Next Christmas in Jerusalem

Susan J. Dallion, AKA Siouxsie Sioux is one of my favorite musical artists.  I have great respect for her music, her band, and her art.  Their songs make me wonder whether rock music can be considered as poetry in its own right. Do lyrics hold their own when read without the music? I am the type of person who considers the words FIRST—the message, whether subliminal or explicit, is paramount.

The song Israel analyzed as text has several diverging strands of sub-text:

  • Anti-semitic Goth-Rock sensationalism (shock value)
  • The singer’s personal disenchantment with Judeo-Christian religion
  • a critique of the commercialization of Christmas
  • The founding of Israel in 1948
  • Yearning for the glory of a vanished Davidic past
  • Israel’s rejection of Christ’s new covenant

Each of these conjectures would be worth exploring but I want to simply show you the lyrics and post some meanings I have discerned in the words. The song has always conjured up for me an image from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck: the Five of Pentacles.

Little orphans in the snow / With nowhere to call a home
Start their singing, singing
Waiting through the summertime / To thaw your hearts in wintertime
That’s why they’re singing, singing…
Waiting for a sign to turn blood into wine
The sweet taste in your mouth / Turned bitter in its glass
Israel…in Israel
Shattered fragments of the past / Meet in veins on the stained glass
Like the lifeline in your palm
Red and green reflects the scene / Of a long-forgotten dream
There were princes and there were kings
Now hidden in disguise / Cheap wrappings of lies

Keep your heart alive with a song from inside
Even though we’re all alone, we are never on our own when we’re singing
There’s a man who’s looking in, and he smiles a toothless grin
Because he’s singing, singing…
See some people shine with glee, but their song is jealousy
Their hate is clanging, maddening…
In Israel…will they sing Happy Noel?
Israel…in Israel will they sing Happy Noel ?

The song is cryptically open-ended.  It can  be spun in any direction because it is so vague. But I love the divinatory / liturgical  imagery of these verses:

Shattered fragments of the past / Meet in veins on the stained glass
Like the lifeline in your palm

Red and green reflects the scene / Of a long forgotten dream
There were princes and there were kings…
Now hidden in disguise / cheap wrappings of lies

Keep your heart alive with a song from inside . . .

It all comes together in some kaleidoscopic way; the light shining through the stained glass, the divinatory desperation, the Christmas colors in the cheap wrappings of holiday gifts now given a deeper and richer Hebraic dimension of meaning.  There is even a possible Merovingian sub-text because she uses the Frankish word Noël for Christmas.
Yet it ends with a self-negating riddle: 

“In Israel will they sing Happy Noel ?”

The more I think I am pinning it down the more elusive it is!

I recently found some words by J.I. Packer in his book Knowing God which, for me, immediately summoned lines from this cryptic song. I have no way of knowing what Siouxsie’s original  intent was. I feel the lyrics stand on their own right as poetry. There are certainly dark possibilities in the song but I prefer to dwell on the transcendent metaphysics of the imagery. What I found in Packer’s writing [* on the subject of Divine Adoption]:

” There are no distinctions of affection in the divine family. We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved. It is like a fairy story – the reigning monarch adopts waifs and strays to make princes of them. But, praise God , it is not a fairy story; it is hard and solid fact, founded on the bedrock of free and sovereign grace. This, and nothing less than this, is what adoption means.”

Siouxsie and the Banshees will have to forgive me. I have read my own message into their music, but that is what great art makes us do:  search for meaning in Life.

* Packer, J.I. Knowing God. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1973, p. 216

One comment on “Next Christmas in Jerusalem

  1. Luana Fiuza says:

    Reblogged this on Se não há Luz não há Cor.


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