Last weekend just about a third of the population of Britain watched the final of the X Factor, Simon Cowell’s talent show juggernaut. I’m not going to take cheap shots at those who watch because I’ve sat in most Saturdays and been part of the audience.
Like Sting, I think it’s damaging to the creative energy that the music world has thrived on for decades, but X Factor more to my taste than Strictly Come Dancing (and it doesn’t have Bruce Forsyth).
But now the winner has been decided, we are being told that 18-year-old Joe McElderry is going to have a stellar career on top of the £1 million recording contract he’s signed as the winner of X Factor. Will he? Only time will tell and time hasn’t exactly been generous to many winners of TV talent shows: indeed it seems to be more of an advantage to come second.
But seven days on from Geordie Joe’s triumph the Church will be invited to listen to another teenager’s song. The main Gospel reading on Sunday is from Mary, the mother of Jesus, who sings out her feelings at realising that she has been asked to give birth to the Messiah. In words that the Church now calls The Magnificat (Luke 1: 39-55) she turns the spotlight off herself and back to God.
The song is the complete opposite from everything that’s been sung over the weeks that X Factor has been on.
Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 48for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
For Mary it was never about what she could get out of being centre stage. The whole experience was about what God was doing in turning the world upside down:
- Bringing down the powerful and lifting up the lowly
- Filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty
- Helping Israel because of His mercy and because of ancient promises he had made
What a contrast to the X Factor culture which encourages us to queue up in order to be idolised. Here is a teenage girl stepping forward, volunteering to be the topic of gossip and backbiting in order that God’s new hope can be revealed to a needy world.
Who is available today? Who will step forward for the audition?