Sunday, 21 December 2014

When "all" means all!

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquity. Psalm 51:9
My memories of the many Christmases I’ve seen are almost all happy. But there is just one, from childhood, that rather haunts me.

It was Christmas morning. In our home our parents didn't hang up Christmas stockings; they spread our Christmas presents out on the dining room table. My brother and I would get up early and revel in the job of exploring everything that was there. Our parents would stand watching us, smiling and enjoying our excitement.

I remember, that day, that once we had explored everything in sight I turned to my parents and said, "Is that all?" To be fair to me, I was only a small boy and all I meant was "Have we found everything, so that now we can get on and enjoy playing with all this?" - completely innocent. But, of course, it didn't come out that way - not to my parents, at any rate. It sounded as if I was disappointed and ungrateful - almost like a reproach: "Huh, I don't think much of this! Is this really all you’ve got us?" 

To this day I can still see their faces fall, I can still see their smiles disappear: I had said a hurtful, wounding thing. The fact that we weren't a very well-off family, and that they must have struggled to buy what they did, only makes me feel worse.

I never said sorry - when you’re a child you just don’t see things as you do later, do you? And now my parents have been dead for many years.

Well, I'm sure all of us know what it's like to regret something we've said or done. If only we could bite back that careless word! If only we could undo that stupid act! It's hard when you feel bad about something, but the person you hurt isn't around any more. There's no way you can put things right.

Well, forgive the cliché, but there's no point living with vain regrets. What can't be done can't be done. But this is where the words of the psalmist can help us: "blot out all my iniquity".  

I love that very practical down-to-earth expression blot out. It means that what was previously there - something embarrassing, shameful - just isn't there any more. It can no longer be seen. Indeed, it isn't just covered over, like a mistake scribbled out  in an exercise book, it is actually washed away once for all. No, we can never undo the hurt we caused; but in some way we cannot understand God can take care of it. 

But, even more, I love that little word "all". Why? Because it really does mean all. God loves to blot out even our most glaring sins: yes, even murder, adultery, theft, you name it. But he loves too to blot out the ones where it is now impossible to put things right. His only requirement, if I can use such a clinical-sounding word, is that we humbly recognise them and ask for his forgiveness. His divine but merciful finger is always hovering over the “delete” key.

Not, of course, that we should rest idly if there are situations where we can make amends. Is there somebody in your life entitled to an apology, even some material recompense? Let's face facts: if we don't do it now, the chances are that we never will. The Bible makes it clear in many places that if there is good to be done, the time to do it is now. If there are kind words to be spoken, the time to speak them is now

But back to the main point... God forgives us all our sins! - this is the gospel, the good news.

Happy Christmas!
Dear Lord, you know there are times I would love to take back something I said or did, but am not able to. And it is too late to say sorry. Please help me to learn from my mistake, but to leave it now at your feet, so that it haunts me no more. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment