Christian Comments, November 2016

The other day, whist I was walking back to my car after watching Southampton FC play Sunderland at St Mary’s, alongside me was a father walking briskly with his young son. Southampton had been victorious, in a rather bland game beating Sunderland 1-0. The previous year when the two teams had met, Southampton had beaten Sunderland 8-0. The father described this victory to his son – concluding that the game was comical.
The young boy eagerly asked his father – ‘why has the Saints only scored one goal. Surely Southampton should have done better than that?’ His Father entered into a discourse about the merits, tactics, formations of the current team – the boy periodically repeating his father’s words. The lad, trying to keep up, skipped along by his father’s side.
The father informed his son that Southampton has met Sunderland on 67 occasions since 1931. Southampton has won 26 games, drawn 17 and lost on 24 meetings. The boy exclaimed ‘That’s comical! We beat them 8-0 – that’s comical, we should always win’.
Again, his Father eagerly, and with great passion, imparted his knowledge to the boy, knowledge gathered over many years of watching his football team – a team he clearly loved. This too, I assume, was to be his son’s inheritance.
I was struck by the passion with which the father spoke to his son – I was struck by the eagerness of the boy to repeat, assimilate and affirm the deep allegiance so obviously held by his father. It was clearly a very important moment in the life of both the father and the son.
I remember thinking, two thousand years ago we are told, that wherever Jesus went, ordinary people, the people in the stands who could come close, did so – they wanted to hear Him speak, see Him act, join Him in prayer – the eagerness of the ordinary people that came close to Him, testified wherever you look in the Gospels. I imagined all Christians to be the little boy learning their faith from the Father – I dare to dream of a day when all humanity feels the passion and the brilliance of what has been given by God through His Son Jesus to us all.
I realise we are far from that paradise. I believe there is a spiritual hunger that all humans feel – which can sometimes be filled by the distractions of the world, football teams, cars, houses, careers, power, wealth – all of which are transitory, illusionary – comical.
The Christian has one task – make God known in the world, and if need be, use words – to misquote St Francis. Actually, that’s also pretty unfair, there is no dichotomy between words and actions. The two are really important, the task is to make sure our actions live up to our words. We have a duty to proclaim and to draw people near – and as we approach Christmas, that peculiar commercial proposition awkwardly associated with the birth of God amongst us – let us proclaim, let us act, let us pray for all humanity to know God, love God through Jesus Christ.

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