The sight of millions of Argentinian soccer fans celebrating in the streets after the recent World Cup victory inspired many people globally. Few cared then that in at least two games (against the Netherlands and in the final against France), Argentina had been awarded penalties in regular time after their players simply fell over! Errors are common in sport, but we ‘accept the umpire’s decision’ and move on. In life, we sometimes forlornly hope that a referee will jump from the bushes and right the wrongs we suffer, but Christmas offers a great perspective on viewing our world more realistically and helpfully.
That’s because Jesus is still the embodiment of Christmas, the one who makes sense of all that it offers. He is still the reason for the season.
1. The coming of Jesus gives the right perspective on injustice
Upon his arrival into the world, the Jews had been expecting a Messiah to deliver them from Roman oppression. Jesus’ intervention was not to be against political or military injustice but against the underlying problem of sin. Such human injustice against a perfect God who demands perfect justice actually dealt with the matter of eternity.
Soccer’s overseeing body, FIFA, promotes values that include justice. It is only in reconciling to God, though, that justice can rightly and effectively be reflected to others. Otherwise, our desire to right the wrongs of any society will be incomplete, undermined by a skewed internal orientation.
The consequence of sin’s injustice can be measured in the behaviours and actions all around us, whereas the consequences of sporting mistakes – by players or officials – open up subsequent parallel realities as to how games then play out. Individual moments cannot easily be isolated from their overall impact.
Our own ‘sliding doors’ moments generally trace back to what we do with the life-defining question of how we receive God’s Christmas gift of Jesus. That suggests a greater moment in which our perspective truly changes. It’s a moment with eternal implications for our future beyond the grave and our impact on this side of it.
2. The coming of Jesus gives the right perspective on what matters
As much as we might feel strongly about sport and then expend considerable emotional energy in following it, sporting results are largely inconsequential. The games we play can unite people, teach teamwork and leadership, or perhaps even inspire the masses, but they doesn’t ultimately change much of what really matters most in life.
Our ability to make a difference as followers of Christ, empowered by the transforming Spirit, is often hampered when we become side-tracked by interests that are secondary to mission. When we choose not to ‘sweat the small stuff’ we can helpfully save ourselves from certain entanglements or issues that tend to sap our focus.
Even right now, this week, making Jesus the centre of our focus – recalibrating if necessary – is surely deserving of more of our time than fulfilling the celebratory expectations of the ‘big day.’
Jesus’ perfect sinlessness as God and his humanity while on earth, qualified him to pay the price for our separation from God. I am not better than others by having Jesus, just better off. I live for him because I ‘get to’ and not because I ‘have to.’
3. The coming of Jesus gives the right perspective on our outlook
Being quick to forgive because we are forgiven reminds us that when life is unfair, it doesn’t keep a hold on us. That umpire we might seek is unlikely ever to come and to bring a verdict against our misfortunes. Nevertheless, we can still choose our responses to circumstances and then who or what it is that we are in the process of becoming.
As is the case amidst the rawness of sporting defeat, teams and coaches need to learn from their mistakes, become better, and saddle up for a new tomorrow. Wallowing and fretting about what might have been has little value beyond a match debrief. Great leaders help their teams rally and they help to channel emotions productively and to focus on what is within their control.
And the coming of Jesus two thousand years ago gave us a line-in-the-sand moment in history to help us with our own perspective and alignment. It still offers each of us a way of escape from the penalty of our separation from God and its consequences.
Jesus still knocks on the door of human hearts today, waiting for us to open up and receive the gift of eternal life that he offers through relationship with the God of Heaven.
I pray that, as you enjoy this gift of God on Christmas day, there would be much cause for a celebration of what matters going into a new year of opportunity and optimism. Jesus remains the reason for the season, the ultimate source of true justice, forgiveness, hope and life.