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World News

'United at Christmas': Football club launches original carol connecting football fans with Jesus

by Will Hobbs

A Baptist minister and Cambridge Utd supporter has released an official club carol with an aim of connecting fellow football fans to the good news of Jesus.

The original song formed part of a carol service for 1,000 people, including players, staff and fans, hosted at their Abbey Stadium.

It was also played at Half Time during Cambridge's second round FA Cup 4-0 victory over Fleetwood, although the artist said he takes no responsibility for the team's emphatic performance.

Simon Cragg, who regularly performs music on Cambridge match days, wrote 'United at Christmas' in aid of the Cambridge Foundation, which aims to bring communities in Cambridge together through the power of sport.

Cragg's song, performed with his daughter Lucy, attempts to use language and imagery familiar to all football fans to explain Jesus' unique power to bring certain "love, hope and peace".

The lyrics incorporate the club's nickname speaking of an "Amber Army" of angels bringing good news, "a time before programmes and pints...when a stable held something bigger than our whole world. Big enough to hold your misfortunes, doubts, regrets and shame."

It goes on to say that "there's no guarantee that our dreams will come good", but "one thing's for sure that a child has been born to bring hope for the fight".

United's Club Director is Graham Daniels, a former player who also runs Christians in Sport, which exists to equip Christians at elite and grassroots level sports to be better disciples.

Daniels told Premier of his delight that the idea of a club carol service came from the club's CEO Alex Tunbridge, rather than something he had to convince the club to do.

"When he asks me as a director, 'How do you think we should play it?', you have carte blanche really don't you. Because it's a whole club affair. It's not the Christians at the club trying to put something on.

"Simon's been singing on match days for us, entertaining the crowds as they come to the game and have a coffee or a beer before the game. He's our lead musician for fans as they arrive, so is very well established as a musician at our football club and very well known as a Christian, so it was easy."

After five decades involved in the game in various capacities, Daniels says there is much to be excited about for Christians in football, a game he believes is more open to faith than ever before.

"If you go back 10, 15, 20 years for sure, you'd have been berated for being a Christian inside the changing room. People would have made fun of you and would have treated you with quite a bit of disrespect. That has changed dramatically."

"I think this goes back to a long time ago really to the 1990s with some really, really great guys, Gavin Peacock, who was based in London at Chelsea, and Cyril Regis in Birmingham, playing for some of the Midlands clubs.

"There are two examples of men who are brilliant public Christians, and unashamed followers of the Lord Jesus. Their witness for Christ was so powerful as players in the 90s. They were good players. They were strong in Christ.

"I think what's happened is that people who have carried on in football, who saw them, saw that you can be a follower of Jesus and a full-on professional footballer.

"I think that's helped change the culture, where there was a respect for the authenticity and the witness of those players, which is now exponential."

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