Faith and Sports – Eric Jensen

As December approaches we begin the celebration of Advent. But what does that word actually mean? We hear it our whole lives in the Lutheran faith, Advent, but how does that word translate to daily life? What is an “advent” exactly? Why are they important to us? How do they come about? 
Let’s start with the definition. Webster’s dictionary defines advent as “a coming into being or use.” Synonyms: appearance, arrival, coming. So an advent is the coming of something. The beginning; an arrival. Why is it so important that we define these types of things? I posit  that it is because we as humans love to have organization in our lives. We love guides. It is helpful to us to know when something is beginning and when something is ending. We love to anticipate things, we love having a guideline and we don’t generally like surprises. As for how advents come about, well they just do. Every story has a beginning. Every dream has a spark, every song starts with a note, and every hope starts with a shimmer of light in the darkness. God is that shimmer of light in the darkness in the case of “capital A” Advent. The spark that sets the whole season off when he comes to Mary and tells her she is with child. That’s the faith side of it.  But where do advents happen in sports?
They happen in snowy November games in Lambeau Field at the goal line. When a Packers defense, that has been gashed by the run all year, stop perhaps the top running back in the League in Christian McCaffery at the goal line, winning the game. That’s an advent. An advent that ends with the Super Bowl. I often ask with championship teams, where does the DVD start? You know what I’m talking about, after the Super Bowl ends the first ad you see: “Team x, your team just won the Super Bowl!  Buy the merch worn on the field by the players after the big win, and pre-order the championship DVD!” That Championship DVD:  the cheesy one that only the diehard fans will purchase. Where does that DVD begin? They rarely start in Week One. The reality is the NFL season doesn’t truly start until mid-November to early December.  When only half the league has a chance at the coveted Lombardi Trophy. That’s the advent for a football team, that’s the arrival. When the journey begins, those are the moments the diehards like myself look forward to. 
Because the NFL season is a slog, it gets monotonous 3 weeks in, and that’s when the casual fan ducks out until the playoffs. This is the time of celebration though, just like our Advent:  the build-up is what makes Christmas morning special. The twists and turns of the story are what keep us coming back for more each Advent. Every time we hear it we pick up on something different, we key in on something new. We take different interpretations away from the gospel in the same way that football writers change their minds on what teams are and aren’t, a thousand times throughout the season. It is the journey that keeps us interested, that keeps us hooked. We are like addicts for the journey. No one wants to wake up with every morning as Christmas, no one wants every game to be the Super Bowl. But we all want an advent. We all want Advent: a high to chase that changes every time we take the journey. 
So while it may feel like this is your 43rd or 54th or 68th or maybe even 80th Advent in a row, it’s never the same.  Because every time we enter Advent, very literally, we are starting anew. Like snowflakes coating Lambeau Field, every single one of them is different from the last.