Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Reflections from The Hill – More – John 18.33-37


In some parts of the world, the Christmas season begins on the Friday after the fourth Thursday in November, a fairly complex formula, not unlike some Church Notices. Because this day is always a Friday, it’s called “Black Friday”. I’m told it’s the day when the real business of Christmas – shopping – commences.


Now, look, I know you’re thinking that I’ve really lost the plot and that all that time away from my desk has done me no good. Maybe you’re right, but I’m here to tell you that somewhere in our life hides a gremlin, a gremlin called ‘More’.


More is the one who has convinced us that if we don’t spend up on things – usually things that no-one else seems to want – then Christmas isn’t, well, Christmas. (Just as aside, My Beloved and I give Gift Cards these days. It’s our way of being relieved of at least one layer of guilt.)


The overall effect of this gremlin’s work is that Advent has disappeared, except in the minds of a few religious and/or musical aficionados, and Christmas has degenerated into a spending spree where one can’t buy a Mary, Joseph & the Baby, even for ready money. Knickers and jewellery are another story.


We’d like, nay, love to be able to be counter-cultural and not cave in to the Shop-Till-You-Drop Syndrome. Yet More is such a powerful gremlin that we find it almost impossible to walk away.


Many of us are sickened by the commercialisation of Christmas, probably most of this readership. The paradox is that, somehow, we still seem to get caught up in its clutches.


We are so captivated by the notion that things really do make us happy that we either want More or get angry that we can’t. It’s a bit like playing with a Rubik’s Cube: there’s no solution for us mortals. There are some, however, who do have the information but they’re not telling.


Then there’s the surprise waiting for us in the Gospel today. That surprise is that, for the past few weeks, we’ve been walking the road to Jerusalem with Mark and, all of a sudden, we get catapulted into The Man’s Trial before Pilate, stuff that usually belongs to Holy Week.


It’s an interesting shift because what we read about is a pathetic Pilate caught in the vortex of indecision, between expediency and being right; not being able to make up his mind but scurrying backwards and forwards seven times between the Accusers and the Accused. (There’s a sermon right there for those who are into the subject of numbers in John, by the way.)


Faced with the dilemma, Pilate caves in to the pressure, chooses the easy option and denies the truth that’s staring him in the face. And that’s not a whole lot different from us being caught in the Shop-As-You-Drop-Syndrome. We’ll take expediency pretty much every time. It’s called ‘keeping everyone happy’.


There is a difference, however, between Pilate and us and that’s got to do with how we react to The Man’s Promise. Pilate chose not to listen to him when he said “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” At the very least, we now have the possibility of being different.


The words of the song “Come to the Father” come to mind: Nothing you can do could make Him love you more and nothing that you've done could make Him close the door. Because of His great love He gave His only Son, everything was done so you would come.


Simple, profound, compelling words, yet so very difficult to hear. The noise from the voices in our culture that scream at us, telling us that our worth comes from our possessions threatens to drown out the simple message that God has already called us worthy. That’s grace. We can so easily be deaf to its call.


It’s not stockings full of gifts that are the problem. David Lose says that it’s actually the “relentless insecurity that drives us to believe that we don’t have, and are not, enough” that’s where the struggle is.


We don’t want to have less but we should have more: more peace, more joy, more contentment, a more profound sense of belonging and a clearer idea of just how precious we are to God, the giver of all good things.