CHRISTMAS being the birth of Christ our Redeemer, we should be properly prepared for it in both body and soul. The spiritual preparation, of course, takes precedence over the bodily preparation, but the latter also needs to be given due attention, otherwise our spiritual readiness to receive Christ on Christmas Day would be undermined.
One good way to make ourselves bodily prepared for Christmas is through sports. If its true purpose is understood and lived well, sports can give us a tremendous help in properly welcoming Christ into our lives.
We have to understand that sports should not just be a matter of winning in a game or in a race. While that is the immediate intention of anyone who plays, we should go beyond that level and capture the more important purpose of sports.
Sports should train our body and all its faculties—the senses, emotions, passions, imagination, memory, etc.—to be properly aligned to the true dignity of man which is that of being the image and likeness of God, children of his, sharers of his divine life and nature.
In short, sports should make us like Christ, the pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity. How? By seeing to it that we regard our life here on earth like a sport too, where we have to train ourselves, submitting ourselves to a certain discipline, etc.
We should echo what St. Paul once said: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly. I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” (1 Cor 9,25-27)
This discipline required in sports and in our life is somehow indicated in the readings of the Mass of December 19 where we are told about Samson whose hair should not be cut (cfr. Judges 13,2-7.24-25), and about John the Baptist who would not take strong drinks. (cfr. Lk 1,15)
The real victory that our sports should give us is not so much a matter of winning a particular game, or of making a lot of points, etc., as in making us more a child of God, filled with love for God and for everybody else, whether we win or lose in a game.
Aside from a strong sense of self-discipline and submitting ourselves in a continuing training program, an indispensable ingredient of this healthy sporting spirit is the sense of acceptance and abandonment that we need to deliberately cultivate. This does not come automatically, as if it’s part of our genes. We have to develop them.
We have to be sport and adventurous in facing the different conditions of our life. And it would greatly help if we too can have an abiding sense of humor. Otherwise, we would just fall into states of sadness, pessimism and despair which actually are unnecessary and are avoidable.
This we can do if first of all we have a strong and deep faith in God, our Creator and Father. If we have that faith, we know that God holds everything in order through his providence. He takes care of everything, irrespective of how things go. Ours is simply to relate everything to him and to go back to him everytime we go astray especially at the end of the day.