Friday, 20 December 2013

Grudge Match!

Christmas isn’t Christmas unless I see a good movie and there is one which has been trailed for quite some time which I don’t think I’ll be able to resist.  It’s called ‘Grudge Match’.  It stars Sylvester Stallone and Robert de Niro as two ex-boxers in their late sixties who were once bitter rivals.  At the peak of their careers they faced one another in two bouts with each winning one but they never managed to have that decisive third.  Over thirty years they have never let go their bad feelings about one another and eventually someone has the idea that they should have one last bout which would settle once and for all who was best.  It’s a comedy film and there is no doubt that  there is something funny about two men of advanced years slugging it out in a boxing ring,  no matter how good they may look.    But in reality those kinds of feelings are no laughing matter and can be destructive of lives and communities.

There has recently been a great deal of reflection on the life of Nelson Madela and how he was able to leave behind feelings of revenge, rise above resentment,  and commit his life to building a better future for South Africa.  A future where people were able to cut across racial and ethnic barriers and find a common purpose in working for justice and peace. He once described the day that he was released from prison:

‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind I’d still be in prison.’  

Now we might say that our grudges are not going to affect a whole community or nation.  But where there is a build up of those feelings you soon have an atmosphere where revenge is more important than reconciliation and that is a bleak outlook for our society and the world.   This is where the message of Christmas comes in.  

When Jesus was born ‘grudge matches’ were pretty common.  Israel was an occupied country, under the heel of the Roman Empire.  That did not go down well with fiercely nationalistic Jews.  And within the nation of Israel there were racial and religious differences which provoked strong feelings.  It was into this atmosphere that the angels brought a message of peace:

‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.’  

The purpose of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to God and peace to the whole of humankind.  His life, death and resurrection would make it possible for people to be close to God, to be at peace with Him.  But the vision went further.   As people’s lives were shaped by this peace barriers that divide and embitter would be brought down.  

One of the most inspiring stories I heard this year was from a Christian relief worker who had just recently returned from the Middle East.  She had been in various countries where Syrians had sought refuge, one of which was Lebanon.  In one town she came across a Syrian family - mother, father and four children - who were living in a derelict building.  They had had a fairly good standard of living in their own country but were now having to live day to day.  Circumstances were made all the more difficult by the attitude of the local Mayor.  He had made a statement to the effect that no Syrian refugees should be given any help.  Apparently, there have been strained relationships between Lebanese and Syrians in the past.

A small Christian congregation was not prepared to accept this, however, and were providing the family with food, clothes and any other items they may need.  This is all the more impressive in that the family are Muslims.  But these are the things that happen when the message of the angels is taken to heart.  There can be peace on earth when people live close to God and commit their lives to His purpose.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


When you receive a phone call from Albert Bogle you never know where it’s going to lead.   He phoned me a couple of weeks ago about an idea he had for a Christmas video which would be put out under the banner of his Sanctus First media group.  I liked the idea and made the mistake of becoming quite excited about it which was the green light for the bold Albert: ‘Would you write the script?’  OK.  That was done fairly quickly and Albert was pleased but then there was another question: ‘Would you take the role of Lord Starburst?’  So not only writing but ‘starring’.  I was being well and truly ‘bogled’.  

The whole experience was a delight.  The concept is taken from ‘The Apprentice’.  Three people are sent out by Lord Starburst to buy a gift for a king and they return with items which are more appropriate than they realise.  We shot scenes in the Barras, the St Mungo Museum, Mappin and Webb, the Glasgow City Chambers and a board room of Ernst and Young.  Along the way we gathered a few people  who were only too glad to join in, so thanks to Wee Jimmy at the Barras, Sonia at the St Mungo Museum and the receptionist at Ernst and Young.  

If you want to see how it all turned out have a click on  The video is called ‘You’ve Nailed it!’