The Rebel Jesus
The Chieftains Lyrics


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All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
While their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There's a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer




From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus

Overall Meaning

The Chieftains’ “The Rebel Jesus” is an insightful critique of the commercialization of Christmas and the hypocrisy of those who claim to follow Jesus but fail to live up to his example. The first verse sets the scene of the holiday season with its cheerful music, bright lights, and happy families. But the second verse reveals the darker side of this picture, where the devotion to Jesus is reduced to empty rituals and material wealth.


The chorus introduces the titular character of the song, the rebel Jesus, who defies the established order and challenges the complacency of his followers. The lyrics contrast the peaceful image of Jesus as the Prince of Peace and Savior with the reality of a world that worships money and power. The third verse takes a critical view of the way society is organized, where the rich protect their possessions with violence, and the poor are left to suffer. It concludes with a warning that anyone who tries to change this unjust system will be treated as a rebel, just like Jesus.


Despite its critical tone, the song ends on a positive note, with the singer bidding the listeners to have a happy holiday, even though he himself is “a heathen and a pagan” who identifies with the rebel Jesus. This final message suggests that Christmas can still be a time of joy and hope, but only if we remember its true meaning and act upon it.


Line by Line Meaning

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
The festive season has brought joy to the streets


And the music of the season
The sound of music is everywhere


And the merchants' windows are all bright
The shops are decorated with bright and colorful displays


With the faces of the children
The displays feature happy children enjoying the season


And the families hurrying to their homes
Families are rushing home to be together for the holidays


While the sky darkens and freezes
As the evening sets in and it gets colder outside


Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
They will gather around their fireplaces and dining tables


Giving thanks for God's graces
They will give thanks for God's blessings


And the birth of the rebel Jesus
And also remember the birth of Jesus, who challenged the status quo


Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
He is often referred to as the one who brings peace


And they call him by 'the Savior'
He is also known as the one who saves mankind from sin


And they pray to him upon the seas
People even pray to him when they are at sea


And in every bold endeavor
They seek his guidance and blessings in every challenge they face


And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
People show off their wealth by donating to the church


While their faith in him increases
Their belief in him grows stronger


But they've turned the nature that I worship in
The way people are using the gifts of nature is disappointing


From a temple to a robber's den
They have turned it into a place where only the greedy plunder


In the words of the rebel Jesus
This is what the rebel Jesus would say about the situation


Well we guard our world with locks and guns
We try to protect our world by using guns and locks


And we guard our fine possessions
We are also possessive about our belongings


And once a year when Christmas comes
During Christmas, we show some generosity


We give to our relations
We share our wealth with our family members


And perhaps we give a little to the poor
We may also donate some money to the needy


If the generosity should seize us
If we feel generous at the moment


But if any one of us should interfere
However, if anyone questions why there are poor people


In the business of why there are poor
If they try to investigate the root cause of poverty


They get the same as the rebel Jesus
They face the same consequences as the rebel Jesus did


Now pardon me if I have seemed
I hope you will forgive me if I sound too judgmental


To take the tone of judgement
If my words seem too harsh


For I've no wish to come between
I do not intend to spoil your festive mood


This day and your enjoyment
On this day of celebration, you should enjoy to your heart's content


In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
Life is full of challenges and difficult work


There's a need for anything that frees us
We need anything that can provide us with freedom


So I bid you pleasure
Therefore, I hope you have a lot of fun


And I bid you cheer
I also wish for you to be happy and cheerful


From a heathen and a pagan
I come from a different faith and cultural background


On the side of the rebel Jesus
But I stand with the rebel Jesus in his message against oppression




Lyrics © O/B/O APRA AMCOS
Written by: JACKSON BROWNE

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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tom canterbury


on North Amerikay

the great accapella version by kevin on tribute to their harpist

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