This past Sunday morning began with two thoughts in my mind.
First, I thought back to Saturday and my alma mater’s football team’s loss to its chief rival, that team up north. A splendid season now in ruins, it appeared. Our destiny denied. All in the course of a single game. A game we should have won. But didn't! That was my first conscious thought of Sunday morning. And my mind began to imagine a “do-over” game, or a do-over day. If only we could have yesterday back again. Do it all differently this time.
Second thought was this was the first Sunday of Advent. It was essentially New Year’s Day for the Christian Church, and the birth of the Christ-child was something we were now called to prepare for in just a few short weeks. Time to bring out the reminders that Christmas was coming and Jesus would be having yet another birthday to celebrate.
Two very different thoughts in mind.
But maybe not so different after all. In fact, maybe these two thoughts were entirely alike.
Maybe the Ohio State football team and the Christian Church both need a do-over this year. Maybe both could get it right if we could just do it again. And do it differently this time!
If so, there's good news and bad news to present. First, the bad news: no do-over this year in football. Game’s over. Season’s basically over. THE Ohio State Buckeyes won’t be THE Champions.
But now comes the good news.
The season of Advent that begins the Christian calendar TRULY is all about do-overs. Far more than even our Easter celebration of resurrection, this season is about rebirth and just starting all over from day one. Preparing ourselves properly this time. Starting over with the life of Jesus and getting him right, understanding him effectively, accepting him entirely, following him actually…………….this time.
You see, Jesus may have endured his own history of wins and losses all the way back to day one in what some might call the oldest rivalry in world history. People have misunderstood Jesus from the very time he was an infant. Underestimated him. Poorly prepared or practiced for his coming. And during the time he was here on earth, people failed to adjust their own game plan and figure out what was really going on with Jesus. The religious people were the worst at understanding what was going on and figuring out what to do. They had practiced all the wrong plays and prepared a game plan that wasn’t in line with reality at all. And so Jesus was a lost opportunity where they were concerned.
Then over the years new religionists came along and stumbled into the exact same mistakes. Misunderstanding Jesus from day one on. Under-estimating him in some places and over-estimating him in others. Over-thinking the simple parts. Under-thinking the complex parts. Practicing plays that never should have been called. Failing to adjust to the realities on the ground. Costing Jesus, and the Church, and even Christmas itself a frustrating defeat. More years than not the Church has lost the plot. And lost the opportunity for victory.
Jesus needs a do-over. Not just from the kick-off of his ministry in Galilee, but from his birth day in Bethlehem. From day one.
Advent is our time to do it over again and get it right this time. Figure Jesus out and practice accordingly. Christmas is the celebration of rebirth that lets us hit reset in terms of what we thought we knew about Jesus all along but probably, obviously, didn’t based on the scoreboard and the ratings these days in Christianity vs. the World.
Oh, sure there will be many, perhaps most, Christians who still won’t get it and will call the same plays and give up the same yards and, well, play the same game all over again this next time out. Most of us, given a do-over, would do it all the same again but insanely hope for a different outcome next time. Many of us who claim to be born again aren’t really after all. For us, practice makes permanent……not perfect. We bake out old mistakes into the new cake as if it would all taste better next time.
Jesus needs a do-over. And unlike THE Buckeyes, THE Christians can have one.
This one is doable.
It’s what Advent and Christmas are all about.