I went on a short new year run through the streets of West London, hoping also to catch sight of the elusive 333 number-plate (no joy).
Running down one road that I don't normally go down I noticed a rather elaborate shrine in the window of one of the first floor flats. There was a large statue of the Virgin Mary, looking out towards me, surrounded by lights and ornaments. It took up the entire window and would not have looked out of place in a slightly gawdy apse of a Catholic Church. In the context of the front window of a flat it certainly seemed ostentatious.
I don't know if this was just a Christmas thing, perhaps rightly putting more emphasis on the mother than the baby (after all, she's the one who has not only had to endure the birth, but has also had to deal with the gossip and confusion of falling pregnant despite never having had sex), or whether this is on display all the year round, casting her pure eye on the inhabitants of this quiet and unassuming street.
I wondered at the motives of someone who so openly displays their religion in this way. I think it's fair enough, if you have faith in something, that you demonstrate this in any way you see fit in your own home (remembering if you are a Christian of Jew that the worship of graven images is expressly forbidden: it's even in the top ten of bad stuff to do), but if the shrine has been erected for the benefit of the homeowner, then why is the Virgin Mary looking out at the world, giving the homeowner a rather unseemly view of her Holy Bottom (though a bottom without a hole is of little use to anyone).
Either the person who has created this monstrosity is showing off about the level of their religosity - "Look at me and the size of my display. I am the best at being Catholic in the world." - or they are attempting to use their shrine to pass judgement on the outside world. Neither of these options are particularly in keeping with the teachings of Jesus, and plus they are going to piss him off anyway, cos there's not even a little statue of him - "All right, my mum had to have the shame and the child-birth (though to be honest, because I'm a God I just popped out like a champagne cork), but I'm the one who had to get nailed up to a tree and to experience the indignity of people eating Hot Cross Buns within three days of my birthday."
There is a third possibility that the flat is owned by someone who loves all things kitsch and they've erected this adornment in a post-modern display of irony. If that is the case they should really have replaced the Virgin Mary with a big laughing model of Father Christmas for the festive season.