Child of joy and peace
Source: Singing the Faith: 194
Words: Shirley Murray
Music: “Child of joy” by Valerie Ruddle
Correction to music: Time signature is not 3/4 – should be blank as it’s mostly 4/4 apart from the final two bars
Ideas for use
This hymn doesn’t conform to the usual conventions of a Christmas carol. We begin with joy and end in shame. Consider:
- starting verse 1 quite loudly and then reducing the volume for each verse, ending quietly
- using the hymn to lead straight into prayers for others and the world
- visualising the final words of the carol by hanging a crucifix image on a Christmas tree
The word ‘peace’ is a fundamental building block of Shirley Erena Murray’s hymn making. She has said that “almost everything I have written revolves, ultimately, round the concept of ‘peace’ in all it many manifestations.” In this hymn, she takes the angels’ promise of peace (Luke 2: 13-14) to encompass justice and fairness for all. She calls the hymn “Hunger Carol”; its key lines conclude verse 3:
Christmas must be shared,
every child needs bread.
“Child of joy and peace” was written in 1987 “as a protest at our consumer society.” Shirley says she needed to ensure that when we celebrate the birth of Jesus we also admit the needs and the pain of the world into which God entered. “I was struggling with the unreality of singing an incarnational Christmas without its shadow side, and the endless greed of consumer societies set against the much more needy ones.”* So her carol emphasises the context of Jesus’ birth (discomfort, uncertainty, poverty) and the implicit challenge to the way we live now:
by our greed we crucify you
on a Christmas tree,
Son of poverty.
Read more about Shirley Erena Murray in the articlce, A jolt of reality.
(*Janet Wooton, This is our Song:women’s hymn-writing p. 302)