Nine time Olympic swimming champion Mark Spitz famously said
“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.”
The majority of our sporting lives are not spent in a race, or on the pitch but in the gym, with the physios, in team meetings, and on the road. If you play on a Saturday, it might be 166 hours until you play again and those 166 hours and how we spend them is vital before the match comes round again.
During the 2019 Rugby World Cup, England coach Eddie Jones was known for his level of detail in his planning.
“Preparation is everything,” he said. “If you get it right, the chances of your team being successful are high.”
Preparation and waiting. This time of advent for the Christian sportsperson is no different. It’s a time of preparation and waiting as we build up celebrating the amazing truth of God himself coming to earth as a baby over 2000 years ago.
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ life he talks of John the Baptist who came before Jesus:
“John will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
What John the Baptist did for the people of Israel, so advent can do for us. Just as in sport there are good ways and poor ways to prepare for the moment when the competition begins, so there is this advent. What does it look like to prepare well this Christmas time?
Athletes talk a lot about focus and pre-race visualisation. It’s so easy in the excitement of a massive race or the build up to a huge match to lose sight of the basics which got you there in the first place. At Christmas it’s easy to be a bit manic - rushing from party to party, from present buying to family time and before we know it, it’s Christmas Day and we’re into the New Year.
Advent can seem a long time, just like the weeks in the build up to a big match or race can seem like they takes ages. For four weeks though, its a bit like we’re re-enacting the time the Israelites spent waiting for the promised King to come.
This advent we need to slow down and take some time to focus on what we’re celebrating and why. The amazing news of Christmas is mind-blowing when we stop to think about it. God himself came down as a sniffling, crying baby to our world, with the express purpose of saving us.
Luke later writes that:
“The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
This is why Jesus came and why we celebrate Christmas. The word advent means coming, the coming of Jesus - the coming of Jesus on a mission to rescue.
So this Christmas, stop and focus on King Jesus, on the immense love he showed in coming to “seek and save” each of us.
Maybe you could do that by getting hold of an advent devotional book to go through on your own or with some mates each day? There are loads of great ones recommended here.
In the week before the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, Eddie Jones said:
“We are like any team, we are a bit anxious, a bit nervous but also very excited.”
Before a major event it’s right and proper to be excited isn’t it? The build up to a cup final or a massive tournament brings loads of nerves and tension but is also a real thrill. However, it would be absurd to be more excited about the warm-up than the match itself but so often this is the case at Christmas. The question for advent is are we more excited about Jesus than anything else this Christmas time?
As we slow down and focus and reflect and remember why Jesus has come, we pray that excitement grows as we build up to the day itself.
When you play in a big game or have an important tournament you invite those who are special to you along to witness it, don’t you?
The events of Christmas are so exciting and such good news that we must pass it on.
You could invite friends to carol services or Christmas services so that your team-mates and club-mates may hear more about the most amazing news in the world - that God himself has come down to “seek and save the lost.”
Be bold in your invites and be prepared this advent time to remember and celebrate the greatest news in the world.
In the run up to Christmas we have a number of video resources for you to make use of. Please feel free to download and share these with your friends or use in your church.
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