The first professional football match I went to was Newcastle United vs. Luton Town, in the top division in february 1987.
My parents weren’t into football, so I’d been sent along with an old friend of the family, who was a season ticket holder. My mum made sure I had a stash of chocolate and sweets in my pocket, and a drink to keep me going.
I remember certain things about the game. The final score was 2-2. I sat in an old stand with a corrugated iron roof, which has now given way to the huge Milburn Stand. The first goal was a headed effort by Paul Goddard in the first half.
Just after half time, I remembered the chocolate in my coat pocket. I rifled through and selected a Twix and broke open the wrapper. I was just about to take a bite when all of a sudden everyone jumped out of their seats and started cheering, leaving me, ten years old, as the only one not standing. I’d missed the second goal!
I later found out that it was scored by defender Peter Jackson, but, as it was the days before tv cameras at games, I never did get to see it.
These days, I find myself distracted easily, with the help of my smart phone. Even though I can be physically in one place, I’m mentally somewhere else.
In fact, one of the few things which helps me switch off from everything else around me, is football: either playing, or watching it. During those times I’m not worried about anything else, I’m not checking my phone. I’m entirely present, entirely in the moment.
Christmas is a time when Christians remember that God became present to us. God, so often thought of as distant, physically became human by being born as the baby Jesus, growing up and then walking round in skin and bone, just like the rest of us, experiencing the whole range of things that humans experience. God became present to us in the only way possible, by physically being with us.
I don’t know what you’re doing for Christmas day. We’re spending the day with some family and close friends, having a meal, playing some games and watching movies. But for the duration of the day, I’ve decided to turn my smartphone off. For Christmas day at least, I want to be entirely present with the people I’m with. To be in the moment.
I hope you have a great Christmas, and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.