Avid sports fans know late December through early January as “the most wonderful time of the year” and not just because of the Christmas holiday.
Between mid-December and January 11 more than three dozen nationally-televised college football bowl games are played (including two today which will decide the participants in the National Championship game and no less than five bowl games tomorrow), while in the NBA a slate of high-profile games take place in prime-time on Christmas day and by the time the New Year begins the season will be about one-third complete. College basketball competition gets tougher as conference play begins, and MLB’s “hot stove” really heats up. The NHL postseason picture is starting to develop and, of course, the NFL season is winding down with the playoffs set to begin in January.
All these sporting events mean hours upon hours could potentially be spent in front of the blinking lights of the television, being mindlessly entertained. Many of the games will be dramatic, no doubt. There will be moments of heartbreak and moments of elation. There will be moments of hubris and moments when everyone will wonder what the coach was thinking. There will be “booyah!” moments and “uh-oh!” moments. Nothing is scripted, and the unexpected can happen at any time. If you’re a sports fan, these weeks are full of can’t miss television; it truly is a wonderful time.
But lest we get carried away by the allure of championship trophies, juicy trade rumors, or our fantasy league standings, we should remember that it is not because of the sports that this time of year is wonderful. The real reason for the season didn’t wear a jersey, but swaddling clothes. And he doesn’t keep score, because the outcome has already been decided.
So, go ahead and enjoy watching the sports during this season. But remember, the shepherds were also busy just “watching” when something even more important demanded their attention. It should be the same for us today. Ask yourself: how will I spend my time and attention this Christmas season? Challenge yourself to enter more deeply into the mystery of the incarnation this Christmas by spending time with Christ. If you are lucky enough to get some extra time off during these weeks, commit to spending more time in prayer, perhaps in adoration, or go to Mass at least one more time than you normally would. Pray a rosary during halftime (halftimes for most basketball and football games are 15 minutes long). Visit one of the Year of Mercy pilgrimage locations. If you can spend a couple hours watching a college football bowl game today, can’t you at least spend a little extra time developing a relationship with your Lord and Savior?
Indeed, a playoff berth is a wonderful thing for fans to celebrate, but it is nothing when compared to the birth of our savior.
This is the sixth in a 12-day series of posts with the purpose of helping readers deepen their appreciation for, and celebration of, the 12 Days of Christmas, a season which traditionally concludes with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.