering children and grandmothers, raping and then killing. And what Hamas has done since, using toddlers as hostages behind which to hide, is the 21st century version of King Herod’s ruthlessness.

With one important difference. The slaughter Herod ordered did not arise out of religious conviction; his was a mania for power. Hamas is motivated by religious conviction—warped religious conviction, to be sure; false religious conviction, undoubtedly; but religious conviction, nonetheless.

Yes, Hamas has a political program. Its slogan, “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” is as despicable a euphemism for extermination as was the Nazis’ “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Question”.

What turns people into deranged murderers and “martyrs,” who by all accounts enjoyed killing 1,400 innocents on 10/7? A vile belief that what they were doing was the will of God.

It was not. Only a fundamentally distorted understanding of “God” could lead to such a wicked conclusion.

The past two months have been deeply traumatic for Jews all over the world. This year Christians should read with special care the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. That apostle drives home the point that Jesus of Nazareth, whom we believe to be the incarnate Son of God, is also the Son of David, the king who presages the messianic kingdom.

With sobered but faithful hearts, let us hold fast to our hope for the final triumph of
The Dream Isaiah Saw. Its coming was inaugurated by the birth of the child in the manger, whom Christians confess as Lord.

Lions and oxen will sleep in the hay Leopards will join with the lambs as they play
Wolves will be pastured with cows in the glade
Blood will not darken the Earth that God made.

Little child whose bed is straw Take new lodgings in my heart Bring the dream Isaiah saw: Life redeemed from fang and claw.

Nature reordered to match God’s intent
Nations obeying the call to repent All of creation completely restored Filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.

Little child whose bed is straw
Take new lodgings in my heart
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
Knowledge, wisdom, worship, awe.