I love watching television. Most of all, I love watching dramas – hospital-based dramas, detective dramas, legal dramas, period dramas...I love the telling of stories, over a longer arc of time than it is possible to develop characters in the cinema...how we form attachments to characters, by degrees. When Dr Mark Greene died, in ER, I was utterly bereft for about three weeks. Some might think it tragic, to go through a (albeit foreshortened) grieving process for a fictitious human being: I would respond that the gift of good drama is that it trains us to experience and express the full range of human emotions, it allows us to rehearse emotions we will be called upon to exercise at some point or other.
TV is brilliant. But it is also all-pervasive. It enters us, like an alien life-form, and walks around in our body. Over time, our responses to certain types of people or situations change – and this can be for the better or the worse, but is problematic because it is almost always unthinking: and if we respond rightly to another without having thought-through why it is the right response, then that is not really any better than responding wrongly, because we have been passively conformed to a way of thinking without having our own understanding actively transformed.
It is good to watch TV; better to share the sofa with Jesus: to engage in a conversation where we allow God to ask us, “What do you think about that?” and where we ask God, “What do you think about that?” And if we involve the other people we are watching along with, that is even better still.
What does this programme say about the world we live in? About the nature of humanity? About human relationships with other humans; animal and plant life; the earth itself? About God? About the past, that is sewn to our (Achilles) heel like Peter Pan’s shadow? About the future, that throws dignity to the wind in its rush to embrace us? About the endurance of faith, hope and love? About seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking in humility? About forgiveness? About the deepest default longings of the heart?
Advent: making room for Jesus – in front of the TV