n his pastoral letter for December, the Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt Revd Clive Gregory, mulls on the arbitrary way that faults and failings sometimes do and dont come to light after paying his fourth speeding fine.
And he recommends the season of Advent as an ideal opportunity to hold our own particular transgressions up to the light of Jesus teaching and example, that our record might be wiped clean before Christmas.
'During my 30 years of driving I have picked up 4 speeding fines,' he says, 'all of which have occurred when I have mistakenly thought the speed limit was 40 miles per hour when it was actually 30 …… Unfortunately two of these occasions have arisen in the last month ! So I am now just two mistakes away from possible disqualification.
A very sobering thought and rather ironic really as my wife frequently gets fed up with my generally sedate driving style.
'After receiving these successive penalty notices I went through various feeling: anger (shouldnt they be concentrating on catching dangerous drivers rather than setting traps for people like me?); denial (Im sure the speed limit wasnt signposted properly); resignation (I wonder whether I can do a course rather than take all the points on my licence?). But a sense of smouldering resentment lingered and a little self-pity (They would have films in those particular cameras wouldnt they?). I have thought of myself as a victim of the arbitrary and cruel hand of fate…
'And the truth is that countless transgressions (motoring and otherwise) go unnoticed and unpunished every minute of every day. If there were cameras on every road in the country I dont suppose many of us would be left to drive after a while. If there was a film detailing our every thought and action, could any of us bear to watch it?
'Thank God, literally, for the season of Advent. A time when Christians are encouraged, as we look forward to celebrating the coming of Christ at Christmas, to prepare ourselves, as if to meet Him for the first time. And a crucial part of the preparation, urged on us by the prayers, readings hymns and carols of the season, is to make ourselves accountable to God, with fresh transparency, for who and what we are. Our lives are all disfigured by what the Bible calls works of darkness.
'Most of them, most of the time, like motoring offences, we get away with, so it takes honesty and courage to bring them into the light, the place of painful scrutiny. But it is only when held up to the light, the light of Christs teaching and example, His love and forgiveness, that our particular pools of darkness can be dispelled and their power over us taken away.'