February 2019: Thought For The Month

January 25 2019

Do you hear the people sing?


hen Victor Hugo published his epic historical novel in 1862, I doubt he foresaw that 150 years later it would be adapted into a long running musical watched by millions across the world, that it would spawn numerous film versions and TV adaptations, and lead to a classic TV moment, when Susan Boyle’s rendition of a Hugo inspired song almost knocked Simon Cowell off his perch. 

When it was first published one critic described ‘Les Miserables’ as repulsive and inept, whilst another judged it ‘artificial and disappointing’. Needless to say I hold a rather more positive view, and in one over indulgent week in January I managed to consume an episode of the TV mini-series, the Russell Crowe film musical and the musical itself at the Queens Theatre in London. I just can’t get enough of Les Miserables.

In case you’ve somehow missed out on this epic story, it’s the tale of an ex-convict Jean Valjean and his nemesis, the intense justice seeker Inspector Javert. Whilst Javert is consumed by the desire for justice and punishment; Valjean’s life is turned upside down by an act of great mercy, which leads him on a journey of transformation. Having been taken in for the night by the kindly Bishop of Dignes, Valjean betrays his host by fleeing in the middle of the night with his finest silver. Having been apprehended by the police, he is returned to face his host and anticipates punishment. The Bishop in an act of outrageous grace not only allows him to keep the silver but also gives him further items that he’d left behind. The police are dismissed and Valjean is given a fresh start in life. That’s enough of a spoiler, but if you haven’t seen the film, musical or mini series I’d highly recommend it.

There’s a rumour that the musical will visit the Bristol Hippodrome in its UK tour sometime next year.

Why do I love this story so much you may ask – well, apart from the great tunes and spectacular stage set of the musical, the message of redemption rings true. The mercy shown by the Bishop of Dignes mirrors the mercy and grace of God shown towards us. Despite our rebellion and self-centred living, he is willing to forgive us our past failings and set us on a new path. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus his son, he gives life and fresh hope, purpose and direction. We don’t deserve it, but God gives it anyway.

Valjean in receipt of God’s mercy is compelled to live differently – God’s grace if taken seriously is transformational. It’s on offer to you today – find out more at a church near you!

Paul Peterson

Associate Minister and self-confessed Les Miserables addict

Christ Church Downend