Countdown to Christmas: Day 13. "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Let’s be clear: Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s 1984 hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” did much good. The writers hoped the song could raise £70,000 for famine relief in Ethiopia. Within twelve months of its release, it generated £8 million and exposed millions of new wave fans to the severity of the crisis. That’s the good news.
Even so, I confess I cringe every time I hear this song. This tune seeks to help us see the world differently, but there are obvious cracks in the lenses. In Geldof and Ure’s defense, if they were writing it today, they’d write it differently. Social media and globalization have shortened the distance between people groups, cultures and continents. Those of us in the West know more about geography, cross-cultural communication and diversity than we did then.
Nevertheless, here are my two least favorite lines:

  • “… thank God it's them instead of you.” This may be the only line I’ve heard Bono sing that I can’t stomach. Love, not pity or guilt, should drive us to care for those on the margins. And just because their suffering is evident, doesn’t mean material wealth can mask deep spiritual poverty.
  •  “Where nothing ever grows…” Developing nations are not lifeless barren moonscapes. Yes, drought is real and devastating. But the notion that where “they” live is devoid of beauty in any form is harmful.

The world is filled with tragedy and crises that call for a response. When we go, let’s leave our personal preferences and cultural agendas aside. When we serve those in need, we should do so in the same way Christ comes to us at Christmas: like a holy infant, tender and mild.


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Craig Custance