“How can we sing the songs of the kingdom as strangers in our own land?” The Israelites in exile refused to sing the songs of Zion, they should be sung in Zion’s land. Half a millennium later Zion’s Messiah told his ambassadors to sing the song of the kingdom throughout the world and when they came to Europe we were glad.
We too sing the songs of the kingdom. But the people of the place from which that song came, sing their songs of joy and praise tinged with sadness and hopeless hopefulness.
The ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ is surrounded by barbed wire, concrete and guns. From Incarnation to Incarceration, the place of Jesus’ birth a prison, the shepherds fields cut of by ‘the Wall’. Venture there and you too may be ‘cut off’.
What will you sing this Christmas time? How will you sing of Bethlehem? Will we be mindless of the pain of those who live there, or, shall we sing with a heartfelt commitment to justice for the persecuted, whether Christian, Muslim, Jew or other? Will we honour the incarnation; Jesus among us; through living the kingdom, challenging power, speaking truth, demanding justice and peace?
Or shall we just sing — of shepherds, angels, lambs, and a baby — of father Xmas, reindeer and presents — but nothing of the greater gift: of crucifixion, of resurrection, of rejection of earthly empires, of the kingdom of God ‘on earth as in heaven’.
Our choice: no-one is watching …