Giving Thanks (01.01.22)
Giving Thanks by Matt Baker
National Director for England for Sports Chaplaincy UK & Chaplin at Charlton Athletic FC
The first football match I attended was Boxing Day 1975. I don't remember much about the game except that we lost (Charlton 1 Portsmouth 3) and getting my first taste of terrace banter! However, I do remember who I was with - my family, including both Grandads, now long departed – and regardless of the result it gave a warm sense of belonging.
Christmas for me has always been a time of celebration around faith, family and football. Beginning with celebrating and giving thanks for Jesus' birth at church, then eating Christmas dinner celebrating as family, followed the next day by going to the Boxing Day game together.
Reading: Luke 2.15-19
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’) and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, 'a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.'
The shepherds returned home after that first Christmas glorifying and praising God for all that they had seen and heard. It was a time of celebration and thanksgiving. A short while later when Jesus was presented in the Temple it was a time of celebration and giving thanks for his birth.
Celebrating and giving thanks are at the heart of the Christian faith. I have been privileged to pray with footballers over the years in my role as chaplain, including one player who always insisted that we should have an 'attitude of gratitude' in our lives.
We all have different experiences and memories of Christmas past: some of those will be happy and some tinged with sadness. Christmas 2020 may have been particularly difficult as many were not able to meet with friends and family. But why not pause now and reflect on the theme of celebration and thanksgiving.
Come and the celebration