"When you stop believing in Santa Claus, then you find Grace."
That was the last sentence featured in the very last dream that I had last night as I was sleeping.
I went to bed after watching the stunning upset victory of the Denver Broncos over the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. Some game! And you can't mention a Broncos game without mentioning their controversial quarterback, Tim Tebow.
The man American society and sports commentators love to hate.
It is astonishing how much vitriol comes Tebow's way these days.
It's true that Tebow is not a great technical quarterback, as NFL quarterbacks go. But he really does inspire his team with his upbeat, can-do attitude and he does pull out enough wins to get the job done, if not elegantly then at least satisfactorily. He's also constantly striving to improve. Non-expert that I am, even I can see that he played better yesterday as a passing quarterback than I've seen him play before.
The controversy, of course, is that he's vocal and demonstrative about his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. From all I've read and seen, he walks closely with his God all day long every day. The press makes much of it, thus it is seen by millions of folks all over the country.
And this leads me to the concern that people who do not know God will come to believe that either God is shining favor on the Broncos because of the prayers of Tim Tebow, or that Tebow is a fraud because he's not a perfect person, or that he is a hypocrite because his prayers must be meaningless if the Broncos lose.
For the record, I've read some about Tebow and watched him closely on the field. I may be wrong, but I don't think for one moment that his prayers are for the Divine Intervention of God in a football game. I think he thanks God at each moment for the pleasure and privilege given him on this earth -- to be doing something that he truly loves in a venue that allows him to minister to others in a variety of ways.
No, I'm sure he's not a saint. But he is an excellent role model for young people and, comes to that, for our entire American culture in some very important ways. For example, you never see Tebow dancing and gloating with glee on the field as you see so many, many, MANY other NFL players doing (it's one of my pet peeves, can you tell?). Tebow's conduct on the field is very sportsmanlike. Enthusiasm for the game and his team, yes. Taunting and gloating over your opponent, no.
And now, back to that opening sentence.
"Santa Claus" as a concept means that gifts are given to deserving (read: good) people.
But God gives gifts that are not based on whether we are good or bad. God brings to each of us Grace: the absolute gift of all time that allows every last one of us to be reconciled fully with Him. And along the way, God also blesses those who accept that Grace. Generally not with football victories, although if there is a deeper purpose, He could do just that. (And that's a whole 'nother blog post, dear reader.)
He blesses us with meaningful gifts and pleasures and joys. The kind you can't get from Santa Claus. Not always what we request. Not always evident at first as a gift. The kind of gifts that, in a myriad of ways, shine a spotlight on just how much we have been given by the God who created us, who redeemed us, and who longs for our minute-by-minute relationship with Him (football minutes or conventional minutes -- you choose).
Tim Tebow knows Grace. He knows football careers are fleeting and that God has brought him to this moment for His divine purposes. Tebow passed up the "Santa Claus" concept a long time ago. And when he's "Tebowing" he's not just thanking God for another completed pass, another touchdown, or another victory.
He's thanking God for another opportunity to show the world who God really is.