There’s a phrase you might be familiar with called “Jump the Shark.” It’s a term used by TV critics (based on a particular episode of Happy Days) to pinpoint the exact moment when programmes change trajectory to head rapidly downhill. We have all sensed the moment when a favourite show loses its bearings and consequently loses its appeal. It prompts you to wonder. What were they thinking? Didn’t they know that was a wrong move? It can happen when a new actor needs to step in, and it can also result from the writers and directors losing touch with their audience and starting to “play to themselves.” They turn inward. It’s the same in music. When a group turns inward and starts to play to itself, instead of their audience, they lose something. They lose the plot. Their fans can feel it and they drift away.
We all know of Bible characters that lost the plot and never really recovered – Cain chose to go the way of envy and anger; Moses, exasperated by the pressures of leadership, overexerted his God-given authority; King Saul impatiently presumed he knew better than the prophet Samuel. Saul’s successor David thought being anointed king included getting everything you want – including another man’s wife. Each of these moments was a life-changing decision, an instant when their life jumped the shark. Each involved a mindset turned inward instead of upward. They were playing to themselves.
As the Christmas season gets rolling, as activities and celebrations and commitments gear up, let’s remember why we do this; let’s not lose the plot. This is indeed a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, even to wear a silly paper hat for dinner and to exchange gifts with loved ones, but Christmas might have jumped the shark when we first allowed the department stores to dictate the script – a gaudy time of long lists, amusing distractions, and running up debt.
Thankfully, the real storyline endures. For reasons known fully only to Himself, God loved us enough to commission His Son to be born into this world. That Son would grow in wisdom and stature, in favour with God and men. And at the time appointed for Him, He would work reconciliation between us and our Creator, something we had no ability to achieve on our own.
We in turn are people of the plot – commissioned to be making disciples as we go about in a dark and depraved world. We gather as a church to celebrate, to encourage, restore, heal, train, and motivate. But we disperse out into those busy city streets as ambassadors of the One True God and of the Son He sent to live and die among us. Lord, protect us from playing to ourselves.
Copyright © 2008, Insight for Living United Kingdom.