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Downton Abbey and Keeping up Appearances

mast-downton-s4-series-icon-hiresI really enjoy watching Downton Abbey, there is just something about the characters that are likeable and they have a lifestyle that’s alien but intriguing to us.

There is also something quite notable in the series, the image of perfection. Sweeping everything under the carpet that might “damage” a families or a persons reputation. Children out-of-wedlock must be hidden away, fights and brawls must be kept behind closed doors and its all replaced with smiles and fine clothing.

On the outside everything looks perfect, the house itself is immaculate with its beautiful paintings, long carpets and exquisite dining etiquette. From the outside, it looks like nothing is wrong and as guests filter in with their frocks and bow ties no one would be the wiser. But everyone is keeping up appearances and deep down they are harbouring secrets.

Downton Abbey is all about keeping up appearances. It’s about a family struggling with the changing society that places their traditions as something that should be collecting dust in the museum. The family hides many secrets behind those traditions and to lose them may mean exposure. As the show goes on, they wrestle with this.

Downton Abbey exposes a deep-seated problem in humanity – the desire to hide our guilt and shame. We want to save face, we don’t want people to know our secrets or our failings – we want to be seen as good, perfect and the right sort of human being. We may not have the traditions of Downton Abbey, but our hiding mechanisms are similar even if our closed doors may be more virtual – facebook and twitter, where we keep up appearances, despite everything behind the persona, is in fact, falling apart.

We shouldn’t be surprised. This is a problem for the human condition and we see it in Genesis 3.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:7-8 ESV)

Adam and Eve realise their shame and disobedience and rather than exposing what they had done to the Lord, they instead hide. They thought that fig leaves and tress could hide them. But it couldn’t.

Keeping_Up_Appearances_CastWe try to hide behind many things – thinking they will protect us, thinking that its better to hide our sin rather than expose it and repent. If we continue to hide our guilt and shame – the devil begins to throw it back at us and cracks begin to show, where the reality of the weight of the shame we carry, is just too much for us.

Instead there is a better place to hide. There is better clothing to put on (better than fig leaves, gowns and facebook!). We need to be clothed in Christ – in his righteousness, where he carries our sin and shame and where we no longer have to hide in darkness but we are free to expose our sin to the light and get Christ to deal with it.

I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. – Job 29:14

It is a better place to be. We soon find in ourselves and in Downton Abbey that keeping up these appearances never last long. The secret comes out, gossip spreads and there is more hurt and shame then there was before.

But in Christ there is no condemnation. We are free from hiding because Christ knows our hearts and can deal with our guilt and shame more than we can. Just as he clothed Adam and Eve in the garden – he clothes us too, with the blood shed on the cross.

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