There Are Much Worse Things Than My Number One Christmas Song

“There are much worse things ” My number one Christmas song.

This is from the Stephen Colbert Christmas Special, “The Greatest Gift Of All”,back when Stephen Colbert played a right wing blowhard on Comedy Central. I have to admit, I watch the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Some of his skits I find unfunny. When he has”god” as a guest speaking out against the religious right and the news of the day, I find it somewhat offensive and the little fundamentalist in me cringes a little bit. But overall I enjoy his show and his sharp political commentary. The two things that have helped me through this terrible year of politics was my faith and humor.

But this Christmas Special aired in 2008, a time of hope before the rise of the Tea Party and Trump. One of Colbert’s visitors was Elvis Costello and I am posting the entire song here with my commentary.

Elvis: There are cynics, there are skeptics

There are legions of dispassionate dyspeptics

Who regard this time of year as a maudlin insincere

Cheezy crass commercial travesty of all that we hold dear

I do sometimes feel like a dispassionate dyspeptic, someone who sees Christmas and the world around us and wonder “why bother?”

Stephen: When they think that

Well, I can hear it

But I pity them their lack of Christmas spirit

For in a world like ours, take it from Stephen

There are much worse things to believe in.

Elvis: A redeemer and a savior, an obese man giving toys for good behavior

Stephen: The faith in what might be and the hope that we might see

The answer to all sorrow in a box beneath the tree

It is rare for a Christmas special in the 21st century to mention the word “savior,” which is ultimately what we are celebrating. I also love this description of Santa. This song is funny, deep, and a bit irreverent all at once.

Find them foolish

Elvis: Sentimental

Stephen: Well you’re clearly none too bright

Both: so we’ll be gentle

Stephen: Don’t even try to start vaguely conceiving

Both: Of all much worse things to believe in

Stephen: Believe in the judgment, believe in Jihad

Believe in a thousand variations on a dark and spiteful god

The God I worship is a God of justice. I do believe in a final judgement. but it is not spiteful. It is not arbitrary. It is the final reckoning, where all those who abuse their power, all those bullies who hurt people who were weaker than them, will face God’s wrath. I don’t believe in a Jihad or a Crusade. I am a Christian and I abhor violence. Unless it is done to save another life.

Elvis: You’ve got your money, you’ve got your power

You’ve got your science, and all the planets going to end within the hour

Some people call faith a crutch. Well, we live in a sick and broken world and sometimes we might need a crutch, but I don’t like that example. I like the analogy of antibiotics. Our world is sick, our nation is sick with a bacterial infection of fear, hatred, and greed. And I believe that the Holy Spirit, the comforter that Jesus gives us, is the antibiotic that rids us of all that.

Without faith, I have no hope. Without hope, I would be in despair.

Stephen: You’ve got your dreams that don’t come true

Elvis: You’ve got the ones that do

Stephen: Then you’ve got your nothing

Both: Some folks believe in nothing

But if you believe in nothing

Then what’s to keep the nothing from coming for you

I love this line. Nothingness, darkness, loneliness can overwhelm us — overtake us. I do believe that without God, we have no shield. We have no tools to protect us from the world. This world and the way it treats us seems to be designed to destroy us.

Stephen: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

Now if you’ll forgive me there’s a lot to do here

There are stockings still unhung

Colored lights I haven’t strung

Elvis: And a one-man four-part Christmas carol waiting to be sung

Stephen: Call me silly, call me sappy

Call me many things, the first of which is happy

You doubt, but you’re sad

I don’t, but I’m glad

Sometimes atheists seem like the most angry or angriest people in the world. Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Hitchens seem to love to attack people who believe. I don’t know if it comes from fear, anger, hatred, or what, but they don’t seem to be happy people. I know that I do suffer from depression and anxiety and when I think of the religious right, I do get sad and angry. But my belief gives me joy. Whenever I think of Jesus, his ministry, his life, his second coming, I smile and I have hope.

Both: I guess we’re even

Stephen: At least that’s what I believe in

Both: And there are much worse things

With Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior, our Redeemer in a manger in Bethlehem but we also are celebrating the man whose ministry rocked the world. A Rabbi who taught us that we don’t have to be slaves to our fear, our hate, our sin. An innocent lamb who took on all the sin and hate and fear of the world and died one of the most horrible deaths you could have.

We celebrate that Jesus is working today through the Holy Spirit by His believers speaking out against injustice, speaking up for the oppressed, and performing works in this world through a myriad of ways.

And we also celebrate the Jesus that will return in all of His Glory, to judge the living and the dead but also to restore and fully manifest His kingdom — a kingdom without income inequality, no sex trafficking, no war, no violence, a kingdom of humans living the way that we were supposed to before sin entered the world.

That is why I am happy and that is what I believe and there are much worse things.

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