These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

There are now over 50 posts to check out, tweet, link to facebook or google+ Please feel free to share a link BUT If you use any of the illustrations please acknowledge the source as Phil Manchester, Bradford, England. You can follow me on twitter @philmanchester

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Festive Fixtures

Going to watch any sport over the Christmas and New Year period is an experience not to be missed. There is a different kind of atmosphere in the ground.

Rugby is well known for the friendliness and banter among opposing fans - with no crowd segregation required, in fact quite the opposite is true. On many occasions I have shaken hands with total strangers at the end of a game, where we have cheered our own, applauded the skills of our opponents, debated the finer points of refereeing decisions (for both sides) and laughed at funny incidents and the wise cracks of fellow fans. But at the Festive games, this goes to another level - with Santa Claus hats, festive singing, mince pies being passed out by people who you've never seen before, seasonal greetings mixed with another kind of spirit and "hellos" and "handshakes", like you've not seen the people sitting next to you for a decade - when in fact they were there at the last home game!!

The players get involved, laughing  and joking, even the match officials seem to be less stuffy. At one festive game, in front of a very large crowd, a rather "stout" referee, jogged up to an incident flagged as a "late tackle" on one of our players, and in a very loud voice, for the benefit of the crowd, said "that tackle was so late, even I got there before you" even louder jeers and shouts from the crowd ..."keep off the mince pies ref"...

But against this backdrop, not quite overshadowed by the festivities, there is a game to be played out. The matches over the holiday period, surrounded by the fun and banter, are often pivotal to the remainder of the season and can, in the mud, snow, rain and wind, be defining moments for individual players - some with international selection on their mind.

As a man of faith, these games remind me of another defining moment, which today is often and rightly surrounded by fun, family and all that a major festival has on offer - the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Christmas is a celebration. Its a celebration in many ways like the crowd scenes at a festive match. Goodwill breaks out. People who hardly speak, take the time to talk to each other, people share food and banter. But in the same way, now almost overshadowed by the festivity, let us not forget, a crucial game was being played out too, with destiny at its center.

As with festive fixtures, against the background of a crowd filled with festive cheer, the birth of the man's man Jesus, was a defining moment. For Christmas, marks the potential for a turning point in the affairs of every man, wherever his life's journey has taken him so far. What is being played out, is God's game plan for humanity, with Jesus Christ as the key play maker. His birth, life and subsequent death and resurrection, make it possible for anyone to experience the kind of feeling we get at Christmas, throughout the whole year - that understanding that there is a peace, a sense of well being and goodwill toward others and perhaps, the most important aspect, the appreciation that what has been, can be laid aside, forgiven and a man can make new start.

In the same way that a match, an encounter over the festive period can shape the rest of the season for a team, an encounter with the man's man, the Christ of Christmas, can be a defining moment, changing the rest of the "season" for us as individuals.

So, against the background of the festive period, lets spare a thought for the players out on the pitch, recognizing, its game on! Then, pausing, spare a thought for the key player in the humble scene from Bethlehem and recognize that for us too, it can be - game on!