Hard on the heels of its deafening silence about the ‘trans Jesus’ issue that has been widely reported here in the UK, the good old CofE has now seen fit to trumpet its latest wheeze about Christmas Carol Services and the World Cup Final. Of course, a healthy dose of virtue-signaling about Qatar is also included. Let’s review the CofE’s latest treble of tone-deaf public pronouncements. Showboating, anyone?
Given that the best date for Carol Services this year is Sunday 18 December (Christmas Day is the following Sunday), it is to be expected that most parishes will indeed be singing carols and welcoming locals into church to do so, on 18 December. But – horror of horrors – the World Cup final is due to kick off on 18 December at 3pm! Surely, we have our priorities all wrong if we wish to give precedence to carols instead of a bunch of overpaid chaps kicking a ball around a field?
But fear not! The CofE has come up with a number of solutions…
First own goal
‘On the 18th December, Churches often hold Carol Services in the afternoon or evening, and this could still be possible if you choose the time carefully…but what if there are penalties?! It may be best to avoid that day altogether and host a carol service on Saturday 17th instead.’
Right then, that’s prioritised things well, hasn’t it?
Second own goal
And moving further into the CofE’s opining about the World Cup, did you know that there is a lead bishop for sport? No, me neither. Of course, it is a woman. Libby Lane, the bishop of Derby and the CofE’s lead bishop for sport [is there a lead bishop for the Gospel and the Word of God?], said:
‘There are serious concerns about the treatment and safety of workers, especially migrant workers. I am concerned about the discrimination which women face in Qatar, both in law and practice. And I am concerned for the safety of LGBTI+ supporters travelling to the World Cup, and who are impacted by the decision to play the World Cup in a country which criminalises homosexuality …
‘I personally do not think that the World Cup should ever have been awarded to Qatar, and I support those individuals and nations who are making a stand at the tournament, on behalf of migrant workers, women and LGBTI+ people. …Sport should never be “a smokescreen for discrimination, oppression and exploitation.’
I’m sure the Qataris, assorted millionaires, billionaires, and other money-grubbers will all be shaking in their desert boots at your words, Libby. Shame you couldn’t have spoken up like that in support of Bernard Randall recently – a Christian chaplain in your diocese who was reported to the UK’s anti-terrorism authorities for telling school children under his purview that they did not need to accept the current LGBT+ ideology if they did not wish to. Perhaps as a straight, white, middle-aged male, he is not of the right demographic to be worthy of public support? But, hey ho, let’s not be bitter.
So where does this leave us back in the UK at Christmas as we struggle to get the World Cup crammed into every aspect of worship?
Third own goal
Well folks, we can access that other wonderful suggestion from the Church Support Hub – the Football Nativity. It is posited that the weary parishioners of England use this ‘nativity’ play ‘as a missional tool this Advent and Christmas’. Not only should we consider moving our Carol Services to suit the World Cup, but we really ought to think about debasing the nativity story to focus on it, too. And guess what? Some helpful soul in the Diocese of Gloucester has written a script for this marvellous sketch so you don’t need to! All we need to do is download this gem from the CofE website.
So, let’s have a look at it – the latest version of the traditional play illustrating the coming of Jesus into the world, which we have known and loved for decades.
Before we get into the details of this Oscar-worthy production, for the benefit of non-UK readers we need to point out that England fans like to sing an anthem called Football’s Coming Home – ‘It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home’. Meaning, ‘we’re going to win’. We never do, of course, but whatever. You can see below how this profound ditty has been adapted to the needs of the birth of Jesus. For example, here we are at the door of the inn:
Mary [In pain.] Oooh dear. [Mary clutches tummy. Make this as dramatic as possible. Joseph goes to support her.]
Joseph We really do need somewhere. Urgently.
Innkeeper I guess, since it is an emergency, you could use the stable. Quick. Follow me.
[All three exit singing to the tune of “Football’s coming home”. Narrators hold up the words so that the audience can join in. Words could be repeated]
He’s coming soon
He’s coming soon
Baby’s coming soon.
Yep, you read that right. It takes a certain sort of mindset to make a joke about a nervous young woman, nine months pregnant and about to drop, who has just gone 60+ miles on the back of a donkey to give birth to the Saviour of the world away from her home and immediate family. Would the author (I use the term loosely) of the execrable Football Nativity like to try that in real life? Or perhaps have his wife subjected to such an ordeal? No, thought not. Has it occurred to him that making this situation the subject of a joke could be construed as just the tiniest bit misogynistic?
And, let’s not forget the three kings, who get to pack some specific stuff for their journey:
Football shirt and gold coins for King 1,
football scarf and deodorant can for king 2,
Vuvuzela or trumpet and packet of paracetamol for King 3.
Are you getting the drift so far? Anyone wishing to depress themselves can read the full catastrophe here.
I’m certainly giving some consideration into whose backside I would like to insert that vuvuzuela, but I keep having to remind myself that I’m a Christian…
Sadly, there will no doubt be a rush from many gullible parishes to produce this travesty in the hope of getting more bums on seats and making themselves ‘relevant’ to the ‘lived experience’ of their local population. I have left out detailed references to the shepherds’ discussions on the greatest footballers of all time, and the final recognition of the babe in the manger (once they’ve removed the football) as ‘everyone’s Greatest of All Time’. If they really believed that Jesus is the greatest anything of all time, would they be acting out this mockery?
So, there we have it, folks. Just when you think the good ship Church of England cannot sink any lower, it outdoes itself yet again by booting not one, but three own goals right into the back of the net in a single month. Do we think they understand the gist of attacking the other side and getting the ball into the net of the opposition, rather than their own? Answers on the usual postcard, please.