Something to Celebrate!
by Major Chick Yuill –
It will be no surprise to regular readers of this column to learn that I have been following the World Cup in France with the closest attention. Apart from my belief that soccer is the best sport on the planet, there is also the fact that Scotland has qualified for the finals, so my interest could hardly be greater.
Now let me tell you the progress of the World Cup thus far–from a Scottish viewpoint, of course! In the opening game of the tournament we played the mighty Brazilians. The Scots played with a lot of heart and no little skill, only to lose cruelly when the ball was deflected from one of their own players into the Scottish goal in the second half. The inhabitants of that tiny nation to the north of England were not disheartened, however. We were, after all, glorious in defeat, and over the centuries we’ve had lots of practice at being glorious in defeat, both on the soccer field and on the battlefield.
In the next game we played the Norwegians. This one was a little more challenging to the national psyche of the Scots. Unlike Brazil, the Norwegians are not the world’s greatest soccer team, nor are they a much larger nation than we are in terms of population. If we had been defeated, it would not have been nearly so easy to turn it into a kind of moral victory! However the Scottish team, after losing the first goal, fought back bravely to tie the game and keep our hopes of progressing to the next round alive.
The party which followed the game with Norway was something for the French to behold. Scotsmen attired in kilts and soccer jerseys, and wearing the obligatory blue and white face paint, danced and sang to the accompaniment of those ubiquitous bagpipes in the wee, small hours of the morning. And it was then that one of the Scottish fans, almost at a point of exhaustion, made a very telling comment to a journalist who was covering the occasion. “This is amazing,” he said with a tear in his eye. Then just for a minute he allowed himself to ponder what he hardly even dared hope for. “I wonder what it will be like if we actually win a game!”
Can you see why I’m so proud to be Scottish? There’s got to be something special about a nation that can embark on a victory celebration after one loss and one tie! It’s a unique combination of thankfulness for small mercies and a realistic acceptance that things probably won’t get much better, so you might as well enjoy what you have. Other countries might be more successful, but if you’ve done your best, it’s time to party.
And can you see why I get so disappointed in the Christian Church, which so often seems to me to be at exactly the opposite end of the spectrum from the Scots? I mean we are on the winning side. We do have something to celebrate And sometimes we look like the proverbial Scotsman who’s lost five dollars and found only one! We’re talking about something far bigger and far more important than a soccer game. The Christian gospel insists that Jesus Christ has defeated sin and Satan, that life and love have vanquished death and hate, that our task is to apply that victory to every area of life. But the outcome of the moral and spiritual struggle between good and evil is not in any doubt.
So why is it that Christians sometimes walk through the world with miserable faces? Why is it that some sermons are marginally less interesting than watching paint dry? Why is it that worship is sometimes passionless and dreary? Why is it that the world often equates the life of the Church with boredom?
It’s time to take a leaf out of the book of those soccer-loving Scots. Kilts and painted faces are optional (!) but celebration is at the heart of our faith. We’ve won, so let the party begin!