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  • Writer's pictureEcumenical Women

Do You Hear What I Hear

A litany written by the Rev Dionne P. Boissiere, Chaplain for the Church Centre for the United Nations


The song “Do You Hear What I Hear” was written by Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker wrote in 1962 around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. One article says it this way, “It’s the nativity story, retold during the Cold War.” The lyrics that mention “the star dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite” instinctively conjures images of the biblical star of Bethlehem, leading the Magi to the son of God. However, for the writers it was an awe-filled fear of the missiles launched during war. This reminds me of where we are now and have been for far too long. Amid the noise of the holidays, we remember not just the Hamas War, or the war in the Ukraine but also in Sudan, Yemen, Libya and all 14 active wars and over 23 other areas of conflict in the world; we see the mass shootings, rape and violence, stolen children, the kidnapped, the grieving and those mourning unconceivable loss; the desecration of sacred spaces – treacherous religious extremism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Black, Asian hate, and the list continues. Using this song, traditionally used as a Christmas carol as an outline for this holy litany seemed to be fitting. As we culminate the 16 Days of Activism, may come together on this UN Human Rights Day, continue to see, and honor the sacred worth of all humanity, especially women and girls that suffer at the hands of violence. And as people of faith, we are called to consciously subvert all that evil tries to take from us and recall the holy season and the reason for true celebration – unconditional love, sacred traditions and ritual, joy that finds us even in the sadness, hope, peace, and light. I pray that you can use this litany throughout the holy season. May we take some time to consider the state of the human condition and offer compassion and condemnation. And then may we come alongside one another to put our faith in action towards the things that make for peace.


Do you hear what I hear?

Deep exhaustion has given way to clouds of doubt, grief, fear, and angst. Hoping is costly. Waiting has been excruciating…and believing in justice has felt as elusive as trying to capture air. Merciful God, whisper into our ears’ words of hope and expectancy.


BUT (Do you hear what I hear?)

The Great Spirit is breathing a fresh wind…Guiding us through this holy season with divine anticipation and the blessed assurance that we are not alone. Listen as God is with us even in the darkness and beckons us into the light. May we respond to the Divine call that reminds us that our waiting on God is not passive and is never in vain.


Said the night wind to the little lamb Do you see what I see?

Safety has become an illusion outside of the sanctuary of God’s unfailing love. Conflict, war, recklessness, medical apartheid, inequities, and injustice(s)…have eroded our trust in that which should harbor hope and protection. Trauma and violence are succeeding at desensitizing us to the pain of others.


(Do you see what I see?)

Way up in the sky, little lamb Brokenness and division blinding us to reality of human suffering all around; fragile economies, viruses and variants, no sense of protection or security extending to the margins. Yet, the Light that IS everlasting love extends beyond time and space. This light that will carry us when we are weary and can find us in our deepest pain.


Do you see what I see?

Weariness and sorrow which have become our constant companions. Yet, there is a glimpse of the boundless Love that lifts and liberates. An eternal love that holds us up and helps us meet the needs of the misdiagnosed. A deeper look inside a love that has no shame of condemnation, that is abiding, radically welcoming, unfailing, and revolutionary.


BUT (Do you see what I see?) A star, a star, dancing in the night

With a tail as big as a kite With a tail as big as a kite

The Life-giving God is touching the deep places within us, so that isolation, fear, and loss will no longer keep us hidden from the light. Comfort and abiding joy are chasing after us with each day’s brand-new mercies. And while we wait to see the hope-filled future may we reimagine every possibility with vision and not just sight.


Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy Do you hear what I hear?

Sounds of gun shots at our schools, in our places of recreation…words of hate reverberating through our streets landing in front of our temples, mosques, churches and sacred places, even in the hallowed halls of government and throughout global communities. Yet, justice has a sound, and She still sings loudly. May we pause long enough in this holy season to listen.


(Do you hear what I hear?) Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy Do you hear what I hear?

The songs of emancipation, of revolution, sacred hymns of hope and transformation in a God who sustains and nourishes with peace and justice. The heavenly refrain that reaches the earth calling for truth, harmony, dignity of life and creation and the rights of every human being to dwell in safety and freedom.


(Do you hear what I hear?) A song, a song high above the trees

With a voice as big as the sea With a voice as big as the sea

Melodies from heaven that can wash over every anxious heart with waves of calm amid every form of distress. The holy refrain of a God whose hand can quench the fires of war and make destruction cease. And the only One who can make the trees for the healing of every nation a reality on this side of eternity.


Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king Do you know what I know? (Do you know what I know?) In your palace warm, mighty king

There is a Holy One that will be a healing balm over every grieving heart, every community devastated by natural disaster, and every nation ravaged by war and hate. This Great Love will strengthen us so we can pray with our feet. This kind of Love always wins.


Do you know what I know? (Do you know what I know?) A Child, a Child shivers in the cold Let us bring him silver and gold Let us bring him silver and gold

May the holy season of Advent remind us of the unfailing love of God born into this world through Yeshua, Jesus Christ…the Prince of Peace has come into the world to bring eternal light, everlasting love, and abundant life. May the sacred Festival of Lights that is Hanukkah encourage us to rededicate ourselves, like the holy temple, to the Liberating God who leads us through darkness, lighting the path for us always; May the Winter Solstice remind us of the awe and majesty of Mother Earth and propel us to care for Her daily; and May the principles of Kwanzaa ground all of us throughout this holy season, in the strength of community, heritage, family, culture and consistency of God’s love and sustaining peace.


Said the king to the people everywhere Listen to what I say! (Listen to what I say!)

Pray for peace, people, everywhere The voice that cries out in the wilderness is echoing the Holy One, who will help us resist soul draining systems and ignite our collective imaginations with endless possibilities. May that divine grace and mercy follow us daily as we seek the wellspring of Your abundant strength and keep holding on to Your reconciling peace.


Listen to what I say! (Listen to what I say!) The Child, the Child sleeping in the night He will bring us goodness and light He will bring us goodness and light

In the depths of sorrow and weariness, may the immutable light of God shine on us wherever we find ourselves during this holy season. May our mustard seed faith continue to grow so that our hearts break open to receive and reflect the model of Your revolutionary love ---A love that holds the promise of peace and light for ourselves and all creation.


Amen, Amin, Ase…. May it be so!

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