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America’s annual Super Bowl always occasions some very funny commercials. In 2008, Tide Detergent produced a series of ads centered around talking stains. My favorite rendition shows a man interviewing for a job. His shirt is stained with something like coffee. Every time the interviewer asks a question, the animated stain responds in a voice just a little louder than the interviewee himself. Aside from the volume issue and the simultaneity of voices, there is one other factor: the stain speaks a ridiculous gibberish in a peculiar voice that is both irritating and highly amusing. Of course, the interviewer cannot help staring at the stain and concentrating on the ruckus it is making. Regrettably, the nice man wearing the shirt is unaware that his clothes are talking as he sincerely prattles on. Personally, I’d hire the stain but show the dufus to the door.
The spiritual parallel is obvious. Through our behavior, words and actions—a body of things that constitute our outward being—most of us bear stains that speak loudly. Talking about this is as awkward as, well, unknowingly wearing a stained shirt. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous maxim says it best: “Who you are is speaking so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying.” He could have worked for Tide.
Thankfully, Advent gives us a chance to dial it down and clean it up. Our lovely carol reminds us that fresh possibilities are on the wing: “Angels announce with shouts of mirth, him who brings new life to earth.” Here’s the fantastic news: although stained by our own sin, each of us can still be washed as white as snow. It’s paradoxical but the cleansing agent is actually not a laundry pen but the blood of the Lamb. Honestly. While such evangelical language is not a favored way of speaking in post-modern times, it remains a potent truth that our salvation comes at the cost of a cross.
My commercial ends when these words pop up on the screen: “Silence the stain. Instantly.” This is the message of Advent.
Prayer: Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee. Amen.