Last night the Welsh football (soccer) team were defeated 2-0 in the semi-final of the Euro 2016 tournament. Strangely none of those supporting Wales (pretty much all of the UK) were found crying into their beer at the result. Why? Because Wales were never expected to get so far in the tournament, and have never been so far before. Scotland didn’t qualify, while England were knocked out by Iceland and didn’t even make the quarter-finals. Both Irish teams met a similar fate, with Northern Ireland knocked out by Wales.
Now I have a natural affinity for things Welsh. I went to University in the Welsh capital Cardiff, as did my second eldest son, while one of my grandsons was born in Wales. As a family we have had many happy holidays in Wales, although the camping experience in 1987 is probably not one we’d wish to repeat. I live close to the border in an area known as the Welsh Marches, and for the last couple of years have been doing my best to learn the Welsh language. For those of you who don’t know, Welsh was one of the original languages of the British Isles before all the early Europeans invaded (Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings, Norman French, etc.) long before the EU and the recent UK vote to leave (Brexit).
There is much to learn from the way that a small nation is currently celebrating defeat. Two small nations in fact, because the Icelandic team were also welcomed home as heroes after their 5-2 defeat in the quarter-finals by the French. For the Welsh the defeat of their team is only the beginning. There is now talk of the World Cup and I for one sincerely hope to see a Welsh football team doing well in a future World Cup.
When Jesus died on the cross almost everyone thought that was it. Even His closest disciples were crushed with defeat. There was nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to: it was over. But it wasn’t! Jesus rose from the dead and for the last 2,000 years has been evident in the lives of His followers all around the world. It has never been easy to be a follower of Jesus, but like the Welsh football fans those who follow Jesus are looking to a better day. And a better day is coming when Jesus will return in triumph. This will be the day that tears, sorrow, pain and death will be swept away. If you can imagine the celebrations in Cardiff tomorrow (8 July) when the Welsh team return and are paraded through the city, then that will be nothing compared with the joy and celebrations when Jesus returns.
Most of the people celebrating the return of the Welsh team will be Welsh. Most of the people celebrating Jesus’ return will be His followers. Now there’s a sobering thought: To celebrate with Jesus you have to know Jesus, commit your life to Jesus, and do your best to follow Him. He doesn’t expect us to win, because He has won already.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:1-5 NLT)