Rev's Christmas Message

'What was the name of the Inn in Bethlehem?' and other big questions...…

Ian St. John, who was there when Bill Shankly spoke those famous words about football being more important that life and death, has since said that they were taken out of context and only intended as a joke.

True or not, they certainly struck a chord with football fans everywhere, whether they support championship contenders or lower-league also-rans.

Most of us would say that there ARE more important things in life than football, not least the big questions that face us all at some time or another, but it is certainly true that there is little point in life if you don't care about anything.

All of us need a bit of passion in our lives, and if that passion is for something that draws communities together, as football does, that's no bad thing - so long as we all remember that football isn't the ultimate answer to the questions of the meaning of life, the universe and everything, as Christmas reminds us all.

So what is life all about? What is the true spirit of Christmas?

There are, of course, many ways in which football fans find meaning in life and express the 'true spirit of Christmas' all year round.

Numerous charities, including the Bobby Moore Fund for Imperial Cancer Research, the Richard House Trust Children's Hospice and the Winged Fellowship have all been beneficiaries of the superb generosity of West Ham fans, and it is in giving that many of us find some of the answers.

None of us will forget local man Lloyd Scott's titanic efforts in raising a phenomenal £150,000 for Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood by undertaking the London Marathon in a diving suit, for example.

In the end, all of us have our own ways of making sense of 'what it's all about'.

For many, the post-Christmas period is a time for reflection, for thinking about the values that make us who we are, and for making sense both of everything that we've lived through, and of our hopes and fears for the future, both as individuals and as members of our families and communities.

One way of doing that that I know many people have found helpful over the past year has been 'the Alpha course' - an initiative which has spread like wildfire across the nation and is now taking place in hundreds of local halls, pubs, homes, churches and even prisons.

(Anyone who wants to know more about Alpha can email me at [email protected]).

Others will have found other ways of doing the same, whether individually or with friends and family.

The important thing is to make time in your life for that sort of reflection at some point, to find - quite literally - a bit of peace in the rush of life.

Christmas Day is, of course, only the first of TWELVE days of Christmas, so, whatever you do during the holidays, on behalf of everyone at this club may I wish you a truly peaceful Christmas and very happy New Year.

And what was the name of the inn in Bethlehem?

'The Kosher Horses', of course.

Elwin Cockett

Club Chaplain