The (ex) Rev's Christmas message

  • by Elwin Cockett
  • Tuesday, 24th December 2013

Elwin Cockett is the former Chaplain to West Ham United FC and the current Archdeacon of West Ham. Every year Elwin pens a Christmas message for the readers of KUMB, which this year begins with a look back at recent successes...

Happy Christmas!

We're a funny lot, us West Ham fans. Our team is struggling in the league, to say the least, and we all know the old adage about coming down with the decorations after Christmas, every Christmas. And yet we're still basking in having won away at Spurs again, and we're all relishing the prospect of a Capital One Cup semi-final. No-one could say that life as a Happy Hammer is boring.

Maybe that's because we've learned to enjoy the good times - to savour them, even - because we don't take them for granted. Quite frankly, we know what it is to suffer disappointment, and so when there's reason to celebrate we know how to do that as well.

There has been plenty to celebrate over the years, of course. On hearing the news a few days ago of David Coleman's death my mind went back to Mexico 1970, England playing Brazil, and his words as West Ham's captain performed what became one of the most famous tackles in history: "Jairzinho going all the way to goal - and Moore stops him. What a player this fellow is!"

And whenever two or three Irons supporters are gathered together, a familiar list of names and dates can be recited. "'64, it starts, 'Sissons, Hurst and Peters; '65 Sealey's double; '66 Moore, Hurst and Peters (of course)" - and, depending on their age, it might go on to include later cup victories, moments like Frank Lampard Senior dancing round the corner flag; the pain of 2006 at Cardiff; play-off nights at the Boleyn Ground; famous victories against Spurs, Man Utd and the like and great names like Cottee, Devonshire and Di Canio.

So we members of the West Ham family have much to celebrate, even when times seem hard - which they're not, really. Not when we compare our lot with that of the children of Syria, or of the thousands still homeless in the wake of the typhoon in the Philippines, or of people we all know who are fighting cancer, or going through bereavement, or worrying about where their family's next meal is coming from.

The old quote about football being more important than life and death is rubbish, isn't it. Because we know, as fans, that even if the worst happens and our team gets relegated, or loses to our nearest rivals, or gets knocked out of the cup, it really isn't the end of the world, however bad it feels at the time.

Christmas reminds us that some things - quite a lot of things, actually - are more important that football. It reminds us that people matter more than possessions, and that looking out for the next guy matters more than grabbing everything we can for ourselves. It reminds us that generosity benefits the giver as well as the recipient, and that selfishness cuts off its nose to spite its face.

I've been privileged to see some great things this year; people on an internet forum supporting a fan whose baby grandson had died; the generosity of a 'Northern Hammer' who has donated over ?2000 to a charity helping children in Ghana to learn to read; and more than a few quiet 'acts of random kindness' that not many except God and the people involved will ever know about.

It's those moments that make me proud to be a member of the West Ham family.

So, folks, if you've read this far, let me congratulate you for being part of that family. Treasure the people in your life, because you never know what's round the corner for them and for you. Try a few 'acts of random kindness' for fun, if nothing else. And, in the joy and magic of the celebrations, I pray that you will encounter something very special and different this Christmas.

God bless you.

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