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Hearing the Songs of the Holy Land.
Saturday 4 January 2014 Articles

On Christmas Eve evening, after listening to quite a lot of Micheal Franti I decided a change was needed to our ‘soundtrack.’ I wanted something a bit Christmassy but in the end I picked a Palestinian singer we had come across a few years ago at Greenbelt.

What happened when I started to listen was interesting. We had just come back from our Crib service, a very English affair, with traditional carols from the New English Hymnal. The weather on the way home was dark and wintery. The music I was listening to was Middle Eastern and, although I had listened to it before, I had a mini culture shock. I was brought up sharp.

Some of the songs on the CD are traditional and while they may not go back to first century Palestine, they conjure up images of a very different time and country. It struck me that this music was closer to that which Jesus might have grown up with than ‘O come all you faithful.’ It was a moment of surprise to remember that Jesus was born in to a very different time and culture from our own.

As I listened to this music and found myself surprised, I was reminded that we sometimes make assumptions about Jesus. We identify him too much with who we are as people. One of the blogs I dip into from time to time recently discussed how we sometimes make Jesus in our own image. Some of those commenting were so worried about making Jesus fit our image that they would rather say nothing about Jesus and leave everything very vague. However neither is what we are called to. Jesus Christ cannot be forced into being who we want him to be. Neither are we to be non-committal about who he is.

The readings in these last few days of Christmas, during the mass make it clear that we are called to witness to the Truth embodied in Christ. We must not hijack that Truth and use the figure of Jesus for our own ends or pretend that we are the ones to define who he is. Nor are we to shrug our shoulders and say we can’t really say anything about him. We have to be witnesses to who Christ has revealed himself to be. And in being witnesses we encounter him anew. Each encounter has the potential to surprise us.

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