The girls were ready, Paddy had the TV studio audience to their usual fever pitch but as the lift descended, some of the girls were already making up their mind.
No pounding dance track, no rappers promising steamy nights of passion or singing of male bravado. Instead, the haunting voice of Enya singing ‘O Come o come Emmanuel.’
The audience were momentarily silenced, not quite sure what to make of it all. Three of the girls mentally decided to turn off their lights before they had even seen the person descending.
When he finally came into view, a murmur of laughter began to ripple around the audience. They weren’t laughing with him, but at him.
The Director cut to close-ups of the girls, several of them in visible shock. There was nothing in his appearance that they should desire him. Despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity. Middle-eastern, a shock of dark brown hair, a little short, wearing nothing more complex than a robe, belt and sandals. He was clearly this evening’s novelty item, a village idiot to laugh at, soon to give way to the handsome, muscular hunks in tight t-shirts who would offer better options.
The number of girls hovering with their hand above their buttons to ‘opt out’ grew.
He took up his mark on a platform amongst the audience and introduced himself. “Good evening ladies, I am the Bridegroom.”
The audience laughed again. Around the nation, many supped their cup of tea in front of the television and commented to husband or wife “Come and see this muppet”.
Paddy encouraged the girls to make their initial decision. “No lightey, no likey.”
The music cue sounded and the lights began to go out like rain. Ten quickly red, then a machine gun of red light after red light, three red on the far right, two to the far left… eventually just ten remaining.
Paddy tried to reassure the Bridegroom that he was still in it with ten lights still lit. “I’ve seen worse” he said. The audience wondered if he had.
In the second round, the pre-recorded video gave us more background. Born in a backwater village in the North-East (another light goes), son of a carpenter with a manual trade (another light goes), currently has nowhere to live other than with his parents (another light goes), relies on the kindness of strangers as he travels the country preaching (three lights go out at the word ‘preaching’) and helping the sick, the dying, the unloved, those whom others reject (two more lights go).
As the round draws to a close, three lights remain. Paddy can see a blackout coming on. He probably thought he had a blackout when the love lift started to descend. He’s been doing this for a few series now and knows the ones that won’t stand a chance.
An unkempt beard belied a kind smile from the Bridegroom. Paddy went to talk to the three remaining girls. Sharon noticed he warm, brown eyes. Esther praised his desire to help people and bring kindness to those he met. Ruth simply said “there’s something different about him”. Again, it drew the audience to laughter, although her reaction to their mockery showed she hadn’t meant it as a veiled insult but a genuine feeling.
The final round was another video. This time from his friends and family. They spoke of someone unique, someone they believed had a big future. Just before the end his mother spoke and said “He’s my gift from God.” Two more lights went out as soon as his adoring mother spoke. Only Ruth remained.
Paddy came back to the Bridegroom in congratulatory mood. The audience continued to laugh but the Bridegroom remained unmoved. He simply smiled at Ruth and led her from the stage.
Backstage after the show, the Bridegroom was an unusual centre of attention much to his fellow male contestant’s chagrin. Even their dates seemed more interested in what He had to say. Many of the girls who had rejected him earlier, sat entranced as he spoke and told stories. After more than an hour, when it came time to go, a good few tried to muscle in on Ruth’s new man. “Sir” they said “Let us come with you.”
He replied “I tell you the truth. I don’t know you. Come on Ruth, let us go.” Along with many of his friends and family who had appeared on the video and were now with him at the door, Ruth joined the most unlikely of groups with a smile. The Bridegroom surrounded by his followers walked quietly away into the night.
Based on Matthew 25.1-13