As we approach the festive weekend, our brilliant Club Chaplain, John Toller has written his annual Christmas Message
“Twas the week before Christmas; across in Qatar
Gold was presented (no incense, or myrrh)
To Messi, perhaps The Greatest of All Time
After a game that was just simply sublime.”
OK, that’ll do for the bad poetry. I’m still a bit unsure what’s going on this Christmas – never thought I’d ever watch a World Cup final before going out to our carol service! I’ve enjoyed the football – some great games, and always love a big upset (plus I’m definitely in the Messi = GOAT camp) – but there’s been something unreal about the whole thing, and not only the time of year.
Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of having the World Cup in Qatar, questions about human rights – civil liberties, working conditions – dominated the first couple of weeks. There’s something a bit jarring about seeing the huge expense of the event, the massive wealth on display, the advertising, when even in our rich country there are people struggling to make ends meet; or pouring money into the world’s 2nd largest exporter of natural gas when energy bills are crippling.
While all that has been going on, though, there’s been a lot of people doing a massive amount of work to make a real difference to people’s lives this Christmas. I think I’ve been more aware of that than ever. Food banks, warm spaces, toy donations, cafes, churches and other places opening for food on Christmas Day – it’s been amazing to see people’s generosity and kindness coming through.
For me, that’s a much better representation of Christmas than the expense and glory of a World Cup. The first Christmas had some obvious glory – the gold from the wise men, the choir of angels – but most of the glory was hidden in poverty, oppression, scandal, and danger. The experience of Jesus was more like the experience of the majority of the world’s population, struggling through, than the privileged few. But that’s why it’s a story that brings so much hope – because it’s about God stepping into the struggles of everyday life, with the poor and broken, to lift us up, to change everything.
So when I see people doing the same thing – using what they have to step in to help others when they need it – I see Christmas in action. The glory of a World Cup is all very well; it was fun while it lasted. But this is the stuff that makes a lasting difference. Whether you’re in a position to give, or in need of help, I hope you have a very happy Christmas.